Church Planting is Hard: Building a Launch Team
The most important aspect of church planting is building the launch team. It is also one of the hardest aspects. One of the most common ways to plant a church is the parachute drop. The church planter moves into a community having little to no existing relationships and begins to build a team to plant a church. C. Peter Wagner writes that a minimum of 50 people is needed for a healthy launch of a new church. A survey I did a couple of years ago supports this. The problem is relationships take time. And if you are like many parachute drop planters, you have about 6 – 9 month before the church needs to start.
It’s common for me to hear frustrations about the launch team from church planters. Among the common responses are, “The Christian people I meet with are interested, but don’t want to commit. They say let me know when services are starting and I’ll come and check it out.” or “I’m meeting with some real lost people and talking to them about joining a church seems pre-mature. They just aren’t there yet.” Some have defined the launch team in such a way that it makes it difficult to include non-Christians or those that aren’t mature Christians.
Another common struggle is that church planters will get frustrated that they aren’t seeing results with people and will turn their attention to strategy or planning in order to feel like they are accomplishing something. While providing a feeling of accomplishment, this effectively derails the launch team development process.
Another struggle to highlight is preacher count. The church planter will say they have 20 people on the launch team, but that might include someone they met at Starbucks two weeks ago and had a friendly conversation with. Here’s a tip, if the other person doesn’t know they are on the launch team, they probably aren’t.
So here are some thoughts for making launch team development a little easier.
1. Don’t parachute. If you can afford to, move into a community for a year or so and work a regular job. You will learn more about the community and will naturally build relationships.
2. Determine what being on the launch team means in your context. It’s hard to know if someone is on the launch team, if you don’t clearly understand it yourself. Will you have a launch team covenant? What are the qualifcations of being on the launch team? Will you include non-Christians? If so, will they have a different set of expectations?
3. Pray for the relationships you are establishing.
4. Develop intentional rhythms to your life so that you run into the same people all the time. For example, go to the same grocery store at the same time each week and checkout with the same cashier. Go inside and pay for your gas. Join a gym and workout the same time each day.
5. It’s not all about you. It’s tough to build 50 significant relationships in a short period of time. But people you build relationships with can help build the launch team too. If you don’t include your launch team in the development process, you will likely only build a team of 20 -30.
6. Dust up on your evangelism skills. Read an apologetic book. If you’ve been in the church world too long, your skills may be a little rusty.