What right-minded astronaut would ever crawl into a tube (with a fire stick at the bottom) to get blasted into outer space, if they didn't believe in their launch team?
When working with astronauts, I mean "church planters," I always stress the importance of developing a solid leadership launch team to help with all the launch plans. I'm not talking about establishing your formal leadership staff or council (DON'T do that until at least year-3), but rather work at training and equipping mature disciple-leaders that make more disciple-leaders!
The numeral size of this initial leadership launch team is not as important as the size of it's impact. Like Jesus, maybe 12 people is a good start (and that might even be 1 too many...ha!). This team is Bible-believing, Holy Spirit-led and all on-board with you as a person and a pastor, as well as dedicated to the vision of the new ministry. If you put someone on your launch team that's working for the wrong reasons (like trying to gain some personal power or control for a variety of reasons), it will eventually cost you or the ministry. For instance, when I first planted we had one gentlemen who wanted to be the worship leader. He was so-so in his music abilities and not much deeper in his faith. He was, however, a really good guy. When he found out that he wasn't going to be the worship leader, he quit the launch team. In doing so, I believe he blew a wonderful opportunity to participate in a worship band, grow in his music abilities, AND grow in his faith! I know this, because several years later I ran into him. He still wasn't connected to any church...doing nothing. This didn't directly cost me, but it certainly cost the development a disciple!
The launch team helps the planter in many ways. For example: team members already know people in-and-out-of the community that you don't know--- and because of their relationship with others, they expand your invitation to come and see the new ministry. Launch team members can help with the fund raising too. My launch team leaders greatly assisted me in raising about $15,000 in less than four-months due to how many people they knew! Launch team members also model to those first attending your new ministry to what it means to be a believer--- let alone a servant-leader. They help set-up and tear-down. (I recommend the pastor-planter also help set up and tear down! Let folks see that no one is above the work!). Launch team members support the mission financially and in faith, knowing full well the mission will not be easy. Because of that, they welcome, they pray with others, they speak well of you and co-sew the vision into the community. Therefore, continue to empower these initial launch leaders as "little planters!"
The maturity of your initial launch team leaders will determine the first 100 people that start coming to your worship services. That means if your initial leadership is weak, your stability will be weak. Jesus is always rock solid, but weak leadership doesn't even know enough to stand on him! Still, a planter can make the mistake of not recognizing good leadership, or worse yet, not cultivating leadership into great maturity. With that in mind, the following notes are 7-tips to help you recognize and empower the right people to serve as your first leadership launch team.
1). Develop and cast a strong vision, it will be attractive to great leaders. I listed this first because it's core. Begin by asking, "What makes this new ministry any different than all the others in our community?" Leaders want to be a part of a movement that is not the same-old-same-old. We don't need more churches, we need more disciples! So, cast a vision that makes more disciples of Jesus, rather than just members of churches. Leaders that are kingdom thinkers/do'ers are way too rare these days, so when you are blessed with such a person, recognize it and lead that leader!
2). Be on the watch for other so-called leaders that want to join you, but are immature and thus dysfunctional. Don't open the door to folks who want to lead because it simply makes them feel good about themselves. This can create selfishness, inward thinking, dis-unity and a sense of chaos. A good leader creates change, but not chaos. A good leader doesn't run over people, but loves them into wanting to serve with others. A good leader is first a good follower--- of Jesus. Jesus shows us how to be effective servant leaders! If you have someone who wants to lead, but shouldn't, work at incorporating them into a servant. If they do that well, they may develop into a servant-leader!
3). Recognize your early adapters and help them ride your wave of leadership. Like number-2, early adapters will show others the way by first following Jesus who changes lives of others. Launch team leaders, much like the lead church planter, require a bold faith and a can-do, no-quit spirit. They are entrepreneurs in their apostle callings.
4). Don't dismiss the ideas of good leaders. If you do, they will become quickly frustrated and lose their energy for the plant. Remember, high-capacity leaders don't desire a title as much as influence. Ignoring God-inspired ideas is an insult--- to God! Again, this is why consistently casting the new vision is important--- it's the blue print for the builders to follow!
5). If you don't pass the ball around your launch team will become predictable and thus ineffective. A football team's offense will be the most successful when more players are involved in the game plan and its individual plays. In other words, use the spiritual giftings of everyone you can so they know they are called and needed. Be the quarterback and get "the ball" into the hands of a variety of playmakers. The spiritual enemy won't know what hit him!
6). Likewise, be sure to give leaders opportunities to try and fail. Many times my church plant staff would say to me, "You trust us with so much, we really appreciate that!" My response was always the same, "That's because you are trustworthy!" If we failed, it was never for the lack of trying to reach the unreached. Perhaps that's not failing at all?
7). Be sure to always express your thankfulness to their faithfulness. I believe that thankful people are always thanking others. If they're not thanking folks for sharing, giving, or participating, It's a sign of an ungrateful heart--- a heart that is not connected to God's heart! Launch leaders don't work for money, they work for mission. So, pay them with thanks...and give them "the ball" too!