Stand Together: The Power of Team Relationships in Church Planting
A friend of mine fought in the recent war in the Middle East. His duties required him to leave the safe confines of his base to go "outside the wire" for weeks at a time. Above all the skills, discipline, and meticulous maneuvering, this soldier recounted the single most important element to survival was his team. Every soldier has a specific assignment in each maneuver. Not only is his own life at stake, but others are also depending on him just as he depends on them. Each team member must carefully look out for one another. The emphasis of the NACPF is to plant churches in the most unreached urban centers in the U.S. We’re sending teams “outside the wire” to invest their lives, make disciples, and plant churches in the most hostile places of our nation toward the gospel.
A unique attribute and strength of the NACPF is that we do not send out individuals to plant churches, but assemble teams aligned around a common vision with common convictions. We have strong theological commitments that inform our methodology. We go into strategic cities with broad support on the ground and in the air.
Yet, how prepared are these church planting teams when it comes to dealing with the stress and everyday relationship challenges they will face? One way to hinder or even kill a church planting effort is a team that is unable to work well together. The church planting effort will implode if the lead team does not labor together in unity. Love, trust, and mutual dependency among team members is essential for a thriving church plant.
Having recently celebrated our seven-year anniversary, God has richly blessed Crosspoint Church in Clemson, SC. One way God has poured out his blessing on our church is with strong relationships among our lead team.
With the pressure and constant demand from others, church planters can be tempted to not invest in those with whom they work most closely. We may pull back on meetings and be tempted to cut corners in our communication. We may even assume alignment of goals and vision without making the extra effort to pursue one another to ensure alignment.
We must be deliberate to pursue and protect relationships among the lead team. Just as your checking account requires regular deposits to keep the balance in the black, so do your relationships depend upon regular “deposits.” If you make it a priority to regularly invest in these relationships, you will have the equity to stand together during the lean, stressful times.
Our duty is to live worthily of our calling— to pursue “humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2 ESV). We are quick to embrace such passages in our teaching and congregational life. But how is this expressed in our relationships on our lead teams?
Unfortunately, lead teams and church staff members commonly fail to reflect these pursuits. The fellowship among the church body should mirror the depth and authenticity found among church leaders. Additionally, we will not call people to follow us somewhere we have not been or are not going. We need to believe the best in one another…be suspicious of our own judgments of others…depend on one another…meticulously maneuver together. That’s a picture of the harmony Jesus is calling us to.
Strong relational equity will help your lead team overcome adversity and conflict. Even when you disagree or do not understand one another, knowing that your teammates are truly brothers, committed to the same vision, and standing by your side will significantly increase the threshold of offenses you can overlook. Low relational equity breeds a culture of suspicion, mistrust, and conflict.
To stand together amidst the stressors of church planting, we must pursue strong bonds of love and care among the lead team. Here are a few practical ways we’ve sought to do this at Crosspoint:
Structure for strong relationships –Build time together into your weekly schedule. Keep your regular meetings regular. Include time in prayer with and for one another.
Pastor one another – Don’t take the people on your lead team for granted. Apply the same shepherding principles you use toward the flock toward one another.
Plan – Get out of town for an annual leadership team retreat for strategic planning, evaluating, and cultivating relationships. Line up a guest preacher for that following Sunday to allow for three days of focused investment during this annual retreat without one pastor carrying the weight of Sunday’s upcoming message.
Serve – Plan opportunities to display the gospel in outreach and service together. We’ve taken days off to go and serve other churches or campus ministries. Further, seek opportunities to serve one another and care for each others’ families.
Play – Creating occasions in the rhythm of your calendar for recreation and leisure together is another great way to deepen relationships and promote a strong team. We have a “staff fun day” each semester. Last month, we abbreviated our staff meeting, invited all our families, and went out to a local park to cookout and play together. We’ve done a variety of activities in the past including ropes courses and day-hiking trips together. Our lead team will regularly share a meal together, whether biscuits at an early morning meeting or spontaneous lunches. Amidst all your pursuits in hospitality, don’t overlook those working most closely with you. get babysitters and go out on a group date together.
Learn together – Read books together. Attend conferences or other training events together. Our lead team has benefitted by reading together such books at John Hammett’s Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches and C. J. Mahaney’s Humility as well as attending conferences such as T4G and doing a 9Marks Weekender.
Office together – We have intentionally kept our office area intimate to help foster community. If you don’t have an office yet, set times to work together at the same coffee shop. Great ideas and progress can happen through spontaneous conversations and ideas will feed off of each other simply through proximity. Good communication takes hard work and alignment can be taken for granted. It takes investment of time and communication to keep people aligned closely together toward the same vision.
RESULTS OF STANDING TOGETHER
We have seen many benefits result from valuing and protecting relationships among our lead team.
Creating culture of the church – The church family has really embraced this culture of loving one another. Crosspoint continues to grow with a reputation of love and hospitality in our community. A church that loves one another is one of the most potent evangelistic tools we possess (John 13:35). This is the church that displays the gospel to the watching world.
Growing in godliness – As the lead team walks in true fellowship, we have opportunity to deliberately pursue holiness and faithful gospel ministry together.
Overcoming adversity – Adversity is inevitable. When relational deposits are low, it is easy to become skeptical and not believe the best. Jesus is clear that the gates of hell cannot overcome his church (Matt 16:18).
In our church plants, let’s ask the Lord to give us grace to lead as a team truly knit together in love and unity. So, let’s go outside the wire. But as we do so, let’s watch out for each others’ backs, and not just our own.Jason Finley is the Discipleship Pastor at Crosspoint Church in Clemson SC. His desire is to equip men and women to invest their lives in glorifying God through making disciples of Jesus. He holds the BS in Science Education from Clemson and the MDiv from Southern Seminary. Jason and his wife Cayce have a daughter and four sons.