I used to think you could coach and train almost anyone into anything. But after many years of being as a practitioner of both, I now see that you need to have some starting-point qualities from which to work. Without these qualities, the church planter is eventually headed for a TKO (total knock-out). For instance, you cannot develop a good ministry leader out of someone who is not already a faithful disciple.
And when it comes to prospective church planters, a poor assessment of essential skills cannot be overcome by great training and coaching. Take for instance personal motivation. That motivation must be internal, not external. A planter can’t have a significant reliance on external motivation—such as from the people around him or her, out of fear or out of duty. A successful planter must have a God-given drive that starts on the inside and works its way out. Some competencies can be taught and some cannot.
The ones that cannot are what Dr. Charles Ridley, developer of the 13 church planter competencies, calls “the knock-out factors.” These are the first six competencies in the list—the ones that are absolutely must-haves.
The “knock-out” factors:
- Personal motivation—demonstrates the ability to be a self‐starter who works with diligence and excellence
- Visionizing capacity—pictures a preferred future, initiates plans, and builds significant projects from the ground up to realize that preferred future
- Creating ownership of ministry—passes on the baton of ministry by making disciples who make disciples and reproducing leaders who raise up other leaders
- Spousal cooperation—works together effectively in both marriage and in ministry, maintaining individual and family health
- Reaching the unchurched—connects with and influences people toward a closer relationship with Christ and the church
- Relationship‐building—initiates connections with new people and authentically engages them in deepening relationships
The successful church planter must have a basic competence in each of these areas to begin with. If a candidate is really low on one of these areas, it’s a warning sign. If a candidate is really low on two areas, he or she really shouldn’t plant a church, at least not in the primary planter role.
What do I mean by “low”? Let’s look for example at “Relationship-building.” A 4 or 5 is considered a high score. A 2.5 to a 3.5 is considered medium. A 1 or 2 is considered low. Look at the contrast between planters who scored high on the assessment vs. those who scored low.
- Has a track record of vigorously starting and pursuing relationship with others no matter what situation they are in.
- Possesses tremendous people skills: good listener, warm, friendly, engaging, etc.
- Is gracious and receptive when criticized. Takes a resolute look at the criticized area.
- Evidences a wide scope of personal relationships at varying levels of intimacy. Receives and gives encouragement, comfort, and support consistently in relationships.
- Is quick to drop their agenda and pitch in and help with a need becomes evident.
- Easily appreciates and accepts a wide variety of people, even those with vastly different qualities.
- Is a responder, not an initiator when it comes to starting and building relationships.
- Has an obvious flaw(s) in his/her people skills, which limits relational respect being ascertained.
- Is defensive when criticized; blame-shifts.
- Has friends, but few are close. Is emotionally isolated from others.
- Prefers to stay to himself/herself and does not like to respond to crisis problems.
- Evidences a strong preference to keep with people who are similar to himself/herself.
“All successful planter candidates (and planters) have areas in which to grow.”
Relationship-building skills can be improved, but you cannot coach and train these skills into someone if the person doesn’t have a basic foundation from which to draw. To be clear, I am definitely in favor of coaching and training. All successful planter candidates (and planters) have areas in which to grow. But practicing good stewardship means developing those who already have some basic foundational qualities in place.
I won’t coach a planter who doesn’t have a clear and recent behavioral assessment because I want to work effectively. A good assessment clarifies which planter candidates have the best potential to succeed, as well as helping the coach pinpoint the areas in need of growth. In this way, the coach can be aware of where candidates are strong and identifying where they need help so the coach can come alongside to help them get ramped up and developed in the right areas.
The Church Planting Journey- This newly released book is a comprehensive guide for the church planter. It is the culmination of experience that includes being a church planter myself, and coaching and consulting church planters for more than 40 years. Within the pages of The Church Planting Journey, you will find wisdom, systems, and processes that can help you launch well as well as sustain your unique vision and call.
The Church Planter Assessment- Whether you are thinking about church planting, are already in the process the Church Planter Behavioral Assessment is a valuable tool. To learn more about how you can be assessed email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Church Planting Coaching Guide and Storyboard- For church planters and planting teams as well as those who coach them, this downloadable coaching guide provides a clear framework for starting, growing and reproducing churches. Concise and practical, this a go-to resource for new church development.