If God has called you to start a new church, you may already feel isolated, like you’re on this church planting journey alone. Be encouraged, God does not use a lone individual to start a church. Thankfully, He builds teams to launch churches. As God prepares you, He is also preparing a group of people to start the church with you. Trust that God is speaking to others about being part of what he is stirring within you. Your challenge is to find those individuals. Whether you’re launching in your hometown or you’ve moved your family to a city where you don’t know a soul, God will send people into your life to build the church. Every time you have an opportunity, share the vision with others and watch for the responses. It will become clear to you the hearts God is stirring to become a part of your launch team.
In a past study, Top Issues Church Planters Face, building a launch team came in third as one of the church planter’s major challenges. Don’t confuse a launch team with a core group. A launch team is focused on the aspects of launching, their specific assignments and responsibilities. Their job is to get this church off the ground, and their part is to train and prepare for the launch. A true launch team is outwardly focused, evangelistic in nature, inviting and investing in people in their relational world. A core group will want to have Bible studies and worship experiences and is usually more inwardly focused. Additionally, a core group may not view you as the visionary leader and may promote its own desires rather than the vision God has given you. Focus on building your launch team.
The first way to start building a launch team is to begin praying with close friends, wherever they live, about the new church. Some of those friends may even become a part of your church. When we launched Church @ The Springs, I asked Jeff Scott, my good friend in Atlanta, to pray for me. As a result, he called me and said, “I don’t know what God is doing but I feel like He is telling me to help.” Within a few weeks of our launch, Jeff was traveling weekly to lead worship in our new church. You can never imagine whose heart God is preparing to help you start the church.
I know many leaders whose praying friends physically moved with them to start the church. Brandon, a friend and church planter in Clearwater, FL, launched his church with a team that included friends from Michigan. Prior to the launch, Brandon and his wife held regular online Launch Team meetings with these families.
Do not be afraid to ask people to become involved in a new church. Sometimes friends will refer others who would like to be part of a new church even if they’re not interested themselves. Also, make it a point to meet local church leaders and share the vision. They may have a heart for starting new churches and want to partner with you, or they may provide people or prayer support. A church’s pastor in Ocala made a point to meet with me about launching a church, and since I knew we had people at The Springs who would love to help, we partnered with him and about twenty people from our church went to be a part of his launch team.
Servant Leadership is another very effective way to build your launch team. Chris, a friend and church planter in one of the most unchurched regions of our nation, knew he wanted their church to be known ‘for what they do for the community, not by what they want from the community.’ So his launch team of fourteen spent a year serving and building relationships in their community. During that time, they tripled their launch team and became known as a church that serves the community long before they actually launched. When they finally launched they started with over 200 in attendance, making them the largest evangelical church not just in their community but in the surrounding communities as well. This church launched well because they were committed to being a service to the community before they asked the community to come to a service.
Another way to build your launch team is through outreach events, community events and informational meetings. Advertising a new church start on the radio and inviting people to your event provides yet another opportunity to cast vision. And the more you cast vision, the clearer it becomes. As Guy Kawasaki says, “Pitch constantly. When you are totally familiar and comfortable with your pitch you’ll be able to give it most effectively.”
As you begin building a launch team, meet with the team regularly to vision cast and to train. Keep them focused on the mission and the launch date of the church. Once you tap into one person who is interested in the church, often you tap into several other relationships through that person. Take every opportunity to deliver a clear vision to them. As the Lead Pastor, you are the vision-caster, the vision-bearer, and the vision-protector. Let the vision capture their hearts the way it has captured yours.
By far, the most effective way to capture the hearts of your launch team is by taking them to see other churches with a vision similar to yours. A month hardly goes by that a church planter from another town doesn’t bring a team to The Springs for a Sunday service. Plan to attend the weekend service together, schedule a tour and Q & A time afterwards with the Executive Pastor or someone from their team. Regularly repeat the stories of life change from those churches you have visited, while sharing their purpose, values, and strategy. Then, you will find you have clarified the vision in the hearts of a young church.
The early days of your church plant will feel like a roller coaster ride. Some days you will come home exhilarated by God’s provision through people and circumstances, other days you will free fall down into the darkness of a tunnel. During the free falls, keep your hands reaching for heaven. Trust the One who invited you to join him and tapped you into his work of reaching a community for Christ. He who called you is faithful. When you come through the biggest drops of starting a new church, He will be there, asking you if you want to go again. Buckle up, stay on the track and enjoy the ride!