The Best Kept Secret of Church Plant Team Building

Trying to connect with people in a place you have never lived to start a church with a limited budget and a fixed timeline takes nerves of steel. (Unsplash)

Do you have a talent for getting people to quit their job and sell their home at the same time? Neither do I.

But that shouldn't discourage you from stepping out to launch a church. Asking people to leave their family and friends to start a new church is a big ask. Don't get discouraged if everyone you know isn't ready to jump on the church planting train and travel across the country with you on the railroad tracks of faith. This may be the best thing for your future church because the team you build is more important than the team you bring.

Parachuting into a city where you have no relationships to start a church can be one of the scariest things you can do in ministry. There's no "but" followed by a comforting remark here. It's just kind of a scary deal! Trying to connect with people in a place you have never lived to start a church with a limited budget and a fixed timeline takes nerves of steel.

Using City Momentum

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The solution may appear to be to recruit as many people as possible to move with you from other places. While this is helpful, there is also something called "city momentum" that you need to consider.

City momentum is when people in your new community bring awareness and more people to your launch through their network of relationships that existed in the area before you even moved there. It's the buzz created by the locals.

Every person you add to your team gives your team momentum. It does not matter if they move with you or not. When someone from your new city joins your team, it gives you "city momentum" as well. Launch team members who already live in the community have built-in equity with existing relationships. They don't have to earn people's trust to invite them to your interest meeting or church launch like your other team members will.

We can see a similar promise of influence for the gospel in John 4:37-38. Here Jesus says, "For in this is the saying true, 'One sows, and another reaps.' I sent you to reap a crop for which you did not labor. And you have benefited from their labor." City momentum is just a practical way we can see this promise play out in church planting.

So how do you create city momentum, and what should you avoid that may squash it?

5 Steps to Creating City Momentum

1. Leave some key roles open. You may not know the highest contributors on your launch team yet. When you give away your top leadership roles before you move, you lose the chance to connect with the influential people in your new city who may be a better fit for those positions. Doing this makes it challenging to recruit gatherers who can multiply your city momentum.

2. Give responsibilities instead of titles. Asking for a commitment to specific duties over a particular time period gives everyone freedom. The first way is by creating a natural exit ramp for the volunteer to move on to something else if they decide they are not a good fit. Secondly, it frees you up to put someone you already trust into a much-needed position while you figure out who may be the best person to carry the title long-term.

3. Know the difference between pioneers and settlers. "Pioneers like to start new things. It excites them. They are not intimidated by the hard work and sacrifice it takes. Others are pilgrims who come along once there is already momentum but end up staying longer." —Bronson Moore, campus pastor, Church of the Highlands.

This is why ARC church planters start with a "launch team" and don't transition to a "core team" until after launch. Forcing everyone to be a pilgrim means not appreciating how God has wired people and may lead to burnout on your team.

4. Get out of your relational comfort zone. Intimate relationships can be a safe place for church planters when everything else seems chaotic. Understanding city momentum can help you grow your friendships outside of your existing circles, even when it is uncomfortable.

People in your city are not just looking to be a plug that fills a hole in your team. They are looking for a genuine relationship with you. This means you will need not only new team members to launch your church but also new friends that you have opened up and allowed into your life.

5. Prepare for the unexpected. What if God has something better for you than what you have planned for yourself? That fantastic worship leader you wanted to move with you and ends up taking a full-time job at a megachurch may just be making room for someone better. Maybe the person you meet in your city who becomes your worship leader will one day become an executive pastor, and their spouse is also amazingly creative and has a friend who is a fantastic photographer whose parents own Pepsi and will start tithing before you even launch? OK, I maybe took that one a little too far, but you get my point. God can do much more than we expect. This includes providing a team that is much better and bigger than we ever imagined.

A Strong Team Means a Strong Launch

We need to have people we trust helping us in the church planting journey. As they say, "your network is your net worth" in more ways than one. While bringing team members with you is a huge bonus, ultimately, it will be continuing to build that team with city momentum.

Read our blog, "Why You Should Never Plant Alone," to learn more about ARC and other great church planting organizations.

Growth Starts With the Right Plan

If you're planting a church, you need people to support you throughout the journey. We understand how important it is to have a reliable launch team in place. That's one of the reasons we created the video course, Launch to Lead. Launch to Lead includes 10 lessons that explore the in-depth process of what it looks like to be confident as you plant your church and watch it grow. You'll learn about the many topics that every pastor will face in their church-planting journey and you'll also receive various bonus assets for your use.

You also may be ready to establish a strong legal foundation for your church. Good news! The StartRIGHT Service makes that possible! Over the past 20 years, our team of church planting specialists has helped thousands of churches establish a legal foundation that has protected their vision. Click the link below to schedule a free 30-minute phone call with our church planting specialists to see what we can do for you!

Josh Roberie works on the church planting team at the Association of Related Churches (ARC) where he helps pastors start life-giving churches. Read more of his blogs at, and follow him on Instagram and Twitter at @JoshRoberie.

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