Team leader lessons learned in planting Common Ground Table View
By Roger Haynes
In 2015, my wife Nicks and I planted a new CG congregation in Table View. It has been both daunting and delightful, so if you’re embarking on a similar venture, here are some of our hard-won lessons so far on our journey. I hope they offer some assistance and inspiration to you.
Launching – People and leaders:
- The bigger the launch-team the better. You need to be realistic, but work closely with the sending congregation/s to build as big of a team as you can. Trust God and in collaboration with other leaders, be courageous in calling people to join this exciting mission.
- The weightier the launch-team the better. Numbers are fantastic, but weight-carrying, DNA-filled people are like gold to the launch team. They bring the intangibles of church life that build culture and create momentum in the direction you want to go.
- The more permanent the launch-team leadership the better. This is a difficult balance to find, as it’s a real strengthener to have people commit a season of a few months or years to the plant, but the longer the better, and the more permanent the better. Be sure to commission those who are coming for a season to see their brief as one of having to multiply themselves into a number of others before they leave, ensuring that a hole is not left behind.
- The more DNA-rich the leaders the better. This may sound like repetition, but when planting a congregation, it’s a sweet thing to have leaders who carry Common Ground (or your sending church) DNA, as there is minimal culture on-ramping that needs to be done in a time when the pressure is on to reach out, rather than
- Hire from outside the wider church family with immense caution. The smaller and younger the church or plant, the more you would do well to source your key employments from within the network or family of churches. The pressures on church-planting are such that there is usually a small team and higher pressures on the few key leadership relationships, making it crucial that chemistry is real amongst the pastoral team.
- Risk with people, more than you have in your previous, established church. When it comes to the launch team and those God adds to the initial launch, it will likely require that you risk with the kinds of people you may not have in your previous and probably more established congregation.
- Hire the best you can – 1 great person is better than 3 average employees. Enough said. From operations to implementers, find 10 out of 10’s.
- Prioritize your marriage, and keep things fun, especially in the early planting season. You will work hard. You will be adrenalized. You will take it seriously. If you don’t you should likely not be leading the planting team. But be sure to keep the joy and laughter in your marriage. Laugh at all the new experiences and dynamics you’re facing. If you don’t laugh lots, you may cry too much. Get creative about date nights, romance and fun together.
- Make memories as a family, working hard to make it fun for the family. It’s likely that your family are all going to make sacrifices for this new plant. Do your best to create memories and to make your home a warm and wonderful place to be. If home feels safe and joyful for your family, the association your kids will have with church planting will be pleasant. Shield your family from all the strains of planting, they will be facing challenges of change of their own.
- Build genuine friends in the community – both ministry and non-ministry friends. If you truly believe you’re building a community worth joining, finding grace in and being authentic in, then be sure to build your own authentic relationships. It would be advised that you have some genuine and honest friends within the ministry teams and partnerships you build, albeit that you’re building friendships with all in the community – these are the people whose fridge you open when you visit. Not only ministry friends, but also family friends. Try to find people who you simply enjoy their company who for whatever reasons are not in the core leadership scrum of your church. It will ensure your world does not shrink to the size of your leadership team.
- Money matters so think sustainably. Get the best venue you can, because venues really matter. At the same time, although it might seem obvious, don’t sign a lease you can’t afford in the long term.
- “Building appeal” matters, so get the best you can. As mentioned, search high and low – praying all the way – to find the best venue you can to reach and impact the people in your
- Kids matter so if kids are prominent, accommodate for them awesomely. You may have a palatial auditorium, but if the kids have a shoe box facility and get in the car after a Sunday meeting and moan about your church and it’s facilities, your auditorium will likely lose the battle.
- Learn the system and make it work for you. Educate yourself on the financial structures and ask as many questions as you need to so that you understand the longterm plans. Create realistic faith expectations by connecting with leaders ahead of you and learning from them.
- Learn to lead your church financially as soon as possible. Learn form more experienced leaders on how to coach and cast vision to your congregation regarding finances. Grow your skill, conviction and clarity on how to lead people towards financial generosity. Along with that, maintain personal generosity.
Remove stones in the shoe as soon as you can. Time will reveal to you that there will be a number of things that will act like stones in a running shoe, annoying to start with, but crippling if left undealt with. Find solutions to pull such stones out the shoe so that you can run. Such things could be:
- A highly draining leader whom you expected would be a contributor;
- An unhelpful personal habit that wasn’t previously inconsequential;
- Unsuitable work environment;
- Emotional drains prior to key leadership moments,
- Sunday meetings;
- Obstacles to prayer.
- Reaching new people is easier than building missional culture, and both are difficult! Simply to say that depth and breadth matter. Be careful of thinking that growth in itself creates the culture you’re trying to cultivate. Growth, and culture creation require hard work and creativity. That’s why you’re wise to build strong teams that carry the culture far and wide.
- Build elders and team from day 1. It may feel like the small, makeshift setup you have is creative, nimble and even fun for the early stages, but healthy churches are lead by healthy and steadily growing (not too fast nor too slow) leadership teams. Try your best to build teams in every area of your church – especially eldership. Try to have in mind one, or maybe two potential elders whom you are building with and trying to ascertain if this may be a call on their lives or not.
- Treat your church as the size that it is, not the size of the one you came from. This will take some adjusting, but to grow a church from 100 to 200 won’t need the same things you needed to go from 400-500 in your previous church. If you’ve come from size, try to maintain a big heart for a big vision, but keep in tension the need to maximize the benefits of being smaller. These benefits will be your helpers in growing.
- Savor the size and possibilities that come with it. Don’t wish you were bigger without enjoying the exciting possibilities and opportunities that come with being a ‘smaller’ congregation.
- Enjoy yourself, work hard and laugh hard. If you take yourself too seriously, you are in great danger of the tyrants of comparison, discontent, discouragement and disappointment. Be sure to maintain high levels of trust in God as sovereign and as leader of his Church.
- Learn to depend on the Holy Spirit to build you and your church as soon as you can. Pursue humility! Although only time teaches some things, the sooner you can do the hard work of the heart to trust God over systems and personal effort, the better!
- Be cautious of hopeful-future-leader infatuations. As you ‘fantasize’ about the team you dream of building, be cautious of thinking each new, strong person is your next potential elder. Although you need to have the potential leader antenna up at all times, it can be unhelpful personally and to the stability of those around you if you are always getting excited about the unknown and new entities, rather than those who’ve expressed commitment and conviction.
- Be the mission as a lifestyle, don’t just teach it… it’s obvious, but deeply challenging, especially if you’ve moved to a new area and need to build new networks of friendships. Never give up on doing your best to build relationship with unbelievers in your area, and authentically try to walk them towards faith, and finding the joy of your community.