The process of gathering launch team members is not an easy task. With the right training almost anyone can plan the launch, mail appropriate advertising, and prepare for people to come on the launch day. But molding an effective launch team is another story. There are several ways to find such people committed to starting a new church with you.
Recruit Members from the Sponsor Church
One possible source for launch-team members is a sponsoring church, which can appeal for volunteer families (sometimes called “extension members”). Bob Roberts, pastor of NorthWood Church and founder of GlocalNet, has started over 180 churches out of his church (and many more in partnership with GlocalNet). Their local church is directly involved in training, mentoring, and coaching twenty-five church planters each year. In several cases, he has sent out members to start these new churches. Bob explains:
“When we sponsor a daughter church, each church is different. Generally for a new plant, sending out three to eight families from our church is the most. We sometimes send staff as well. We don’t recruit this much because we have found that core groups from established churches can slow a plant down. A planter will start a small group and multiply it while being an intern at NorthWood. If they can’t do that, they can’t plant a church. I give them a 100 percent fishing license with those people.”
This presents both positives and negatives. A strong positive is that the planter has a launch team almost overnight, and the length of start-up time decreases considerably. The church can begin services while developing one-on-one relationships. In addition, the planter usually finds that these volunteer families are solid believers who can assist immediately in the development process.
On the negative side, not all of these people come from strong churches like NorthWood Church! These “experienced” believers may have strong feelings about the form of worship, leadership style, and other matters. Such convictions, if different from the vision of the church planter, can create significant conflicts in the early development of the congregation. These conflicts may quickly put at risk the continuation of financial support from the sponsoring church. We recommend using this recruiting method for launch-team development only if the sponsoring congregation is highly similar in philosophy and style to the new church and the planter and the context of the new start are similar to the context of the sponsoring church.
Develop a SWAT Team
In settings where extension members are unavailable or their use would be unwise, several other means for recruitment are possible. One alternative has been termed a SWAT team, an acronym for Servants, Willing and Temporary. SWAT launch team members commit themselves to the new church for a short time, usually six months. These volunteers staff the nursery, teach small groups, serve on set-up teams, or fill other roles in the first months following the launch.
Many churches will send their people for a short while to help a daughter church. For example, when Mountain Ridge Church decided to help Brian Bowman plant Valley Life Church in Arizona, they sent out teams of volunteers that were organized by their community groups. Each of these teams served in different capacities over a period of five weeks to help them launch. At the end of the five weeks, Valley Life was still short on children’s workers, so one couple committed to teaching a class for them for another six months. This was huge for them! Despite their initial short-term commitment, some SWAT volunteers often become permanent members of the church when their short-term commitment has ended. For Valley Life, two of those initial families made that decision, and today one of them serves as their finance and connections team leader!
In the same way, when John Kelley was preparing to plant Freedom Hill Church in Tacoma, Washington, his sending church, Bethany Baptist Church, let him hold a series of four vision meetings that happened after the 10 AM service. In these meetings he would share his vision for the church and the clear next steps they could take to join his team. Out of these meetings he was able to recruit twenty people to be a part of his launch team. Initially, these volunteers committed anywhere from six months to two years, but the reality is, many of those families are still with him today.
Use Leaders on Loan
Christians from nearby churches who want to become part of a new church are a third source for launch-team development. However, for the sake of trust and to preserve a reputation of integrity, the planter must ask permission from the pastors of these churches before approaching their members. These people must be genuinely committed to planting the kind of church the planter has envisioned.
Another means for recruitment is purchasing Christian radio and television ads. Posting notices in Christian bookstores also may help locate volunteers. You can even use targeted Facebook advertising to post ads, photos, and videos targeting those who live in your neighborhood. Several in our NewChurches.com Plus Membership community have used Facebook advertising in this way.
These common methodologies for recruitment present their own risks. Christians often envision helping birth a “perfect” church. They may anticipate that their involvement will help them realize their vision. Difficulties quickly arise when “borrowed” or volunteer launch-team members’ ideas conflict with the planter’s vision for the new church.
The planter must ensure that these volunteers understand and agree with his vision. If not, the planter faces the unpleasant task of asking such workers to find another place for involvement. So when you choose launch-team members, choose carefully!
Learn more about developing your launch team and other systems for church planting in Planting Missional Churches: Your Guide to Starting Churches that Multiply. This is a modified excerpt from the book. Learn more about this book and start reading the first three chapters, as well as download 30+ exclusive resources here.