Do you have a talent for getting people to quit their jobs and sell their homes at the same time? Neither do I. Asking people to leave their family and friends to start a new church is a big request. Don’t get discouraged if everyone you know isn’t ready to jump on the church plant train and travel across the country with you on the railroad tracks of faith. When it comes to your future church, the team you build is more important than the team you bring.
Parachuting into a city where you have no relationships to start a church can be one of the scariest things you do in ministry. (There’s no “but” followed by a comforting remark here.) Trying to connect with people in a place you have never lived to start a church with a limited budget and fixed timeline takes nerves of steel.
You may be tempted to recruit as many people as possible to move with you from other places. While such willing recruits are helpful, “city momentum” is an idea that you must consider.
City momentum is when people in your new community bring awareness and individuals to your launch through their relationship networks that existed in the area before you moved there. Simply put, it’s the buzz created by the locals.
All individuals who join your team add new momentum, regardless of whether they moved with you. When someone from your new city joins your team, they bring “city momentum” too. Launch team members who already live in the community have built-in equity with existing relationships. They don’t have to earn people’s trust to invite them to your interest meeting or church launch like your other team members will.
We see a similar promise of influence for the Gospel in John 4:37-38. Here Jesus says, “Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” City momentum is one practical way we can see this promise realized in church planting.
Below are five practices to ensure you create, not squash, city momentum.
Leave some key roles open. You may not yet know the highest contributors on your launch team. When you assign your top leadership roles before you move, you lose the chance to connect with influential people in your new city who may be better fit for these positions. Recruit gatherers who can multiply your city momentum.
Give responsibilities instead of titles. Asking people to commit to specific duties during an established timeframe gives everyone more freedom. This creates a natural exit ramp for a volunteer to move on to something else if she decides she is not a good fit. It also allows you to put someone you already trust into a much-needed position while you figure out who may be the best person to carry the title long term.
Know the difference between pioneers and pilgrims. Pioneers get excited to start new things. They are not intimidated by the hard work and sacrifice required by church planting. Others are pilgrims who come along once there is momentum but end up staying longer. Therefore ARC church planters start with a “launch team” and don’t transition to a “core team” until after launch. Forcing everyone to be a pilgrim means not appreciating how God has wired people and may lead to burnout for some on your team.
Get out of your relational comfort zone. Familiar relationships can be a crutch for church planters when everything else seems chaotic. Understanding city momentum is a way to grow friendships outside of existing circles even when it is uncomfortable. People in your city are not merely looking to be the plug that fills a hole in your team—they want a genuine relationship with you. This means you will need not only new team members to launch your church, but also new friends whom you have allowed into your life.
Prepare for the unexpected. What if God has something better for you than you planned for yourself? That fantastic worship leader whom you wanted to move with you but ends up taking a full-time job at a mega-church may be making room for someone better. Maybe the person you meet in your city who becomes your worship leader will eventually become an executive pastor whose spouse also is incredibly creative and has a friend who is an amazing photographer whose parents own Pepsi and will start tithing before you even launch! I may have taken that one a little too far, but you get my point—God can do much more than we expect. This includes providing a team that is much better and bigger than we ever imagined.
A strong team equals a strong launch. We need people we trust helping us on the church planting journey. Your network is your net-worth in more ways than one. While bringing team members with you provides a strong foundation, continuing to build that team through city momentum leads to a strong launch.
Josh and Amy Roberie are part of the ARC Launch team. They have helped hundreds of couples through the ARC launch process to successfully launch their churches. They love to help couples take a dream and turn it into a reality.