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The Big Questions: Team Building (Part 2 of 4)

by Rebecca Burtram
 

As planting pastors of a church that is now nine weeks old, we are experts on all topics related to church planting. Okay, not really, but we are very familiar with the questions that loom in the church planter’s mind prior to launching a church. These are the four biggest questions I wanted answered:

  1. How do you raise enough money to plant a church?
  2. How do you build a team?
  3. How many people will show up to the launch?
  4. How many people will come back after the launch?

As I mentioned in part one of this series, the answers to these questions begin by recognizing where you need God to show up in a big way, where you need to rely on others, and where you need to put in the sweat.

Rev. Ken Burtram says, “You can’t pray away a systems issue and you can’t administer away a spiritual issue.” We need to know when to fall on our faces before God and when to use the resources and abilities He has given us. This begins with an honest look at your own abilities and the resources you have available.

With these thoughts in mind, I share our experience in order to help those preparing to launch begin to think through their own situations.

 

Question 2: How do you build a team?

This week’s question had answers during the trainings I attended. However, for the most part, the trainings also recognized there is no one size fits all answer.

Some planters are sent with teams from their home churches, some planters have lived in their cities for years, and others are moving into an area where they do not know anyone. Equally important, planters have unique personalities, gifts, and areas of weakness.

Jon and I moved to a new city without a team from a parent church. Although we had not previously lived in Charlottesville, we were friends with three families in the surrounding area. As we approached the task of developing a launch team, we spent time in trainings, we assessed our situation, and we relied heavily on God.
 

We used advice from our training

We attended both the CMN Launch and an ARC 2.0 trainings. I would recommend spending the time and the money to get to these events. They are well worth it.

Some things we did based on advice during trainings are:

  • Advertised on our website, Facebook, and Craigslist
  • Followed up with all contacts by meeting them in a coffee shop or restaurant to share our vision and listen to their stories.
  • Called friends and family who might be willing to move in order to help launch a church.
  • Connected to others in the community through our children’s sports, my job as a teacher, going to the local pool, going to community events, and saying yes to every social invite.
  • Had each team member host a “love your neighbors” event in their homes (invite all neighbors over just to get to know them).
  • Hosted interest parties

Jon and I are not good at generating a lot of hype and drawing a large crowd of strangers. We knew this was a bit of a weakness, and we had to keep that in mind as we approached the development of our team.

We are more gifted in developing personal relationships. Our personal connections helped us grow our team far more than our attempts at larger interest events. Although this is a slower process, with God’s help, it worked for us.
 

We assessed our situation and responded.

We did something we were explicitly told not to do during a training. I do not say this in an effort to persuade you to ignore wise counsel. I say this only to let you know it is important to evaluate your situation and recognize there is no single approach that works for every church planter. 

The trainings are there to provide broad and general advice on how to succeed in building a team. It would be impossible for the presenters and those writing the curriculum to take into account every unique situation. 

Our team grew faster than ever when we put aside the advice of what not to do and evaluated our circumstances and listened to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

After four months, we felt called to host weekly equip services for our team of about 18-20 in our home on Sunday mornings. The ARC training said that is a major no-no. We debated the decision because we are strong believers in sticking to the proven systems. After prayer and confirmation from God, we opened our home and watched our team grow.

I would not advise every planter do this. We did it because it made sense for our particular circumstances. As a side note, we communicated clearly to our team that the equip services were not a reflection of the final product, and we were purposeful in presenting the vision weekly.
 

We relied on God to do what only He can do.

Some of the growth to our team came in ways that can not be taught at a training because no amount of planning on our part could make it happen. 

Our very first team members in Charlottesville, VA were individuals that had sat under my husband’s ministry at a Methodist church in my home town in Central NY. He was the youth pastor, but he ran Sunday night service for the adults. We had joked back then it would be cool to start a church with that Sunday night crowd.

Almost four years ago, we moved to Warrenton, VA and one of the couples from our NY church moved to the Charlottesville area. Over a three year period, two other families moved from the church in NY to the Charlottesville area. We were the last ones to move to our planting city.

These three families did not move to Charlottesville with the intention of starting a church, but there is no doubt in my mind God brought them here with that purpose. They were the first members of the launch team, and they are some of our most committed and high functioning team members today. They are prayer warriors, worshippers, and workers. 

God brought together a healthy and strong team full of talented individuals with hearts to serve. My husband frequently jokes about the pressure he feels because we have no one to blame but ourselves if our church fails. Our team is amazing. 

We opened on Easter Sunday with a launch team of about 40 to serve. The team continues to grow as we work the assimilation process. We are where we are because of the wisdom of others, an understanding of our own areas of strength and weakness, and God’s provision. 

 

*This four-part series of posts is geared to provide some insight to those who are preparing for their own launches. Since each individual’s gifts and circumstance are different, every planter will have a slightly different answer to the questions above. It’s my hope that other planters will chime in with comments telling about their experiences in order to help those preparing get ideas of how to answer these questions based on their own strengths, weaknesses, and circumstances. 


Rebecca Burtram and her husband, Jonathan, are church-planting pastors at Redemption Church in Charlottesville, VA. They have been married for 13 years, and they are the parents of three children, ages 12, 10, and 8. 

Rebecca graduated with top honors from Evangel University with a B.A. in Spanish Education and English. She also holds an English M.A. from the State University of New York at Cortland. Presently, she teaches Spanish at Albemarle High School, but her dream is to make writing and speaking her full time career. She blogs at rebeccaburtram.com and writes a weekly post for tworiversblog.com.

If you would like to write for the CMN Wives Blog, contact Rebecca at rebecca.burtram@gmail.com. We are always looking for new contributors.

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