Finally, it is time to unleash your team! This is one of the most exciting parts of the process. After months of preparation and prayer, your church planting team will be sent out to do the work God called them to. A commissioning service is a great way to mark the transition and celebrate the sending. In a commissioning service, you will get the opportunity to remind those you are sending how significant the work they are doing is to fulfill Jesus’ Great Commission. You will also get to reassure the congregation by introducing the person that will fill the position of the outgoing leaders.
Planning a commissioning service
A commissioning service marks a really important milestone; you are sending out members as missionaries. What gets celebrated gets replicated, so you should make the commissioning service memorable and meaningful.
Here are a few suggestions that may help make the day extra special:
- Invite family. Make sure you get the word out about the date far enough in advance that the missionaries can invite family and friends to participate in the service. What important event in our lives do we neglect to invite our families?
- Inspire them. Make sure you take this opportunity to use the Word of God to build their confidence in His ability to use them for His purposes in the world. The team is probably optimistic and excited, but the church planter is likely feeling some measure of trepidation whether he admits it or not.
- Prepare a meal. Food is at the center of every important celebration, so make sure you have a meal to mark the occasion. It does not have to be fancy or expensive; even a potluck meal will provide ample opportunities for the people of your church to wish well the outgoing church planting team.
- Give a gift. In our church, we give a professionally framed copy of the church planters ordination certificate and ministry license. This is something that will hang on the wall of this new pastor’s office for the rest of their ministry as a reminder of our love and support for them. You may be able to come up with something better than that, but giving a gift, even a simple one, is a great way to show you love them and will miss them.
- Lay hands. Biblically speaking, laying hands on someone is a form of endorsement (Acts 6:6). Even today, when you say something affirming about someone in front of a crowd, you put your hand on their shoulder, your arm around their neck, or conclude the talk with a handshake or a hug. It is a sign of endearment and affection. Laying hands is also associated with prayer. Make sure at some point in the service you publicly pray for the outgoing team and those who are taking their place of service in the body.
Making a clean break
Some Sending Churches have made the mistake of asking outgoing members to continue in their role of service even after the team has been commissioned. For example, if the sound guy leaves with a church planting team and the Sending Church is shorthanded in that area, they might think it is no big deal to call up their former sound guy and ask him to fill in. The sound guy feels duty bound to help, so he does. In my observation, this almost always creates problems.
It is best for the commissioning service to be the clear date for the beginning of the new leader’s service, and the end of the old leader’s service. This will force the missionary team to focus completely on work related to the new church and will force the Sending Church to find more permanent solutions to her staffing problems.
This blog is an excerpt from Clint Clifton’s e-book, Deploy to Multiply. Get the entire e-book here.
Published August 2, 2017