Two summers ago, another pastor and I landed on Knoxville, Tennessee as our city for planting a new church. From the beginning, we had no desire for our church plant to simply be us two and our families. We knew that wouldn’t be great for us, wouldn’t be great for our families and probably wouldn’t be good for Knoxville either. So we set the brave goal of seeking out at least 25 core team members to join us in uprooting their lives and moving to Knoxville to proclaim the gospel and advance the kingdom. Here we are–under two years later–and we have 38 people who have committed to move and eight more living in the city already. The crazy part of it is that these aren’t just any team members–they’re great team members. 80% of them have led small groups, another 30% have coached small group leaders and at least half have some type of experience working in a staff role within a church. And on top of that, 100% of them are excited about what God has for our team in Knoxville. Some of these team members approached us about joining the team, and others we recruited. Through the process and conversations with the pastors who planted in the past, we gathered a rough rubric of the type of people we want–and don’t want–to join our team. We thought we’d share that list with you here in hopes that it’s helpful for you in your planting process:
People You Don’t Want:
• Discontents. When possible, you want to avoid adding people to your team that are just discontent with their current lot in life, and think that moving to be a part of a church plant will somehow change that. If they’re discontent now, chances are they’ll eventually be discontent within your new church plant too. • Escapists. There are people who will want to join your team because they’re trying to escape relationships, relational conflict, or other situations that they’re avoiding dealing with. These people can be toxic to a church plant because they haven’t developed a healthy way of living with church family. • Ministry-worshipers.For obvious reasons, a new church plant attracts a lot of people who have at least a passing interest in vocational ministry. While that isn’t a problem in itself, be wary of folks who want to join the team simply because they think it’s an easy avenue towards landing a job in ministry. Those people will likely grow more and more bitter with every person you hire who isn’t them.
Who knows–maybe God uses you to prompt their repentance, they end up joining the team after all and this was your first of many opportunities to shepherd them well.
Now, let’s stop a second and add a disclaimer. The bottom line is that all the people above are sheep to be shepherded, not cogs in a machine. And just because a person shows hints of some of these descriptions above doesn’t mean you should just write them off or avoid them. Instead, lovingly point out error when you see it and show them the gospel solution to their sin. Who knows–maybe God uses you to prompt their repentance, they end up joining the team after all and this was your first of many opportunities to shepherd them well.
People You Do Want
This one should be obvious, but if someone’s natural inclination is to be a faithful friend, co-worker and neighbor where they are now, chances are they’ll pick that right up and do the same in a new city.
• Sacrificers. Moving to a new city is going to require a lot of flexibility and compromise. If you’ve found some folks that love to go with the flow and don’t mind some inconveniences, that will go a long way towards making them a valuable team member. • Missionaries. This one should be obvious, but if someone’s natural inclination is to be a faithful friend, co-worker and neighbor where they are now, chances are they’ll pick that right up and do the same in a new city. • Leaders. I mean this in the broadest sense of the word. You want people who have no problem saying “I’ll head that up” and running with it. You want the type of people that understand the vision of the church and can’t take ownership of any area to lead it in that direction.
Published January 19, 2016