What Does a Typical Church Planter Look Like? Part 4

Joel Nelson

Director of Church Expansion and Growth, Converge North Central

  • Church planting & multiplication

As a starting point in answering the question of what a typical church planter looks like, we begin with the 16 building blocks from the foundation of Converge’s Church Planting Assessment Center. You can read that article here. We have been looking at some of the different building blocks in part 2 and part 3 as well.

We consider three more components of the building blocks: Leadership, Entrepreneurialism, and Evangelism.

While a number of the building blocks for a church planter are necessary for any ministry role, these three blocks are crucial components for a church planter. They reflect gifts, skills, and personalities which tend to be more innate in the church planter and not necessarily gifts or skills that a church planter might learn.

Leadership Gifts

Effective church planters possess and reflect leadership skills and abilities. Regardless of how it may be expressed, such as introverted or extroverted, or boldly and out-front or softly and from behind, they are able to lead people. People naturally want to follow them. They build strong teams. They communicate a strong and compelling vision. They can excite and motivate others toward the vision and people own it for themselves. Their leadership style is also appropriate for the context and the situation. They possess an emotional intelligence and project a steady and confident perspective. With this, the church planter is able to analyze and think critically as they seek to move people and the church towards the vision God has given.

Experience and observation reveals that most effective church planters come into church planting having the gift of leadership. It’s already there. It’s in their DNA and they have an track record of effective leadership. Obviously it’s a gift that can be honed and developed over time, but it’s something they possess and live out regardless of church planting or not.

Entrepreneurialism

Of all the questions that are asked to a potential church planter, one of the most important one is perhaps also the simplest question. “Tell about something you have started?” This question gets to the heart of the building block that seeks to assess if the potential candidate is an entrepreneur.

The French root word denotes a person who undertakes a project. Today, an entrepreneur is someone who develops, organizes and operates and new enterprise. Thy are commonly seen as an innovator, a source of new ideas, services and procedures. A definition that comes out of the Harvard Business School sheds even more light on the importance of an entrepreneurial spirit for the church planter.

Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity beyond resources controlled.

For many, the role of church planter is daunting because the things that are outside of their control loom over the opportunity that is before them. They lack the entrepreneurial gene. The task seems to great. The challenges seem to great. The risk is beyond their comfort level.

The church planter with the entrepreneurial gene can point clearly to programs, ministries, business, or initiatives they have started….and are still going! They enjoy not just dreaming up new endeavors, but they bring planning, organizing, creativity, perseverance, and energy to successfully start new things.

As with the building block of Leadership, experience and observation reveals that most effective church planters come into church planting already reflecting the entrepreneurial building block. They have a track record of starting things. There most likely is room for growth and development in this area,  but it’s something that will be a part of whatever ministry they are involved in church planting or something else. 

Evangelism

Earlier in this series of articles, it was mentioned that in assessing church planters, we seek to assess not only the candidate’s intellectual and knowledge base of church planting, but we also assess behavior. The building block of evangelism is an example of this. Every pastor would endorse the value of evangelism both on a corporate, as well as personal level. But when a church planter is asked for examples of sharing their faith with non-believers or of people they have led to faith in Christ, they are able to point to specific conversations and examples. Their behavior reveals the existence of the building block.

Effective church planters can relate to the unchurched. Whether it is communicating to a group through a sermon or one-on-on over a cup of coffee, they understand and can function in their space. But not only function, but are effective in ability to lead them across the line of faith to a relationship with Jesus in a way that reflects and honors the person and their context.

Evangelism is seen in a number of ways in a church plant that values and practices it…all starting with and dependent upon the planter. One way is by the planter modeling the value and practice. They have disciplines to keep their hat passionately engaged in the harvest. They build evangelistic opportunities into their schedule as they seek to regularly interact with unchurches people. A second is the church planter equipping people in the church to engage in spiritual conversations with those they have relationship and contact with. A final way is for the church to sow seeds in the community through awareness, events, and promotional tools to reach out to the people who live in their “Jerusalem” who have no personal experience with the hope of Christ.

The next article in their series will look at the building blocks and characteristics of faith, discipleship, and knowledge of church planting in growing a church.

As you unpack these characteristic, is there someone you know who might possess these church planting building blocks? Perhaps you, as you familiarize yourself with these ideas feel an affinity and perhaps God is leading you to investigate church planting more. Either way, I would love the opportunity to talk more with you. Contact me at jnelson@convergenorthcentral.org

Vision/Philosophy of Ministry

Church planters have a compelling vision which leads them to birth a new church. It’s the vision which is the foundation and driving force behind the new work. They have a compelling vision which is deeply rooted in the heart. Planting a new church is something they have to do…it’s wired in how they think and act. Often, this compelling vision is connected to what God is already doing. Planters can look at a community and not just see the needs and the opportunities, but can also discern where God is already working in that community seek ing to connect in the areas where God is already moving. The vision needed by a church planter is also bigger than what they can accomplish alone and thus requiring them to be dependent upon God for the present and the future.

Vision is often framed by at least four components. Mission speaks into what are we doing? What is the ultimate reason this church exists? What is supposed to be doing?  Values help define why are we doing it? These are the shared convictions which are defined from the very begin, reinforced constantly, and foundational to every decision. Strategy contributes the question, how are we going to do it? What are the steps, processes, programs, and systems we will employ to accomplish our ministry? Measure is important to vision as it asks when are we successful? What marks will there be to reflect or define the accomplish of our ministry? What things will hold us accountable to how we are doing?

The philosophy of ministry that a church planter brings to the new church builds from the vision. It’s where the vision meets tasks. It’s where the church planter addresses the different elements of mission and ministries. It touches upon the specifics and dynamics of the Sunday gathering, children’s ministry, small groups, organizational structure and more.

Some foundational expressions in a philosophy of ministry are Evangelism (how will we reach people?), Discipleship (how will we move people in their spiritual walk?), Leadership (what will our leadership look like and how will we develop people?), Worship (what will our gatherings look like from street to seat and everything in between?), and Multiplication (how will reproduce disciples, leaders, ministries, churches, and more?)

Motivation and Resiliency

For a church planter, motivation is needed from two perspectives. The first is found in the ability to motivate others. Their speech is inspiring and people are engaged. There is an energy that is applied to tasks and their communication is filled with passion and conviction. Their optimism and energy motivates those around them to new actions and new attitudes.

A church planter also exhibits an intrinsic motivation. Along with a desire to do well and a commitment to excellence, they also possess a stick-to-itiveness and persistence. Often a self-starter, a church planter who is intrinsically motivated takes the initiative and is not deterred by long and hard work. They are ready, willing, and able to bring the energy, stamina, and vitality to see something built from nothing.

Closely related to motivation is resiliency. Setbacks will come. Challenges are constant. Disappointment happens. Expectations might not always be achieved. If a church planter is not resilient, unable to experience setbacks without defeat, the path to planting a church will become more and more challenging. If they are unequipped to ride the ups and downs of things such as attendance, and unprepared to expect the unexpected, this lack of resilience will mire the planter in disappointment and failure.

Resiliency often is strongly rooted in the call to plant a church. The planter relies on a strong and clear call in those difficult times when there’s a voice whispering in your ear that you should give up. Resiliency, built upon a strong call reminds you that this just isn’t a job, but you are serving within the will of God. Confidence in the call of God to planting a church provides resolves and confidence to navigate and endure the hardships.

Public Ministry Skills

An important skill for any lead pastor, public ministry skills are even more important for a church planter. In an established church, there are many different public ministry connection points for people to make with the church. Children and youth ministries, social and small group gatherings to name a few. For the church planter, especially in the early days, the church planter is the primary and most consistent person in the public ministry of the church. In addition to teaching and preaching, public ministry also is key for the church planting in effectively communicating vision, mission, values, and strategy in different forums.

Preaching and teaching skills need to be well-developed. An effective church planter can effectively and confidently open Scripture in a captivating and engaging way. The Spirit’s power is evident as the planter provides useful information as well as relevant and practical application.

So, what does a typical church planter look like? One planter may be an introvert who preaches topically while another may be an extrovert who prefers verse-by-verse expository preaching. Gift mix and skills differ from person to person, but a common thread for church planters is God doing His work in their life through their gifts, abilities, and calling building upon the blocks and characteristics found in effective church planters.

The next article in their series will look at the building blocks and characteristics of evangelism, entrepreneurialism, and knowledge and understanding of church planting and growing a church.

As you unpack these characteristic, is there someone you know who might possess these church planting building blocks? Perhaps you, as you familiarize yourself with these ideas feel an affinity and perhaps God is leading you to investigate church planting more. Either way, I would love the opportunity to talk more with you. Contact me at jnelson@convergenorthcentral.org


Joel Nelson, Director of Church Expansion and Growth, Converge North Central

Joel serves as the Converge North Central Director of Church Expansion and Growth.

Additional articles by Joel Nelson
  • Church planting & multiplication

What Does a Typical Church Planter Look Like? Part 5

Jan 15 2021