Setting sail for success
Perhaps the most critical stage in the church planting experience is the Core Team phase. In this phase, culture is established, values are solidified, and vision becomes reality. However, as with anything critical, some common mistakes that church planters make in this stage can shape the entire trajectory of their church.
It’s like a ship that is just one degree off when setting sail; after some time on the sea, that one degree builds until becoming miles off course. Through coaching church planters over the last two decades, I have identified these seven small course corrections to help ensure that your vision as a church planter doesn’t get shipwrecked.
1. Don’t make promises
“If you join our church plant, you could be the first staff member hired when the time is right.” Planters often make promises like this in the Core Team phase, whether genuinely or in hopes of attracting talented leaders to join their team.
Keep in mind that when people join a Core Team because of a promise, a clock starts ticking in their minds for when they’d like to see that promise come true—and it is often much faster than what can actually be fulfilled. Often, it is those who initially seem to be great in their position who will not be the best solution when it’s time to make that decision.
2. Don’t do everything
Your home will always be the best place to host Core Team meetings, and you will always be the best choice to speak at them. However, these choices have consequences, and most of those consequences will have a negative effect on your health.
One easy place to start delegating is by having someone else host in their home while you do the teaching. This suggestion may sound small, but it will start a culture to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry” (Ephesians 4:12).
3. Don’t compromise your vision
In hopes of creating a collaborative culture, many church planters allow Core Team members to “breathe into” the vision for the church plant. While this is honorable, I would suggest the vision come from the lead planter’s own convictions.
Church planters often compromise their vision in favor of allowing a gifted team member (who often has a certain agenda) to participate. You are better off sticking to your convictions. One of my mentors has told me time and time again, “Never compromise for tempting talent, cold-hard cash, or butts in the seat.”
4. Don’t forget Kids Ministry
Creating a welcoming, family-first culture is a common desire among church planters. Sometimes, that leads you to allow family participation in Core Team meetings—which includes kids. However, there are many other ways you can create the family culture you desire besides having children attend the Core Team meetings.
I would suggest you start your Kids Ministry time in the Core Team phase by having volunteers serve in childcare when instruction and prayer time begins in your meetings. It’s difficult for parents to focus when they feel like their kid is being a distraction, and oftentimes, parents do not see their kids as distractions when they truly are.
5. Don’t neglect teaching generosity
Some planters are not threatened by talking about giving and generosity, but many are torn internally about these types of conversations. Use this Core Team time to practice talking to people who are the most bought-in now. This way, you will be seasoned in this practice when challenged to discuss it in more tense situations in the future.
A culture of generosity begins from day one. Putting this goal off in the early years will stunt the generosity culture for years to come. If you teach generosity from the beginning, it will be passed on to every new generation of team members who joins in the future.
6. Don’t make learning the goal of your meetings
Instead, make the goal of your Core Team meetings to model behaviors. Most planters see the big goal of the Core Team phase as delivering the mission, vision, and values deep into the hearts of their newly-formed church. They are right to want this outcome, but the truth is that head knowledge without implementation will create missional atrophy.
Knowing the values should only be the initial step; living out the values is the ultimate goal. Give your Core Team a place to practice the behaviors that you want your church to exemplify to the world.
7. Don’t leave the Core Team phase too early
Every church planter seems to feel the pressure to begin launching their public worship services. Few planters do this too late, but quite a few start this process too early. The pressure to commence these public worship services typically comes from the Core Team as they want to see the vision come to life; however, they will often underestimate how wearying it will be to begin these weekly worship services.
If it’s too much for a Core Team member, he or she can easily step away; however, once the weekly service starts for the planter, it’s a consistent part of life that cannot be escaped.
Keep staying the course
The Core Team development phase of the church is where you lay the foundation for your church plant. It is also where the course is set for the church for years to come. So, make sure you don’t make these common mistakes that many—like me!—have made.
Likewise, take time to recognize that a decade from now, when you are celebrating your church’s 10th anniversary, these Core Team memories will be stories you tell with unique fondness. Savor these moments and don’t wish them away.
Published June 7, 2023