Missional Wednesdays: Why Launch Team Growth Stagnates
So yes, I realize it’s Thursday, but I’ve been traveling. So, here we go a day late.
This post builds off a previous post: Viral Discipleship: From Macro to Micro. It would be helpful to read that post first.
Let’s think about launch team development in light of viral discipleship. In my experience many church planters struggle to grow the launch team past 30 adults. There are multiple factors that play into this:
- Many church planters parachute drop into a community. You can’t microwave relationships and it always takes longer than we want.
- Church planters are used to inviting people to a church service. Without a church service, many don’t know what they are inviting people into.
- The planter’s relational capacity caps out around 30 adults.
I want to focus on the last cause for this post. We all have a relational capacity. You can only have so many significant relationships before you reach it. I think the average person can sustain 20 – 30 significant relationships. Don’t ask me for proof in the comments. I’m just guessing here. That’s the joy of writing for a blog and not a research journal. There are exceptions and some planters have a very high relational capacity. They are the people magnets who have never met a stranger. My wife is one of those. She’ll talk to people in line at the grocery store and instantly have a connection like she was talking to a long lost friend.
So many planters get to 20 or 30 on the launch team and then stagnate because they have reached their relational capacity. At this point there is no reproduction that is happening. The planter has just build personal relationships. C. Peter Wagner and others have suggested that a launch team should be at least 50 adults to be healthy and sustainable. There are two ways to grow the launch team beyond this relational capacity:
- Attractional Events and Programming
- Relational or Viral Discipleship
One way focuses on addition, is expensive to sustain and tends to feed the consumer mentality prevalent in America. Some would argue this is good because you are using the tools of culture against them. It’s also risky. It’s the old argument that what you win them with you win them to. The other way focuses on multiplication, costs nothing and produces mission minded Christians. To get beyond the 20 – 30 number on the launch team you need to reproduce. The church needs to grow beyond the church planter and the mission needs to be embedded in each Christian.
This isn’t easy. It’s easy for me to state the theory, but I know first hand how hard it is to make this work. Relationships take time and it takes even longer to embed a missional DNA in people. We are naturally self centered and look to our own interests first. It’s counter cultural to ask people to disciple others and try and reach them for Jesus. For many of us we were never discipled, and that makes it hard for us to truly disciple others, let alone teach others to disciple. But the answers are in God’s Word and the promise of Scripture is that the Holy Spirit will help us.
The answer is never as cut and dry as a blog post can make it sound. The reality is we probably need both approaches. My two cents is just don’t neglect making disciples relationally and teaching them to do the same. Remember, Jesus said our job is to make disciples not plant churches. Churches are just that beautiful byproduct of making disciples.