By Lee Stephenson
The most important dynamic when starting a church is building the launch team, most likely one of the hardest aspects of starting a church. And yet it is mission critical. In his book, Planting Fast-Growing Churches, author Stephen Grey identified 21 differences between fast-growing churches and struggling ones. One of the things he reports is the importance of healthy launch teams. Grey found 88% of fast-growing churches had a launch team in place before launch, compared with only 12% of struggling churches. Furthermore, C. Peter Wagner writes that a minimum of 50 people is needed for the healthy launch of a church. From personal experience, I would say both of these positions are right on.
I understand both the importance and difficulty of building a healthy launch team. Here are five things to consider during this phase of planting, with the hope these observations make the process more fun
Determine and define what being on a launch team means
If the requirements, or qualifications have never really been clearly defined it is hard to know if someone is really on the launch team. Consider things such as: Is there a launch team covenant or interview? Are there expectations when it comes to serving, giving and attendance? Does someone have to be a Christian to be on the launch team? When are we no longer a launch team?
Know the culture
If you are moving into a new city and region (parachute planting), consider slowing down for a season. Take time to work a regular job for a year or two. This time period allows you to learn more about the community and its people. The bonus of this method is it provides you adequate time to develop
Bring the need to God. Pray that God will bring the right people at the right time to help establish this new church. Remember, it is his church more than it will ever be “your” church. He knows exactly the team needed to move it forward.
Be extremely intentional
This step requires some discipline. Be intentional about where you go and who you talk to. Shop at the same places and visit the same cashiers. Join the Chamber of Commerce team. Consider visiting all the local businesses in the direct vicinity of your meeting place, and get to know the managers and owners. Tell them what you are doing and ask if you can pray for any specific concerns for their business. Make sure you write their names down along with their requests. The magic happens when you return a month later asking how things are going.
Be a coach
Remember that you are in the process of building a launch team. People who have committed to the process and joined the launch team are looking for ways to help and to be an asset. As the coach, you have to move people from having a relational connection to belonging, to contributing, to reproducing. Coach people in this journey, and allow the launch team to help build the launch team.
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