Characteristics of Effective Church Planters
What does it take to be an effective church planter? Dr. Charles Ridley conducted a study of church planters in the United States and Canada. Based upon his research and subsequent field testing, he developed a list of thirteen characteristics that define effective church planters. For over a decade, these characteristics have been used to select church planters. Here is his list of characteristics and their definitions.
- Being a person who projects into the future beyond the present.
- Developing a theme which highlights the vision and philosophy of ministry.
- Coping effectively with non-visioning elements.
- Not erecting artificial walls or limits either overtly or subconsciously.
- Establishing a clear church identity related to the theme and vision.
- Believing in God’s capacity to do great things.
- Having a desire to do well and a commitment to excellence.
- Stick-to-itiveness and persistence.
- Having initiative and aggressiveness without the negative connotations.
- Having a willingness to work long and hard.
- Being a self-starter with a willingness to build from nothing.
- Having a high energy and vitality level; physical stamina.
Creates Ownership of Ministry
- Helping people to feel responsible for the growth and success of the church.
- Gaining a commitment of the people to the vision.
- Establishing a congregational identity.
- Avoiding stereotyping of the congregation by imposing unrealistic goals.
Relates to the Unchurched
- Communicating in style that is understood by the unchurched.
- Understanding the psychology or mentality of the unchurched.
- Moving and functioning in the personal space of the unchurched without fear.
- Quickly getting to know the unchurched on a personal level.
- Breaking through the barriers erected by the unchurched.
- Handling crises faced by the unchurched.
- Having an explicit agreement regarding each partner’s involvement in ministry.
- Having explicit rules regarding the use of home as an office.
- Evaluating the consequences of ministry demands upon the children.
- Functioning as a team through individual and collective action.
- Having a strategy for dealing with strangers.
- Modeling wholesome family life before church and community.
- Agreeing upon and sharing the ministry vision.
- Deliberately planning and protecting private family life.
Effectively Builds Relationships
- Responding with urgency to expressed needs and concerns of people.
- Displaying Godly love and compassion to people.
- Getting to know people on a personal basis.
- Making others feel secure and comfortable in one’s presence.
- Not responding judgmentally or prejudicially to new people.
- Appreciating and accepting a variety of persons.
- Spends time with present parishioners without ignoring them for new people.
Committed to Church Growth
- Believing in church growth as a theological principle.
- Appreciating steady growth without preoccupation with quick success .
- Committing to numerical growth within the context of spiritual and relational growth.
- Recognizing that non-growth is threatening and self-defeating.
- Establishing the goal of quickly becoming a financially self-supporting church.
- Not prematurely falling into a ministry of maintenance.
- Seeing the church project within the larger context of God’s kingdom.
Responsive to Community
- Understanding the culture of the community.
- Identifying and assessing community needs.
- Responding to community needs on a priority basis.
- Determining successes and failures of other attempts to respond to the community.
- Not confusing what the community needs with what the church wants to offer.
- Acquiring and understanding of the character and pulse of the community.
- Adapting the philosophy of ministry to the character of the community.
Utilizes Giftedness of Others
- Understanding the culture of the community.
- Releasing and equipping people to do the task of ministry.
- Discerning of spiritual gifts in others.
- Matching the gifts of people with ministry needs and opportunities.
- Delegating effectively in areas of personal limitation.
- Avoiding personal overload by delegating effectively.
- Not prematurely assigning ministry positions before people are equipped.
- Not placing unwarranted restrictions on other’s spiritual giftedness.
Flexible and Adaptable
- Coping effectively with ambiguity.
- Coping effectively with constant and abrupt change.
- Adapting oneself to the uniqueness of the particular church planting project.
- Shifting priorities and emphasis during various stages of church growth.
- Doing whatever is necessary whenever necessary.
Builds Group Cohesiveness
- Developing a nucleus group or groups as a foundation.
- Quickly incorporating newcomers into a network of relationships.
- Engaging others in meaningful church activity.
- Monitoring the morale of people.
- Utilizing groups effectively.
- Dealing with conflict assertively, constructively and tactfully.
- Experiencing setbacks without defeat.
- Riding the ups and downs (i.e. attendance).
- Expecting the unexpected.
- Rebounding from loss, disappointments and failure.
- Possessing a conviction regarding one’s call to church planting ministry.
- Believing in God’s action.
- Having expectation and hope.
- Having a willingness to wait for answers to specific prayer requests.
Dr. Charles Ridley, A leading pioneer in church planting assessment, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana