Spotting a church planter Pt1

How would you know a potential church planter if you saw one? One image that has often been portrayed is that of an energetic young man (yes, usually a man) who is entrepreneurial, evangelistic and engaging. He leaps ministry barriers in a single bound and is always talking about the next great thing his church plant is doing.
Yes, there are those who fit the ‘3 Es’, but they (whether men or women) are a rare breed and often start one church and then after a couple of years move on to plant another church and so on.
But interestingly, most church planters are not like this. Planters are male and female, couples and singles, some have a strong entrepreneurial flair, others are very pastoral. Some planters are more suited to one type of church than another.
To help discern those who might be gifted to start a new church, our Newstart Taskforce follows a clear, well-researched assessment process. A significant part of this involves conducting a lengthy interview in which we ask questions about past ministry involvement, employment experience and general life issues. Our guiding principle is, ‘Past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour’. We also bear in mind that Jesus changes lives.
Since we have begun assessing potential planters in NSW, we have seen more of our plants have healthy beginnings and grow into effective churches. In this and two follow-up articles, we will be ‘spilling the beans’ on what we look for in potential church planters. Have a read and see whether you can think of someone whom God could use to pioneer something new.
Four of the key characteristics are:

  1. Faith – Here we are looking for evidence of a strong and vital relationship with God. We also seek examples of a willingness to take significant faith risks. Church planting is, after all, a step of faith. We also ask about a person’s call to church planting.
  2. Resilience – In this area we seek evidence of an ability to stay the course in the face of major setbacks, disappointments and opposition. Church planting is not easy and many hard knocks are par for the course. We need people who bounce back quickly and strongly from adversity.
  3. The couple – This area is focused on the married church planter and includes questions that explore whether the planting couple are collaborating as a husband and wife team in marriage and ministry. Even if one is the lead planter, it is never a solo activity. A single person is not assessed in this specific area.
  4. Flexibility and adaptability – We take into account that people are different, acknowledging that some are naturally flexible. We note how people use structure and how they negotiate change effectively while staying centred on the overall vision.

This initial grouping is not dissimilar from what you might like to see in anyone who enters pastoral ministry. As we ask questions in the interview process, our bent is always towards evidence of an ability to start churches. While we value hearing hopes and dreams and plans for something new, we seek evidence of how God has already been at work through people’s life and ministry.
Look out for more about spotting a potential church planter in the next issue of Together!


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