Building a team of talented and committed people is a top challenge for church leaders. If you’re a planter, you need to quickly assemble a team to accomplish all the work that must be done before you hold your first service. If you’re a pastor of an existing church, you need to think ahead because you will experience turnover. 80% of launch team members leave the team after a year or two, so there’s no way around it.
But after hundreds of conversations with church leaders and planters from all around the country, we've learned what it takes to build a great church launch team.
Recruit the Right People
1. Look for People With Similar Beliefs and Values. Your team carries out your vision and makes up the DNA of your church. Compromising by bringing on a team member who has conflicting values is a big mistake. Of course, diversity of opinion makes for a healthy team. But success comes in knowing which values and beliefs are non-negotiable, and which you can flex on.
2. Search Within Your Network. The people we spend time with usually hold similar values, and we tend to know their strengths, weaknesses, and life-goals. This familiarity makes your network and extended network the perfect place to start recruiting your team members. Ask your friends for their recommendations too, and place a high value on those introductions and referrals.
3. Meet Your Candidates in Person for Initial Conversations. Before you invite someone to join the team, take the time to talk to him or her on an individual basis. When talking within a group, we often feel pressured to conform our opinions to those of the group majority. You know, group think. But these conversations are too important to compromise on. Only by speaking directly and honestly can you ensure you’ve made a good match for your candidate or your team.
4. Consider Term Lengths. I’m a non-confrontational person, so I appreciate being given a comfortable way out of a situation if I need an exit. If I have an option for an easy way out, I’ll be more likely to commit to a position, and more likely to speak up if things aren’t working out.
The recruiting process is an especially good time to consider using term lengths. Do you want your people to commit to only launching the church, or do you want them to serve beyond the launch? Some experts feel that a launch team should be naturally disbanded after the launch to protect against an insider’s culture. But we suggest term limits because they make it easier for people to volunteer to be on your team, which in turn gives you access to a wider pool of talented candidates.
5. Convey Expectations, Possibly With a Signed Covenant. Human Resource leaders know that questionable employee performance can usually be attributed to the lack of clear expectations. And it’s no different with your leadership team. Setting clear expectations helps everyone be happier and more productive, so take the time to make yours clear for your team.
Inspire Your Team
6. Be a Motivating Leader. Leadership is about sharing a compelling vision that unites your team around a common goal, and then clearing away any roadblocks so they can do great things. Motivating with a common vision and larger purpose is even more important for Millennials, so we all can benefit by practicing this skill.
7. Place People in the Right Roles. Have you ever been asked to do a job that wasn’t a good fit for your personality, strengths, or interests? If you have, then you know it’s unmotivating and unfulfilling. To avoid making a poor placement, take your time bringing people into the right roles. It’s better to take a little longer and have a strong launch team than to place someone in the wrong role and have frustration when you most need collaboration.
Normally a conversation with the candidate will help you find the right fit. You can also identify strengths and interests using assessment tools like the RCA Church Planter Assessment or the Strengths Finder.
8. Model the Behaviors You Want to See in Your Team. We know leaders set the tone and culture of a team. We also know we can’t be incongruent in words and deeds and expect our team to be clear on expectations. But how many times have you been part of a team that’s guided by the old “do as I say, but not as I do” leadership style? I know I’ve experienced it, and it’s not fun.
Often the incongruence in words and actions are purely accidental. For instance, what if a leader says they value learning from mistakes but publically criticizes their own decisions or actions when they make one? Or what if the leader espouses work-life balance but sends emails to their team late at night? These scenarios are incredibly common and send a message opposite the one the leader expresses verbally.
9. Prepare for Turnover. Your team members will naturally move on to different opportunities. If not planned for, this type of turnover can slow progress and frustrate the team. The solution to the challenge is to have a transition plan in place. It will minimize possible damage and make your team stronger overall.
When it comes to creating a transition plan, it’s good to have an overall procedure, as well as one with the individual details tied to each position. An offsite retreat or team building meeting is a great time to do this planning.
Building the perfect launch team can be extremely challenging, but a great team will make for a great church. By considering these tips when building your team, you're sure to have the foundation in place for great success.