Finding the Leader That Fits

by New Church Starts

By Barbara Sadler, Path 1 Associate

Experience and study has taught me that one of the most critical issues impacting the success of a new church plant is finding the right leader.  Those conferences that have consistently succeeded in planting new faith communities have implemented a system to find the leader that fits the situation. Here's the kind of process I'm talking about.

It begins with a person who feels a unique call from God to plant a new community of faith, but that call is only the beginning.  The conference then must assess the individual and discern the clarity of that call.  The individual who is genuinely called to this type of ministry will exhibit extraordinary interest, knowledge, creativity, energy, perseverance, self-confidence, competitiveness, and initiative.  Conference leaders need to ask themselves, "Does this individual demonstrate these essential behaviors of a church planter?"

There is a need to determine the leadership style of the planter applicant as well.  Leadership style will determine the strategy for starting the church, the speed at which the new church develops, and who the leader will need to bring on board his/her team to complement his/her strengths.  There are numerous personality and psychological profiles to choose from in determining leadership style.

Then there’s the “fit”.  A person can be certain of the call, possess all the essential characteristics, but still fail if appointed to a new place where they just don’t fit.  It is vital to match the planter with as many of their natural affinities as possible.  What kinds of people are attracted to you and what kind of people are you attracted to?  Evaluate affinities as they relate to religious heritage, geographic and cultural comfort (rural, urban, suburban), socio-economic perspective, cross-cultural experience, and personal preferences to name a few.

Finally, there is need to conduct a team interview to pull all the parts of the assessment process together. Be sure to include successful church planters as part of the team.

Several years ago I worked for a health care organization where the human resources department had implemented a system called “behavioral based interviewing” to help in the selection of prospective employees.  The premise of this system is that past performance is the best predictor of future performance. 

The same holds true for assessing new church planters.  Formulate questions based on past performance.  Questions like: 

  • Give three examples of when you coached an unchurched person into the faith.

  • Describe a time when you were called upon to develop a new ministry.

  • Tell about a personal experience that tested your ability to push a project through.

As costly as it is for a church plant to fail, both financially and emotionally for the leaders, it behooves us to do all we can to insure the success of the planting effort.

What are some of the questions, qualities, and experiential knowledge you would look for in a church planter?