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View Chapter 6 - Roots

Church Planting Resource Manual

Download MS Word Document (2009):
File:Chapter 6 - Roots 5-09.doc

Download Longer PowerPoint (2008):
File:Chapter 6-Roots.ppt

Download Shorter PowerPoint (2011):
File:Keynote 6 Roots 3-11.ppt


This article contains text only. For the full version with graphics and charts, please download the MS Word version above.

The First-Stage of the 4-Stage Launch
“Launch-Team Development”

Theme: You need to build a strong launch team of 30+ people

Objective: After the foundational theological, spiritual, demographic and personal material, we begin the practical stages with Stage One of a Church Plant.

Chapter Goals:
1. You will know how to find and build a strong launch team.
2. You will develop 3-5 key strategies for gathering and building the launch team.
3. You will understand the ideal mix for the Launch Team.
4. You will be able to schedule events for healthy Launch Team development.
NOTE: the Growth-Marks document following the Notes page will be something your coach will use to help you move through this important stage.  The shaded area will be the section for you to concentrate on for this stage. 

“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.”
1 Corinthians 3:6-7


Checking for Growth/Health in the 1st Year of a New Church
First the seed, then the stalk, then the head, then the full-kernel of grain.  Mark 4:28

Just as the wise farmer evaluates the growth of the crop, so too the wise church planter evaluates progress of their new church at each stage.

Just as the farmer makes adjustments at each stage, evaluating the need for hydration, fertilization, pesticide, pruning…

Or, to change the metaphor, just as the parent pays careful attention to how their child moves through the 1st 12 months of life to see not only growth in weight and height, and pays attention to how they’re developing mentally, emotionally, relationally, etc… and gets concerned if they don’t achieve certain growth-stages, so also…

The wise church planter looks at the growth & health of the church at each stage of development to determine what adjustments need to be made and to determine if they are ready to move to the next stage.

Check off the growth-marks as they are achieved.  When you have marked them all off, you are ready to move to the next stage.  If you have not achieved them, this indicates that you are missing a key growth element.  You should only move to the next stage with approval of your coach.  Consistently not meeting these marks is a real cause for concern and a time for deep discussion with your coach and possible adjustments…
Meet with your coach before moving to each new stage.

Root Development: Finding & Developing the Launch Team      Start date_________
Check when achieved:        (usually takes 3-4 months)
___ minimum of 20-30 committed adults in the core
___ 50% of core from new contacts
___ clear, compelling Passion, Values, and Mission – with the timeline and strategic plan
___ begin incorporation, financial system, enrollment in ECC pension, insurance, beginning ECC credentialing, enrolled in CEOP (if needed)
___ planter is seen as the ‘legitimate leader’ of the group
___ increasing number of people contacted, coming and connecting with the group
___ growing enthusiasm by the people
___ visits to church plants in area by Launch Team
___ vision deserts and/or gathering events
___ incarnational mission beginning in the community
___ begin taking an offering & sending 10 & 5 to ECC and conference mission
                        Achieved by________
  Each goal is important to accomplish before moving to the next stage!

Leaf Development: Preview (accelerated launch team development)     Start date_______
Check when achieved:          (usually takes 3-4 months)
___ minimum attendance of 70-100 in monthly preview services
___ 50 new people at each preview service (generally once-a-month)
___ plan for marketing for 3rd and 4th preview if you can’t get 50 new people by personal invitation
___ strong word-of-mouth with over ½ of new people coming from personal invitation
___ 50 new people assimilated into Launch Team over the 3-4 month time-frame
___ good facility, good financial record keeping, people beginning to tithe to new church
___ increasing attendance at each preview service
___ planning and recruiting people to serve in 5-key ministries of worship, kids, connection, small groups, outreach.
___ PAT (Pastors Advisory Team) functioning
___ people who are far from God coming to worship and/or being touched by the outreach of the church
                        Achieved by________
Each goal is important to accomplish before moving to the next stage!

Branch Development - Preparatory Worship    3-4 months       Start date_________
Check when achieved:
___ minimum attendance of 80 in the weekly services
___ quality of 5 key ministries (see previous stage for these 5) raised by one grade level (eg. C to B+) and increasing number of people serving in one of the ministry teams
___ 50% of adults in small groups
___ continuing outreach at this stage and planning for greater fruitfulness in next stage
___ continuing gathering and increasing attendance at worship
___ pray/plan for Grand Opening of Phase 4 with the G.O. (Grand Opening) Team
                        Achieved by________
  Each goal is important to accomplish before moving to the next stage!

Fruit Bearing – Launch stage       3-4 months         Start date_________
Check when achieved:
___ minimum attendance of 110 in services
___ great facility that can accommodate growth to 200+
___ have begun TLT: Transitional Leadership Team
___ beginning to see increasing numbers of people coming to Christ
___ keeping most of the launch team folks and transitioning into a G.O. team as you incorporate new people working toward the ideal mix after Launch phase of 1/3 new believers, 1/3 former de-churched Christians, 1/3 committed believers
___ beginning to plan for membership, etc.

At the end of each stage, the wise church planter does two things:
1)  Evaluation with their coach and leaders of what went right, what needs to be improved, and what needs to be changed.
2)  Celebration with the people of what God has done thus far!  People will continue to support what they celebrate.  Share the credit and help people to see what God has done in just a few months!

NOTE: For more information, see ‘Launch Team Development’ Goals, Activities, Benchmarks and Warning Signs + The Timeline at end of this chapter.

The Metaphor – The Need for Strong Roots in Your Launch Team:

It is not possible to have a healthy growing plant without developing a good root system.  The root system will control whether or not leaves or stems grow, and will determine whether there will be any fruit.  It is not possible to have a healthy, growing church without focusing on developing a strong launch team.  New churches start by building a base that will include launch team development. 

God has provided a healthy environment with fertile soil (your mission field – chapter 4), and good seed (the Biblical foundation, the DNA, and God-given mission/vision – chapter 5) to plant a new church… so what’s next? 

It’s time to plant the seed in the soil.  When a seed is planted and placed in good soil, after a season it bursts open and begins to grow.  At this point you must place your God-given vision for this new church into the soil, which is the missional context, where this new church plant will begin to grow.  The first thing a seed will do as it is placed in the soil is begin to develop a strong root system.  In church planting, growing a healthy root system must include the development of a launch team.

A healthy root system is the first thing that must happen for the future growth of a healthy plant.  First the roots develop and then the branches, leaves and eventually the fruit.  In planting churches, you develop a launch team and then the rest of the pieces develop in the proper time frame.  God is always a God of order.  It is not only Biblical to plan and develop a strategy to reach people for Christ, it is smart. Planting churches in a strategic way will reduce the failure rate, cut-down on the church planter’s stress level, allow for a plan that others can come alongside and   follow, and hopefully result in an abundance of fruit as lives are transformed and real community develops. 

A strong root system allows for:

•  Stability.  The root system anchors the plant in the soil.  Without a good root system a plant can be blown down with the first strong storm that comes along.  A healthy root system may cover an area 1-2 times the height of the tree.  Your launch team will provide stability and anchor this new church plant in the soil of your community by reaching out in all directions and contexts.

•  Absorption.  Roots act as an absorption system that provides the trunk and leaves with water and dissolved minerals that nourish the plant.  For this continual nourishment to happen the roots must constantly grow into new regions of the soil.  The launch team must continue to grow if the plant is to grow.  Each launch team member is encouraged to reach out to those God has placed in their life.  As the church transitions past the launch team stage, these people will transition to new areas of service but will continue to provide a strong root system for the life of the plant.

•  Movement.  The roots act as a mechanism to transport nutrients to the rest of the plant.  As each new person joins the launch team they are encouraged to get connected and use their resources in the areas they are best equipped by God to serve.  Each individual that God brings needs to be connected with the rest of the launch team to provide the necessary gifts and abilities for the new church plant.  Each person brings unique gifts that will help the new church thrive and grow.  This helps create a healthy church plant by creating movement into the church and then out into the community as each one lives out their part of the mission of this new church.     

Stories from on-the-field church planters










1. You will know how to find and build a strong launch team.
    (Developing a Healthy Root System)

  What is a Launch Team?  (What do the roots look like?)

•  Church planting is about building a mission team.  It’s about serving, loving, giving, and doing it alongside one another.  Church planting means making sacrifices together that will allow the message and mission of Jesus to permeate a community. 

“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body.  So it is with Christ.  For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given one Spirit to drink.”  1 Corinthians 12:12-13

•  A Launch team is a constantly growing group of individuals who begin to coalesce for the express purpose of launching your new church.  In the beginning the church planter can’t offer key programs, great music, connectional programs, or even a place to meet.  What the church planter can offer is an opportunity to join a growing team committed to living out the message and mission of Jesus in a new and fresh way in the community. 

•  A growing launch team will assist in evangelism, planning, and preparation for the upcoming launch of the new church.  This group will provide the ministry muscle to staff the key areas necessary for the launch of the church such as assimilation, evangelism, hospitality, children’s ministry, and worship.
•  The launch team is a group gathered for a specific period of time.  The focus will be to grow the launch team up to the public launch of the new church.  At that time the launch team is dissolved as these people move on to serve in other areas within the church.

•  We call this a “Launch Team” rather than a “core group.”  The reason is that the goal is to grow a team that will provide the help needed to prepare the new church for their launch.  The goal with the launch team is to grow it as large as possible throughout these early months to provide the necessary foundation for the new plant.  As you prepare to Launch, we will re-form the Launch Team as a GO (Grand Opening) Team.
•  The launch team will be made up of all those who are willing to follow the lead of the church planter as the group moves towards the launch of the new church.  The group may include mature Christians, new believers, and even those who are as yet un-believers but who want to join you in launching this new church.  Studies have shown that many will embrace belonging before believing.  You will be adding to this group weekly those with whom you’ve shared the vision for the new church and who desire to join you in this work.

•  Building a launch team is hard work (just like preparing the soil for root growth is hard work), but it’s absolutely essential for the future health of the church.  Grow the roots of this new church prayerfully, deliberately, patiently, deeply, and exercise Godly wisdom as this group expands. 

The Benefits of a Strong Launch Team

You’ve been recommended to plant by the assessment center, you’ve identified where you would like to plant, and you’ve been meeting with the Director of Church Planting for your conference to develop a well conceived plan.  What do you do next?
It might seem easier to skip the hard work of developing a launch team, but resist the temptation.  Asking people to join you is “mission critical” as you prepare to launch this new church that God has revealed a vision for.  God’s intent is to begin to grow the body even at this early stage.

A launch team will provide a growing sense of anticipation, added ministry muscle, and will build healthy systems in the new church.  Asking people to join the launch team is absolutely critical as preparation continues toward the launch of this new church.

Building an effective team creates opportunities to raise up leaders and to begin preparing others to do ministry.  Growing a launch team will be a “faith- builder” for many, will create tremendous ownership in those who are new, and will prevent the church planting pastor from burning out as preparation moves forward for the launch of this new church. 

Edward Everett Hale wrote,
“I am only one,
  But still I am one.
  I cannot do everything
  But still I can do something;
  And because I cannot do everything
  I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”

Invite others to join you to do the something that only they can do as this new church moves toward launch. 

The Gifted Believers Who are Needed on the Launch Team
God will bring people to the launch team that will bring gifts that are needed to allow this new church to be everything He intends it to be.  In virtually every church plant that does well, it has been a formational experience in the life of everyone involved.  This new church will be a defining spiritual adventure for those lay people who have been involved.  Years later, those who were involved in the launch of this new church, will still talk about what a significant spiritual impact planting was and how formational it has been in their lives. 
A launch team will require individuals who are gifted relationally to provide care for those who are hurting.  This team will need organized, administratively gifted people who can help design ministry systems.  Those with the gift of evangelism will allow this fledgling church to begin to reach the community.  A group of people who love a good party will help to plan and organize gathering events.  Those who love people will welcome newcomers into the team.  People who are good with numbers will help design solid financial systems.  Musically gifted individuals will help create God honoring worship.  Those who love children are necessary so safe environments can be developed where children can meet Jesus and grow in faith.  As the launch team members are empowered, God will open new doors and touch many more lives.

Jesus expended substantial time and energy to build a team of people that would be used to launch the New Testament church.  And Paul talks about the team of gifted people needed for building up the church.

“It was he who gave some to apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare(equip) God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…”
Ephesians 4:11-12

Jesus Calls the Launch Team to Do Evangelism from the Start
“As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother, Andrew.  They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.  ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed Him.”
Matthew 4:18-20

You and the Launch Team will connect with people in the community.  Many of these may be curious about what you’re doing; and, because they have a relationship with you or others on your launch team, they may be drawn to help.  As they work alongside you and worship with you, the Holy Spirit will work to help them hear about Jesus Christ and bring them along on their journey so that they come to know Him and grow in their faith. 
The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. 
Luke 19:10

Launch Team Development usually takes 3-4 Months to Do Well

Developing a launch team allows adequate time to share the vision, gather people, connect with them, and begin planning for the launch.  You need to allow for adequate time to grow the group to a sufficient size to provide the ministry muscle needed to provide essential ministries like worship, hospitality, children’s ministry, fellowship, and evangelism, just to name a few.  Churches that shorten the first part of the growth cycle often find that their churches start small, struggle, stay small, and are unable to serve.  You need to think-through the number committed people you will need to lead small groups, do children’s ministry, lead worship, to follow up with those who visit, etc. once the church is launched.  Start with the end in mind.  As you grow the launch team you will ensure that you have a strong, healthy launch for your new church. 

Most church planters will affirm that when it comes to launch teams, bigger is better.  If you want to have a healthy beginning, develop an extensive root system.  Historically, it was understood that to start a Jewish synagogue in a city there needed to be at least 10 family units.  With the networks each family had, this means that a typical Synagogue would have begun with 40-100 people when they met for worship.  This is a good model for church planting as well. With a strong number on the launch team it is possible to staff key ministries and prepare for launch.
It is possible to launch too soon.  Experience has shown that beginning too soon, and with too few people on the launch team, may result in what has been described as a “low birth weight baby.”  Most of these premature births have resulted in churches that start small, stay small and fail to thrive.  The goal has always been to birth new churches that are healthy, become self-supporting + have increasing margin for ministry and mission. 

TEAM APPLICATION: (pick one or two questions and discuss)

1.  Why is it vital to form a strong launch team?

2. What gifts do you have in the group that is already gathering, and what gifts will be needed for the church to achieve its mission?

3.  How will our church equip new leaders?

4.  What are our potential challenges in growing a launch team? 

5.  How might evangelism be incorporated in the early days of this new church?

6.  How you can best communicate the mission of this new church so that others will desire to join the team.

2. You will develop 3-5 key strategies for gathering and building the launch team.  (Sending out Roots)

Pray, Pray, and then Pray some more.
“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:19

1.  Pray that God would burden everyone’s hearts for the community.  Saturate your community with prayer. 
2.  Pray that God would create “divine appointments” with new people.  Allow God to begin to open doors to new relationships. 
3.  Pray specifically for what is needed on the launch team.  God will begin to bring people with specific gifts and abilities that are just what the church needed, and He will bring them at just the right time. 
4.  Pray for eyes to be opened to see the people God is placing all around you.  God, in his sovereignty, will bring people around the planter and growing launch team with just the right gifting and passion, but it all begins with prayer. 

Jesus said, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”
John 14:13-14

Where the Launch Team may come from


The preferred way to begin gathering a launch team is to have a strong PARENTING CHURCH.  Often a parenting church and pastor will allow the church planter to begin to gather a launch team from within the parent church.  As the vision for the new church is presented God will begin to gather those who feel a call to this new work.  It’s not unusual for a parent church to tithe from its regular attenders to help the new church plant get off to a good start.  This will certainly allow for a faster start to the new church, provide committed believers to staff key ministry areas, and provide immediate support for the planting pastor.  The assumption may be that the bigger the group that joins the launch team from the parent     church the better, but too large a group (usually over 60 adults) can actually hinder the future growth and may diminish the urgency to engage in evangelism right from the start.  Often a large group coming from another church will also have their own agenda that may not be in harmony with the vision for this new church. Agenda harmony issues will need to be addressed in the launch team meetings.  Like Gideon, you may have to whittle the group down to only those who are indeed called to this new work, rather than the larger group consisting of the curious or disgruntled who may also want to join the launch team of this new church. 

It may be possible to have a parent church send out a group to help in growing the launch team of the new church, but in many contexts there may not be a strong parenting church available.  In cases where there is not a parent church it may be possible to develop relationships with a number of partnering churches who may choose to release people, give resources, provide meeting space, or provide some ministry muscle.  The development of partnering church networks allows even the smallest church to be involved in the start of a new church.  Every congregation can be a church-planting church. 

Example: The Covenant recently planted The Compass Covenant Church in East St. Paul, MN with Pastor Terrance Rollerson.  This was in many ways a pioneering work.  There wasn’t a strong parenting church that was sending out Pastor Terrance with the beginnings of a launch team.  He began his launch team development with just his immediate family.  Terrance was very intentional about contacting many Covenant and non-Covenant churches in the area.  He met with the pastors, mission teams, and preached at many of these churches.  As he developed relationships, shared the vision of The Compass, and met with strategic ministry teams, some of these churches were captivated by this new work.  Several of these churches gave permission to their attendees to go with Terrance to plant if they felt God was calling them to be a part of this new work.  Several of these churches also pledged financial support, interim leadership, worship support, and meeting space.  This is in many ways a more time consuming and difficult way to begin a new church, but it also has many advantages.  This form of root development brings people from many different backgrounds, often provides a broader base of support, and may open up strategic ministry partnerships.

Many church planters have utilized vision desserts, picnics, neighborhood events, and open houses to begin to connect and grow a launch team.  These can be very important in bringing people into the launch team who didn’t come from the parent or partnering churches.  (See below for examples for the Pastor and Launch Team.)


You can also grow the launch team through reaching out to the un-churched.  There is a growing population of individuals who have disconnected from the church for one reason or another or have never been a part of the church.  You will be most effective in reaching them through intentional relationship building.  The biggest potential place to find launch team is by focusing on evangelism from the very first day.  Studies show that the majority of the population across the country do not profess a faith in Jesus Christ, yet are open to discussions about spiritual things.  If they are captivated by the mission and vision as they see your church in action in the community they decide to join you in serving, giving and loving. They may be willing to join the launch team even while they are still exploring what it means to be a follower of Christ. 

Use Both Attractional and Incarnational Strategies

The conventional wisdom has been to utilize attractional activities to grow the church.  The better focus in many new churches today is to focus on both incarnational and attractional means.  Of course, both need a highly relational Pastor and Launch Team.

Gathering Strategies for the Planting Pastor

•  If you are married, pastor, you and your spouse give you a launch team of 2.  If you have children you’ve just grown your launch team accordingly.

•  You will want to exhaust every personal network you and your family have at the beginning.
o   Contact all your friends, co-workers, family, and neighbors and share the vision with them.
o   Make a list of 50 people that you know who you can share the vision for this new church with.
o   One pastor suggests utilizing the 3/5 rule.  This means 5 contacts a day until you get 3 meetings or sit downs to share the vision of the church.
o   You can’t plant a church sitting behind a desk or working on the computer, you need to be out in the community.  Ask people to join you as fellow missionaries to your community.

•  Who should you meet with next?
o   Local Influencers:
After you’ve run out of personal contacts, a good next step is to begin to meet with city officials, school leadership, and business leaders in your community to share with them the vision for this new church and to ask for their help in identifying the critical needs in your community.
David Hesselgrave writes, “Research in the areas of anthropology, sociology and communication underscores the importance of the roles of formal leaders, sponsors and mediators in society.  Depending upon the particular societal arrangements that appertain, the newcomer may find it all but impossible to gain acceptance apart from proper approach to such persons.  Even in western societies that emphasize egalitarianism, an initial contact with those who fill these roles will usually enhance the missionary cause.” (Planting Churches Cross-Culturally: A Guide for Home and Foreign Missions, pg 167)

o   Get involved in community organizations: 
Serve on community boards, work with the Boy or Girl Scouts, serve on the PTA, coach youth sports, etc.  Be a part of organizations that have the heart of the community. You’ll begin to understand the heart-beat and needs.  Plus, you’ll have a lot of allies and friends and influencers who will help you.

o   New Residents:
Another point of contact can be the new residents in your community.  Intentionally contact those who are new to your community.  They won’t be connected with another church so the risk is low that you will infringe on another church’s turf.  For new resident info go to: Make sure you follow up with the information you receive in a timely fashion since others will no doubt be contacting them as well.  You can occasionally purchase new resident contact info from local utility companies in your area.

o   Everywhere that people gather:
Look for every opportunity to begin building new relationships at the coffee shop, the library, schools, day care, health clubs, sports leagues, etc.  You might even choose to go door to door in your neighborhood and encourage those who are joining you to do the same in theirs.  As pastor, you must begin to model personal witness to those who are coming to form your launch team.  Build into the DNA of this young church from the very beginning a heart and passion for those who don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ.  Go to for ideas on Gathering.

What are the gathering activities that will be most fruitful for you as the planting pastor?





Which areas will stretch you but be ones you want to try?




Gathering Strategies for the Launch Team
•  Tap into the new networks of those who are coming alongside you by asking them to share the vision with those they know.  Ask each person on the growing launch team to make a list of 10 individuals that they will commit to share the vision of this new church with.

•  Provide the launch team with tools to use as they meet with people.  Create invite cards that the growing launch team can give to those they meet.

•  Get On-Line.
o   A quality website is important since 77% of the people you talk to will check out the new church via the web before they commit to attend an event.
o   E-vites are another way that you can equip people in their efforts to reach others.  Or design neat posters that can be placed on your website and easily emailed to contacts.
o   One new church encouraged their people to invite friends (and anyone else interested in a new spiritual community) via a social-networking site like “Face-book.”
•  Host gathering events that will provide an entry point for new people to meet the church planter and the growing launch team where they will hear a little about what God is calling this church to become.  This also provides an initial connectional point for the new people that are gathering.  These gathering events are social gatherings that allow you to begin to build relationships and begin to share about this new church.  Those who gather will be invited by the current launch team members so they know that this is an event sponsored by the new church.


Make a list of the people you are going to initiate contact with.


What tools would best help you communicate with them about the new church?


What needs exist in your community that the launch team can begin to address?


Gathering Event Suggestions

1.  Many Covenant church plants have used Vision Desserts very effectively.  Plan for a 90 minute time frame with the event hosted at someone’s home.  It may be that several members of the launch team will invite their neighbors to their homes as you host a number of these evening gatherings.  Begin the evening with dessert and coffee.  This allows for late arrivals to not miss the presentation.  They begin the presentation 15 minutes after everyone has gathered.  The church planter and their spouse present for 50-60 minutes.  And then answer questions for the remainder of the time.
Vision Dessert requirements:
•  Someone’s home
•  A Projector
•  Portable screen (although a blank wall works well)
•  Laptop computer
•  And of course, people to attend.

Develop a Power-point that contains:
•  30-40 slides which they moved through quickly
•  Utilize numerous slides from Dave Olson’s church attendance research.
•  Transition from the demographics to why you are planting this new church.
•  Present the vision, scriptural basis, and talk lots about the “preferred future” they were praying for.
•  Close the evening by asking people to prayerfully consider joining this vision.
•  Close in prayer.
•  Mention that the ECC is great at church planting.
•  Deflect doctrinal questions (there are usually very few) until after the meeting.  Focus primarily on the Message and Mission of Jesus.
•  It doesn’t matter if there are 2 or 20 in attendance; this seems to be an effective way of sharing the vision for the new plant.

2.  Open Houses are a way to allow people to hear more about this new church that God is growing.  Open houses can be hosted at a restaurant or other public venue, or they can be hosted in a parent church, or in individual homes.  The content and format will be similar to vision desserts.

3.  Neighborhood picnics/barbeques. Have the launch team invite friends to a home or park where there will be good food and a straightforward presentation about this new plant.  Make sure that people know what they’re being invited to attend.  Avoid the bait and switch. 

4.  Initiate a service project in the community like Habitat for Humanity, serving meals at a shelter in your area, providing labor for a local school project, or some other activity that allows people to get their hands dirty while connecting with the growing launch team.  It should be communicated to the group that gathers that this is precisely the kind of thing this new church desires to continue to do in the community.  Hand out contact information and follow up with any who express interest.

Engage the growing launch team in serving the community.  Serving must become a part of the DNA of this new church from the very beginning.  People will want to know why you are loving, giving, and serving – so be prepared to answer them.  Be a church that lives out the Gospel!

For ideas on servant evangelism projects go to:


What are the 3-5 Key Gathering Activities you will use for your new church?















3. You will understand the ideal mix for the Launch Team.

Why Agenda Harmony is Important
Jesus said, “Every Kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.”  Matthew 12:25

•  As a planter you will have to turn away some who would like to join the growing launch team.  Some will come with agendas that are not in harmony with the new church or the vision of the church planter.  New churches will attract highly committed individuals who will help move the mission forward…unfortunately new churches also attract the highly controlling, or highly needy.  While the church is called to reach out to the lost and hurting these folks are often Christians who move from church to church as they refuse to live in healthy ways.  These disgruntled, hurt, or controlling individuals are often difficult to assimilate into the new church plant and the launch team. 
•  It will be critical to have clearly defined DNA, mission and vision that are Biblically based.  Each new church will need to have a set of non-negotiables in place to keep the ministry on track.  If people don’t agree completely with those non-negotiables they will be happier at another church.  A clear mission and vision will give direction to the new church and will help protect this new work from being co-opted by those with their own agenda.  Be on the look-out for “vision collision.”

•  The planting pastor must be the custodian and defender of the mission and vision.  You cannot give away or allow others to hijack the vision.  It is the responsibility of the pastor to lead well.  If the pastor does not lead and safeguard the vision the church will end up somewhere no one intended and the pastor often ends up leaving prematurely in those cases.

•  Out-counseling is necessary with individuals who can not seem to get on board with the vision and values of the new church.  This must be done promptly before these people begin to cause others to choose sides.  Most of the individuals who refuse to embrace the leader’s vision for the new church will be Christians coming from other churches with competing visions.  New believers simply love Jesus and want to serve Him.  It can be a greater challenge to build a church with believers than it is to build it with those who have recently come to faith.  As anxious as most pastors and leaders are for more people to join the growing launch team, not everyone will be a good fit with your church.  Praise God there are lots of churches for these people to attend.  (see 3-Point Range on next page)

•  If you don’t focus on agenda harmony issues, if you assume that everyone is on the same page, you will eventually be blindsided by someone who isn’t pulling in the same direction as the rest of the team.

  Jesus said, “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.”  Matthew 12:30
What can your launch team do to assure that there is unity surrounding the vision of the new church? 

What are the non-negotiables for those who desire to be a part of the launch team – what behaviors or statements might someone make who demonstrates that they do not have “agenda harmony?”

The Make-up of the Launch Team (The Structure of the Roots)

The goal during this phase of development is to gather at least 30 committed adults.  If your new church has a parenting, or a group of partnering churches, they may be willing to send out a group to be a part of the growing launch team.  The goal during the months of launch team development will be to at least double the size of the group. 

“They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.  And the Lord added to their numbers daily those who were being saved.” 
Acts 2:46-47

3-Point Range (or 3 Needs for the Seed):
Just like in the NBA, a 3 point shot can make the difference between winning and losing.  There are several 3-pointers to consider regarding the make-up of a Launch Team.  Or, to keep with our metaphor: the Seed Needs 3 things to GROW: Sunlight, Soil, and Water.

3-Point Mix of Believers & Unbelievers.
An ideal balance at the end of launch team development has:

•  1/3 committed Christians that you will find through your personal networks or those of others, or friends and family who already have a growing relationship with Jesus Christ, or a group of people sent out by a parenting or partnering churches. 
•  1/3 will be people who have made commitments to Christ, but have never had an authentic relationship with Him.  These people are found in the same places as those in the first 1/3. 
•  The final 1/3 of your launch team should be made up of brand new believers or those on the journey to becoming new believers.  You will find them as you give, love and serve in the community.  They will join you out of a growing relationship with the planting pastor or someone else on the launch team. 

Once a month, evaluate and list everyone on the launch team to see how the church is beginning to move toward this healthy balance.

How can the launch team connect with those who are outside of their normal networks? 

What will you do to creatively develop relationships with those who are un-churched?


3-Point Mix on the Team - Discerning Agenda Harmony

Church Plants attract 3 kinds of “HIGHLY” believers:

•  Highly Mission-minded.  Build into these so you can build the church through these.  These are the folks whom God is prompting to be a part of this new work of expanding the kingdom in your area.  You can build on as leaders, assuming they have agenda harmony.
•  Highly Needy.  These are people who come to a new church who have exhausted the resources and patience of other churches in the area.  If they’re non-believers, you may want to help them.  But, be careful, “the poor you will always have with you.” (Mark 14:7)  Remember, Jesus shared this not to teach us to help the poor, but as part of His teaching as to what it means to follow Him.
•  Highly Controlling.  These are believers who have tried to control other churches.  In talking with them, they will tell you about all the churches they’ve been a part of and they will tell you what’s wrong with them.  They may tell you why your new church is God’s gift to the area, and they will offer to help you lead it.  Be careful, they may have their own agenda – and you may be out-counseling them.  Better do it sooner than later.  And NEVER give away leadership!  Give away opportunities to serve – that way you can test to see if they have the character of a mature believer and the chemistry to be a part of the team.  Always assign tasks, not titles.  Give them a task and see how they do, then give them another task and see how they do, then give them a task and see how they do, and if their character, faith, and passion are in line with the new church then they may be ready for leadership.  Asking new potential leaders “to clean toilets” will often weed out the “wanna-bes” from those with a true servant heart. 
The problem is that all 3 of these can be indistinguishable when you first meet them!


3-Point Range – the 3 activities you must do well.

•  Gathering – the #1 reason church plants stall is they stop gathering.

•  Connecting – if you don’t connect people relationally and help them serve according to their gifts, you’ll have a big back-door.

•  Building – you need to continue to build disciples and develop leaders.
(see the “Participation Survey” in the On-line Resource Center at for ways to get people connected and growing)


Talk about the current make-up of your Launch Team.



How would you describe the make-up of your launch Team using these tools?



What would God have you do to build a stronger Launch Team?






4. You will be able to schedule events for healthy Launch Team development.  (Watering and Fertilizing the Roots)

As the launch team is growing it will be important that there is a focus on developing a sense of community.  The best way to accomplish that goal is to gather the whole group on a regular basis.
“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Hebrews 10:25

•  A suggested schedule is to have the group meet every other Sunday afternoon or evening.
These meetings are different than a Sunday morning worship gathering.  These meetings provide opportunity to cast vision, discuss the core values that are driving this new church, talk about your outreach strategy for your community, pray together, worship, and support one another. 

Meeting on Sunday mornings is often confusing since the church is not ready for a full-fledged worship experience at this point.  Meeting on Sunday morning will create an expectation that you need to offer “Sunday worship.”  Your focus in Launch-Team development is gathering and growing the Launch Team as large as possible.  Focusing on worship will bleed energy and passion away from the task at hand.  Those who are new to the team might also be discouraged if Sunday morning worship isn’t all that they envisioned it would be.  You don’t want to set the bench-mark for worship too “low.”

•  Homes can often be utilized to meet until the group outgrows them.  The best place to meet is always a large home.  Many have had the experience of a youth group gathering where they jammed the house or basement and there was a sense of oneness and excitement.  Another option is to find temporary public space that also allows for adequate childcare during your gatherings, has enough chairs, and can be arranged so you can create an environment that encourages a growing sense of oneness. 

•  Use Sunday mornings to visit other church plants.  If you can, arrange to get together with the planting pastor afterward and ask questions.  Separately, evaluate with your team what they did well and what they didn’t.  Observing a “poor” church plant can be as helpful as visiting a “good” one – because with either you’re discerning and learning.  Experiential learning like this is very helpful.
When you visit a church plant, interview the pastor – and also debrief as a team. 

A worship observation guide is available at

A typical Launch Team Meeting might look like this:

•  A Greeting from the Church Planter
•  A worship time.  (Reading the Word and singing with acoustic instruments)
•  The Planting pastor can lead a Study related to church planting (The book of Acts or Ephesians, or the Mission and Message of Jesus).  (See attached curriculum in the on-line organizer at  This is also a time to focus on agenda harmony with the group and begin teaching about the mission, vision and values of this new church.
•  Announcements about the upcoming schedule of activities and a time to talk about the business of the new church.
•  A time of prayer.  (Have the group begin to pray for those on the list of 10 people God has placed on their hearts.) 
•  More singing and invite selected lay people to share why they’re excited to be a part of this church.
•  Offering time (begin to teach the group to tithe from the beginning)
•  Closing prayer
•  Begin building teams.  (Hospitality, children’s ministry, outreach, worship, etc. This helps you get ready for Stage-Two) 
•  Conversation and refreshments.

What to do Between Launch Team Meetings. 
(Keeping the roots from drying out.)

•  Gather more people.  Host gathering events.
•  Work on the DNA of the growing church by using the off weeks to focus on serving in the community.
•  The Church Planter should utilize this time to meet with key leaders, focus on personal evangelism, follow-up with those who have expressed interest in the new church.
•  Visit church plants as a group in the area at least once a month –

•  Evangelism should be a key focus throughout the entire life of the church, but these weeks where the launch team is not meeting allows for the launch team to invite people to their homes to build relationships, share the vision and share their lives and faith stories.

What are some creative ways you can serve your community?

How can the launch team be prepared to engage in personal evangelism?

Length of Time for Launch Team Development

•  Launch Team development will typically be a 3-4 month time frame that usually begins at the signing of a Covenant Agreement.

•  More important than the actual number of months will be progress made on growing the launch team to the point that it will be possible to begin transitioning to the next growth phase of planting.  The key growth-mark is having a launch team of at least 30 adults before moving to the next phase of growth; although in some urban contexts there may need to be double this number of adults.  The next phase of development is the Leaf and Branch phase where launch team growth continues to happen with the addition of a once a month worship experience.

A suggested Rhythm for Launch Team meetings

•  Months 1 and 2—Grow and Deepen Your Launch Team.  Focus on growing the launch team deeper by teaching about core values and vision, focus on agenda harmony, and talk about mission.  Also, include time to serve together, do outreach together, and build evangelism into the DNA.
•  Months 3 and 4—Keep Growing and Prepare for the Next Phase.  Begin to prepare the team for the next phase of growth in the church plant where you will continue to gather a launch team while adding a once a month worship service.  This is the time to focus on building ministry teams and identifying those who will lead these ministry areas. 

The focus of launch team meetings must be on those in the community outside the church to prevent the group from becoming ingrown.

How will you keep the launch team outwardly focused?



What spiritual disciplines do you need to build into your launch team meetings?




Detailed Timeline for Launch Team Development. See timeline on last page.
    Month One:
    Week One:    Host a Gathering Event
                    Personal Evangelism
                      Meeting with Interested People

    Week Two:  Servant Evangelism Project
                      Launch Team Meeting
                      Meeting with Interested People
                      Personal Evangelism
                      Serving in the Community

    Week Three: Gathering Event
                      Personal Evangelism
        Worship at a church plant and debrief
                      Meeting with Interested People

    Week Four:    Launch Team Meeting
                      Personal Evangelism
                      Serving in the Community
                  Meeting with Interested People

Month Two:  Repeat Month One

Month Three:
Week One:  Host a Gathering Event
                Personal Evangelism
                Meeting with Interested People
                Begin building ministry teams
Work on agenda harmony

Week Two: Launch Team Meeting
                Servant Evangelism Project
                Meet with Interested People
                Personal Evangelism
Week Three:  Gathering Event
                  Personal Evangelism
                  Meet with Interested People
                  Work on developing ministry teams
        Worship at a church plant in the area and debrief
Work on any agenda harmony issues. 

Week Four:  Launch Team Meeting
                  Servant Evangelism Project
                  Meet with Interested People
                  Personal Evangelism
Month 4:  Repeat Month 3
1.  Nelson Searcy, Launch: Starting a New Church from Scratch pgs.141-160
2.  Thom Rainer, Simple Church
3.  Tim Keller, Redeemer Church Planting Manual
4.  Ed Stetzer, Planting Missional Churches pgs. 198-206
5.  Gary Rohrmayer, First Steps for Planting a Missional Church
6.  Steve Sjogren, Community of Kindness: A Relational Approach to Planting   and Growing a Church
7.  Dave Olson, The American Church in Crisis


Samples of Launch Team Curriculum
Look on-line at for Lessons in Church Planting from the Book of Acts (12 week series), the Book of Ephesians, and more.

Always: Teach your ZERA, DNA, and mission/vision: one lesson each

Also: Teach on the 5 Messages/Missions of Jesus and The Church – 5 sessions.

1.  Focus on the Cross—Jesus came to save people from their sins and reconcile them to God. 
•  How can we live out the message and mission of Jesus?

2.  The Triumph of the Grave—Jesus destroyed the power of Satan and delivered people from bondage.
•  What are the bonds Jesus calls us to break that hold and oppress people? 

3.  The Resurrection—Jesus came to change hearts of stone to hearts of flesh…to help people live a new life through Him.
•  What does it mean to live a new life in Christ?

4.  The Ascension—Jesus challenged the culture of earthly principalities and powers (both religious and political) by seeking to incarnate the values of the Kingdom of God on this earth. 
•  How can the church be a counter-cultural force in the world? 

5.  Pentecost—Jesus came to establish the church.
•  How can we model the Kingdom of God here on earth?


Developmental Goals -

1.  Get Settled, Organized and Focused
2.  Follow Leads for Anyone who Might Want to Be a Part of This New Church
3.  Connect Core Team with Each Other
4.  Clarify Vision and Values
5.  Locate Facility for Previews and Beyond
6.  Plan for Preview Services
7.  Solidify Your Relationship With Parent Church Pastor And Clarify Expectations

Most Productive Activities

1.  Meeting Lots of New People
2.  Developing Events that Generate Enthusiasm Among People
3.  Clear and Compelling Vision Casting
4.  Bonding Quickly with People, Moving to a Deeper Friendship


1.  A Minimum of 20 - 30 Committed Adults
2.  Clear and Compelling Vision, Values, Timeline and Strategic Plan
3.  Appropriate Planning in Place for Preview Stage
4.  Stage One Details - Incorporation, Good Financial Systems, Enrollment in Insurance and Pension, Credentials Received, Enrolled in Orientation Program (if applicable)

Warning Signs

1.  Confusion about How to Prioritize Time
2.  Inability to Connect with New People
3.  Inability to Create Enthusiasm Among Core Members
4.  Inability to Lay Groundwork for Future Stages
5.  Inability To Become The ‘Legitimate Leader’ Of An Existing Core Group


DRAFT Strategic Ministry Plan
For Our New Church

1. Theological Basis >>
  2. Spiritual Foundation in Prayer >>
      3. Mission Field - Need of our Area >>
        4. Evangelistic Strategies >>
          5. Our Specific Vision >>
              6. The Strategy of the 4-Stage Launch >>
                Stage 1 - Roots: Launch Team Gathering
                Stage 2 - Leaves: Preview Services
                Stage 3 - Branches: Preparatory Worship
                Stage 4 - Fruit: Launch
                  7. Leadership >>
                      8. Covenant >>
                        9. Finances>>

6a. The Four Stage Launch Strategy: Stage 1 – Roots: Launch Team Gathering
Also see “Growth-marks” on how Gathering a Launch Team.
  Here are our 3-5 Key Gathering Activities






Develop a planning calendar for the next 3-4 months.



This worksheet is for your in-house, detailed, strategic plan. 
You will put an overview of the 4-stage Launch strategy in your public Strategic Plan.  This is something that can be shared with prospective Launch Team members and potential major donors.  This will help build confidence.


Category:Phase 1 - Launch Team Development
Church Planting Resource Manual