Whether you’re thinking about the possibility of church planting or actively engaged in the planting process, one of the biggest questions in your journey will be “Where do I find the people to start a new church?” If you’re reading this and feeling anxious because you have no clue where to start, don’t worry–you’re NOT alone. Every single church planter has been there and wrestled with that feeling. Remember, you have the whole church around the world praying and rooting for you, and, ultimately, God is in control of His Church.
On the practical side of things, here are four simple steps any church planter can take to start recruiting their launch team.
Step 1: Define your target.
Imagine it’s pitch black outside. A friend hands you a bow and arrow, then tells you to hit a target. You’ll probably want to know where this target is before you shoot if you want to have any chance of hitting it! Recruiting a team to plant a church without knowing who you are trying to recruit is like pulling back a bow when you can’t see the target. How do you know where to aim?
In church planting, you are trying to recruit two types of people. The first group is Christians. When Jesus started his ministry, he began by building a team of followers and training them to take on his mission. Post-Pentecost, we are looking for co-laborers who can help us carry out Jesus’ mission of making new disciples. The key to recruiting Christians is to view them as additional archers who can help you hit the target, rather than the target themselves. When planting a church, there is a serious danger in mistaking co-laborers for the target. When we do this, we settle for shuffling saints instead of fulfilling the Great Commission.
The second group is those who do not yet know Jesus–your true target. This leads us to the next obvious question, “How do you recruit those who don’t know Jesus?”
Step 2: Be a learner of your community.
Spend some time on Google looking up the different organizations in your community and create a list of potential allies. Identify elementary and high schools, the chamber of commerce, non-profits, the park district, shelters, and any other local organizations. Instead of emailing or calling them, go to each of the places on your list and ask if there is a leader you can talk in order to learn more about their organization. When you identify yourself as a church planter who is seeking to learn more about the neighborhood, you will quickly recognize the people of peace (Luke 15) in your community. If you’re unable to meet with anyone at the moment, ask for the contact information of a leader. By being physically present at an organization, you can gain an inside contact that you wouldn’t necessarily find from a Google search.
Step 3: Get involved.
Every serving opportunity is not created equal. There is tremendous value in one-on-one tutoring at a local school or community center, but, as a church planter, you’re looking for opportunities that will maximize your contact list. Look for opportunities to serve that will expose you to large numbers of families and community members.
Step 4: Tell your story.
When I first started serving in the community, I tried to avoid sharing my motivation for getting involved. I told myself it would be better to wait until I was asked; but truthfully, it was because I didn’t know what to say. Be prepared to have these conversations in any social situation by having two elevator pitches: one for Christians and one for non-Christians. In your pitch, briefly share your story, including 1) why you are starting a new church, and 2) how they can be involved. If you’re not sure how you would answer those questions, take some time to journal, draft a solid response, and practice it multiple times. This will give you the confidence to capitalize on all your hard work building relationships and make the invitation. It’s important to learn not to say no for someone. In my experience, the sweetest moments of church planting are when you get to witness God surprise you!
What ideas do you have about best methods for recruiting a launch team? Share in the comment below!
I moved to Chicago as an undergraduate student in 2005 to attend North Park University, and I graduated with a B.S. in Finance in 2009. After working in finance for two years, I was called into training for vocational ministry. I received a Masters in Theological Studies from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in 2014. In 2012, I met my wonderful wife, Lauren, and we have been married for three years. Lauren is an academic librarian at Triton College in River Grove, Illinois. Our ministry is marked by a shared love for Chicago, cultivated over the years we have worked, played, studied, and served in this city. We share a passion for seeing Christ’s kingdom advanced in the city of Chicago, and we believe the best way to accomplish God’s mission is through planting new, life-giving churches in the local context.