I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. (1 Corinthians 3:6-8)
I was talking to a young man who was interested in church planting and I asked him to tell me about his call to church planting. His answer surprised me, “I’m not sure that I am called to church planting.” My response, “Well, you have to be crazy or called to plant a church and if you plant a church without being called… you’re crazy.” Let’s face it; church planting is the most difficult thing that anyone could ever attempt to accomplish. It is pure spiritual warfare and no one should ever try it unless they sure that are on a mission from God. I do more to scare people out of church planting than I do to encourage them into it. The truth is, that if I can scare them out of it, they probably are not called into it. Another question I like to ask prospective church planters is, “Would you be willing to die for this church plant?” If they answer yes then I will say, “Good, because it just might kill you.”
Not everyone who is called to church planting is called or gifted to be the lead church planter. There is room for everyone in church planting, but not room for everyone at the top. Church planting should be a team effort and the team needs to be made up of people with a diversity of gifts, personalities, skills and experience. Discerning each person’s place on the team is critical to church planting success. However, successful lead church planters have a unique set of gifts and personality traits. Not everyone who is called into church planting is called to be the lead church planter. Identifying a persons’ role in church planting and serving in that capacity is one of the key ingredients to church planting success. This requires prayer, reflection and self-awareness. An objective church planter assessment process can be an effective tool in aiding in this process.
The assessment process can begin with an informal pre-assessment. I recommend that anyone interested in church planting should talk to those who have tried and failed as well as current successful church planters. Included in that mix should be church planting experts who will tell you the hard truth and not glamorize church planting. A Prospective church planter should tell his story and share his vision for church planting with anyone who will listen. He should be asking those in the know, “Do you think that I could become a successful church planter?” Yesses and noes should be followed-up with paragraphs of explanations as to why or why not a person should plant a church. A pre-assessment could be as simple as having these kinds of conversations with truthful people. A prospective church planter could use this kind of feedback to help him to determine if he is going to take the next step in the assessment process.
Online tools are available that specifically deal with church planting. Such as LifeWay’s church planter assessment at churchplanter.lifeway.com. This kind of resource is designed to supplement a formal assessment interview or full-blown assessment center approach to assessing church planters. Some organizations require that an online assessment be completed prior to a church planter candidate participating in a formal assessment. Other online tools may be utilized as well. Personality assessments such as DISC, Birkman, or Myers Briggs may be required by an assessing organization as prerequisites to an in-person assessment interview. Prospective church planters are often asked to take leadership, strengths, marriage and financial assessments online before ever beginning a face-to-face assessment process. These are all tools that can be used to provide helpful information to assessment personal as they evaluate a candidate.
Another part of the church planter assessment process is the behavioral interview. Some organizations use this as their primary or only means of candidate assessment. However others may include the behavioral interview as a part of a broader approach in a church planter assessment center. Dr. Charles Ridley developed the most widely used behavioral interview process for church planting organizations. His research-based approach focuses on thirteen primary characteristics that are shared by effective church planters:
- Visioning Capacity – the church planter candidates ability to project into the future, persuasively and enlist others to buy-into the vision and believing in God to bring the vision to fruition.
- Intrinsically Motivated – the extent to which the candidate is a self-starter with persistence to see a project through to completion.
- Creates Ownership of Ministry – the candidate’s level of experience in helping individuals move from non-involvement to vested involvement in ministry projects.
- Relates to the Unchurched – The candidate’s ability to communicate outside of the church culture, build relationships with the lost, lead people to faith knowledge of Jesus Christ and assimilating new people into the life of the church.
- Spousal Cooperation – Does the candidate’s spouse feel called to church planting? What will her role be in the new church? How does she help the planter connect with the community? How does the planter and his spouse build healthy barriers between family and ministry?
- Effectively Builds Relationships – Does the candidate have a history of developing and building relationships with new people? Is the candidate a relationship initiator? How effective is he at managing and resolving conflict?
- Committed to Church Growth – The candidate’s knowledge of and application of church growth principles.
- Responsive to the Community – The candidate’s ability to understand and appropriately respond to community needs.
- Utilizes the Giftedness of Others – The candidate’s history of helping Believers to discover, apply and serve God according to their Spiritual giftedness.
- Flexible and Adaptable – The candidates ability to respond and adjust to a changing ministry environment.
- Builds Group Cohesiveness – The candidate’s history of building effective groups that not only get along well, but accomplish their effectiveness.
- Resilience – Has the church planter shown that he can stick with a project and effectively deal with major setbacks?
- Exercises Faith – Has the candidate expressed a conviction of God’s call to ministry, church planting and church planting agenda?
For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers.
The behavioral interview can be used as a stand-alone assessment tool or in a larger church planter assessment environment known as a church planter assessment center. The center approach is a multi-day church planter assessment that involves multiple assessors and multiple candidate couples being assessed simultaneously. In the assessment center, it is common for church planters to be assessed on family health, financial responsibility, preaching and communication, group participation, team leadership, stress management, and more. The assessment center is like a life laboratory, where the candidate and his spouse are observed in as to close to real-life situations as possible. The assessors meet together and compare their observations before agreeing on recommendations for the candidates and their sending organizations.
The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out. (Proverbs 18:15)
A healthy assessment process helps a potential church planter and his wife to determine their role in the church planting process. A good assessment results in the candidates doing their own self-assessment, where they take in all of information provided by the assessment instruments while prayerfully considering their roles. Most church planters will leave an assessment process feeling grateful for the wisdom of others and for what they’ve learned about themselves. Some will discover that they are perhaps not best suited and not called to lead a church planting endeavor. They may find that serving in a supporting role is the most satisfying and effective place for them.
Others may emerge affirmed in their call to be lead church planters, but having discovered areas of strengths and challenges. These candidates may learn about areas that they need to strengthen before launching or in the early days of the church plant. They may become more self-aware and more clear on whom they need to serve along side themselves. They may realize what it means to “recruit to your weaknesses” and therefore build stronger teams. As a result of an objective assessment process, a church planter can become more accountable to his sending organization and more teachable through networking and coaching.
It is important for church planters to have a sending or sponsor church. In Acts 13:3, the church at Antioch sent out Barnabas and Saul before they departed on the their first church planting mission trip. The two men also returned to the church, as reported in Acts 14:27, and gave an accounting of what God had accomplished through them. GOBA requires that new church plants (missions) have a sponsor church that is connected to the association. The sponsor must be a member church in good standing that faithfully supports the association and the SBC cooperative program. For a church planter, a sponsor church can provide prayer and emotional support. Some sponsor churches provide administrative and financial support to new church plants. A sponsor church may even encourage planters to recruit team and core group members from their membership.
Church planter assessors should always encourage church planters to connect with other planters through a church planter network. Effective networks allow church planters and their wives to encourage one another while offering practical assistance to other church planters. It is through networks that church planters can discover how other church planters overcame obstacles and discovered resources. Pastors and other leaders of supporting churches often participate in church planter networks to discover more practical ways to be involved in supporting church planting.
As a result of the assessment process, a church planter should be encouraged to enlist a trained coach, if he doesn’t already have one. A coach is one who is tasked with helping the church planter to succeed at what God has called him to do. A coach in not a consultant tells the church planter what to do. The coach is not the supervisor who holds the planter’s feet to the fire. The coach is not a mentor who pours into the planter’s life. The coach is there to help draw out of the planter what God has already placed within him to succeed.
The assessment process should also help the church planter to understand what additional training the planter may need in order to plant a successful church. The planter may be encouraged to pursue further theological training or to attend a church planting conference or boot camp. Assessors to point the church planter to specific books to read or workshops to attend. Most church planters will appreciate the feedback that they receive and will want to take the necessary steps to strengthen themselves and the church that they will lead. Most planters will see the assessment process as one of the most valuable steps that they have taken toward ensuring the health and vitality on the churches that God leads them to plant.
For more information on church planter assessment, coaching and training opportunities, visit ReporducingChurches.com
Posted on Mon, December 12, 2016
by Mark Weible filed under