Church Planting 101: Recruiting a Team

Jesus makes recruiting a team look so easy, doesn’t he?  “Hey rugged fishermen over there!  Drop what you’re doing and come follow me,” he shouts.  And the amazing thing is that they follow.  For most planters I talk to, they seem to have difficulty recreating the same results.  The fact of the matter is that oftentimes recruiting a team, whether it be searching for initial staff members or courting prospective launch team members, can be extremely challenging.  But does it have to be, is the real question?

Before we look a bit closer at Christ’s recruitment model, let’s first identify the hindrances that seem to prevent greater recruitment success.  Church planters – here are the top 5 excuses we use when struggling to recruit the all-star team that we so desperately desire and need.

Top 5 Favorite Church Planter Excuses for Failing to Recruit Others (or the right people).

1.)     “I don’t know anybody.” – This is initially understandable since in many situations church planters relocate to launch their plant and obviously it takes time to meet new people.  With that being said, if you plan on pastoring a successful church – you’re going to have to meet new people – and a LOT of ‘em!  Focus on “watering holes”, you know like on those animal documentaries on the Discovery channel where all the animals come to together and intermingle around the pool of water.  What are the watering holes in your community?  If you live in suburban America, I’d suggest starting with the local Starbucks, Guitar Center, gym or YMCA, or a large bookstore like Barnes and Noble.  But remember, proximity to people probably isn’t enough…you’re going to have to actually say, “Hi”.

2.)    “I lack the finances to be able to hire the right team.” – Man, could I ever tell you about this one.  I hid behind statements like this for years.  Now I’ve realized, when it comes to recruiting the right people, money is nearly irrelevant.  If you believe in your vision, then so will others.  If you don’t, people will recognize that, and they’ll hesitate getting behind you.  We planted our church about 7 years ago and we continue to run with an extremely high percentage of volunteers on our team.  They aren’t doing it out of obligation or for the money, but because they love Jesus and they want to see the mission of our church accomplished.  Some church planters I meet are afraid to ask people to serve or come on staff without pay – let me remind you that unless you’re part of a large planting organization, my guess is that you have or are currently working and serving the ministry with little to no pay.  What made you do it?  Why do you think others won’t?

3.)    “No one I try to recruit is better at the task that I am, so it’s just easier to do it myself.”   Whoa there Lone Ranger!  This kind of attitude is certain to solidify the fact that your ministry will never be bigger than yourself.  I remind my teams and planters regularly, “The person who thinks that in order to get something done right you have to do it yourself, usually has to.”  In the beginning, this might be true, but long-term thinking dictates that we become master delegators.  When someone takes over a new task, understand that quality could decrease, but with the right leadership and training, you should expect this person to outperform you in the near future.  Delegating is a scary thing, but arrogance and shortsightedness are far worst.

4.)    “I don’t have the time to train people.”  A close cousin of #3, this excuse underestimates the value of duplication.  If Jesus did anything, he duplicated.  He went from 1, to 3, to 12, to 72, to 120, to 3,000, to the world.  In fact, the majority of what we read about Jesus doing in scripture was focused on training his disciples.  The reality is that you don’t have the time to NOT train people.  The best way to do this is to build regular training sessions throughout the month.  Do you have a weekly staff meeting?  Consider making the first 15 minutes a brief staff training or perhaps working in a longer training time into your next staff retreat.

5.)     “I’ve tried recruiting people, but no one wants to help.”  Asking someone to help or get involved is different than recruitment.  Asking someone to help all too often comes across as desperate and needy.  Recruitment is based not on need, but vision.  A good recruiter seeks to understand the person in front of them, discover their passions, creatively find meaningful opportunities for their involvement, and most importantly shows the value of the position or ministry.  Bottom line, the church is about building people and not people building the church.  Master this, and you’ll never lack people to help.

Understanding Jesus’ Approach to Team Buiding

In Luke 5:1-11, we read about Jesus calling his first disciples.  As the story goes, Jesus began teaching by the shore, and as the people began to crowd him, he eventually asked Simon to allow him to preach from his boat so more could see and hear him.  After he had finished teaching, Jesus blessed the fisherman by directing them to let down their nets for a catch.  They did so and as the scripture tells us they caught so many fish that they had to signal their partners to come help them bring in the fish and even then, both boats were “so full that they began to sink.”  At this, the fisherman was amazed and fell before Jesus.  He then said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.”  And the men left everything and followed him.

Here are the principles I see Jesus utilize.

1.)    Start Small – Jesus didn’t show up and just tell them to leave everything and follow him.  He first simply asked if he could use their boats as a stage.  Obviously, if they would have said no, this would have told Jesus something about them, but they didn’t so he continued pursuing them.  So what does this look like practically?  For me, most of the time I purposely don’t wear a watch, just so I have an excuse to talk to someone sitting next to me to inquire the time.  It might not seem like much, but I’ve had some pretty incredible conversations come from the simple request, “Could you tell me the time?”  Is one of your neighbors on your heart, ask to borrow one of their tools (and then make sure and return it.)  Is this person already part of your ministry, ask to serve for an hour without asking for any commitment beyond that.  How did they do?  Did they show up on time?  Did they serve with joy?  Did they complete the task with excellence?  The answers to these questions should tell you something and direct you with how to proceed.

2.)    Equip Them – Before Jesus ever asked for a commitment from his soon to be disciples, he first taught them the Word.  For me, in our ministry, we place a very high priority on understanding the gospel through the Word of God, so it’s important that before I ask for huge commitments that I know that the people I’m asking have been impacted by the Word in their life – that they have experienced grace first hand.  If prospective team members seem unaffected by the Word – I’d suggest looking for someone else.  When first meeting someone, it might not always be realistic to squeeze in an hour message, but you don’t have to.  I like to hand out books and teaching CD’s.  Do the people respond?  Do they ask questions?  Were they impacted?

3.)    Seek to Fulfill Their Dreams – Again, before Jesus ever asked for a commitment, he first filled their boat with more fish than they could count.  He showed that he wasn’t just interested in using them to fulfill his dreams, but that he was interested in fulfilling their dreams.  In his book, Leadership That Builds People, Dr. James B. Richards says this about the typical model of recruitment, “What is the first thing we say when someone comes into our church?  “Come on; catch the vision; become a part of it.”  That denies servanthood.  Our introductory statement says, “Give up your dreams; give up what you want to do and help me do what I want to do.”  Jesus model wasn’t about service, but wholeness.  A true leader says, “Come follow me and I’ll see that your dreams are fulfilled along the way.”  Get to know your people – what do they really want in life?  What are their goals?  How can these goals intersection with your ministry?  How can you use your organization to further their dreams?

In conclusion, my biggest encouragement regarding recruiting would be to envision yourself in a world of more than enough; more than enough people, more than enough resources.  When it comes down to it, essentially all of the excuses above come from a perspective of lack – from a place of questioning God’s provision and call for me.  Be encouraged.  God wants your church to succeed.  In fact, I would venture to say that (assuming you are preaching the gospel) that he wants your church to succeed even more than you do, because ultimately and in actuality – it’s His church.  So go out there and build that team.  You got this, not because you’re an awesome church planter (though I’m certain that you are), but because you have an awesome God.

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  1. ryanricesr left a comment on March 26, 2014 at 3:36 am

    Great post. I was in Kidmin for years and this was a similar view of recruitment we had. I am planting a church in New Orleans and thankful for this post, keeps things in perspective.

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