Building a Launch Team (part 1)

Doug Foltz

Recently a church planter told me, “I got so much done today, but then I looked at how much I had left and felt like I was eating the proverbial elephant.” Toward the end of the conversation, I asked how many people were on his launch team. “The same as last month,” he said. “I need to get some people around me.”

As you probably already know, there are hundreds of tasks to complete when planting a church. I have seen church planters start churches with many of the “tasks” incomplete. I’ve seen churches start with limited budgets, no staff, borrow and beg for equipment, and have even heard of a church that started in a park because they had no facility. Many of these churches overcame these obstacles and became a healthy congregation.

However, I’ve never seen a church start without people. A church planter’s worst nightmare is that opening Sunday arrives, and the only people in the congregation are his spouse, kids and mom.

Over the next four weeks in this series of blog posts, I’m focusing on priority No. 1 for every church planter regardless of the form of church you’re planting or the context in which you’re planting –building a launch team. Every church planter needs a team of people committed to helping start the church. Below are some vital launch team lessons I’ve learned firsthand and from talking to other planters.

Warm bodies do not count. Launch team members are not attendees or pew sitters. The best way to know if someone is part of your launch team is to ask yourself, What area of service is he or she responsible for?  If the answer is none, they are not on your launch team.

Neither do kids. I’m often asked, “Do kids count?.” My answer is no. You launch team needs to be made up of people who can fill a ministry role.  At times, you will have high-caliber teens who can and want to assist in key ministry roles. But even though kids might be moving chairs and preparing communion, I wouldn’t count them. Note: You don’t have to tell the kids that. I’d give them all titles and let them have responsibility as well. Just realize that they are kids.

Non-Christians can be on your launch team. In fact, you should encourage non-Christians to join the team. They will likely join the team not because of their love for the church, but rather their friendship with you.

Launch teams have a definitive end. The purpose of the team is to start the church. Once that mission is complete, disbanding the team is important. Otherwise, you quickly create an insider culture within the new church. I always encourage planters to set a time limit of approximately six months after opening Sunday. This lets them know when their job is complete. Some of your launch team might come from other churches. Officially disbanding will let them know it’s ok to return to their congregation. For non-Christians, disbanding lets them know when they can start sleeping in again on Sundays. Remember that many of them will come out of a relationship with you or someone else on the launch team. Of course, the ideal outcome is that they will come to know Jesus during the time they serve on the team. But, if they do not, release them at the end of their commitment. Guilting them into staying could potentially damage the relationship.

In the next post, we’ll talk about how big a launch team should be.

About Doug Foltz

A self-desribed “church planting junkie,” Doug Foltz serves as director of planter care for Stadia as the Director of Planter Care, where he helps church planters clarify and implement their vision. He stands alongside church planters leveraging his 15-plus years of church planting experience with more than 50 new churches. In 2004, Foltz moved to Charlotte, N.C., to help plant LifePointe Christian Church. Currently, he lives in Illinois and speaks nationwide about church planting.