The Technical Skills of a Church Planting Leader
The skills of being a church planting leader are greatly different than the skills of planting or pastoring a church. Here are two hard skills you will need to master if you are going to be successful at leading a regional or national church planting ministry.
Skill #1 – Systems Development
What is a movement system? Movement systems are reproducible and interconnected processes by which the organization actualizes its values and achieves its mission. Systems are the “get it done” side of ministry. They are the corporate habits that enable leaders to accomplish their missional objectives through others. Without strong systems, the expansion of your movement will be haphazard at best or be hindered in its effectiveness.
The eight core systems for a church planting movement are broken down into two categories: the growth engines of your movement and the quality control systems that maintain the health of your movement.
First, let’s get an overview of the growth systems of a movement:
- Spiritual Dynamics – Creating a spiritual dependence throughout your movement.
- Recruiting – Spotting, developing and raising up church planters.
- Funding – Raising and managing the funds needed to fuel church planting.
- Resourcing – Creating tools that lead to the multiplication of disciples, leaders and churches.
The second set of systems are the quality control areas of a movement:
- Assessing – Verifying the calling, emotional health and the skills of the church planting couple is essential to the success of a church plant.
- Training – Systematically teaching, equipping and encouraging church planters.
- Coaching – This is on-the-job equipping and encouraging of church planters as they move through the life of a church plant.
- Celebrating – Building shared values, accountable scorecards will enable you to measure progress and celebrate victories in your movement.
The impact of your movement will be directly related to the strength of your systems.
Best Practices for Systems Development:
1) Devote time every week to developing your systems.
To develop this skill, you will need to find time in your schedule every week to work on these systems. Small business guru Michael Gerber wrote, “You must work ON the company to perfect the system IN the company.” We would say leaders need to work ON their systems as well as work IN their systems. Working IN a system is doing a recruiting lunch for potential church planters. Working ON a system is developing and refining your recruiting pathway.
2) Put the process in writing.
Get it out of your head and onto paper! Like one person said, “You don’t have a glass head and people can’t read your mind.” Put your plan in writing. Here is a little mantra we teach: “You need to think it, then ink it, so you can delegate it and achieve it.”
3) Push through the boredom.
Systems development can be tedious and repetitious, which can cause big-picture leaders to check out of the process. And yet without vigilance and attentiveness towards the system, it will soon break down, wreaking havoc on the other systems. For example, if the training process is insufficient, it will make the coaching process more difficult. If the recruiting process is lacking, it will stretch your assessment system.
4) Find the right people to work the systems.
The leader creates the system and then finds the right people to run the system. Several years ago, because of financial constraints, we turned our graphic artist into our church planting administrative assistant to work with our five church planting catalysts. She worked out our recruiting pathway and seamlessly integrated it with our assessment system. Over eight years, she helped hundreds of planters through the process and assisted in deploying 80 church planting couples to the field. She worked and tweaked the system so well that she was able to take on our pastoral placement system and help us place 35 pastors into our churches. Leaders create the systems, then they find competent people to run, tweak and build the system.
Skill #2 – Systems Measurement
A church planting leader not only needs to create, develop and run the systems for their church planting ministry, but they also need to develop the skill for measuring the effectiveness of their church planting systems. This skill is one of the keys to the ongoing effectiveness of your church planting ministry. Legendary management consultant Peter Drucker said, “What gets measured gets improved.”
This happens by asking good questions, quantifying your process, providing systems, coaching and celebrating progress. These are critical to the success and growth of your church planting movement. Remember, “What gets measured gets improved.”
Years ago, I developed a worksheet as a national leader that helped quantify our systems throughout regional districts. Through a series of questions that have a numeric point value, we would walk each regional leader through an assessment of their eight church planting systems. Then we provided coaching questions that would lead to a step by step plan for improving weakness and building on the strengths of that particular region.
Check out this example that will help you sharpen your skills:
The Four P’s
- Practice – Repetition is the key to improvement. Practice, practice, practice!
- Perseverance – Pushing the mistakes, mishaps and the tediousness of systems development is essential. The leader’s relentless pursuit and focus are critical at this stage.
- Patience – Systems development will not happen overnight—it could take six months to a year for a system to be fully developed. It will take great care and long-term perspective to develop these systems over the years.
- Partnership – Finding the right people to run the systems, learning from others who are ahead of you and finding an experienced coach is critical to success in this area.