Assessing Church Planters
Leadership Network Research
One of the greatest responsibilities of any movement is the evaluation and development of potential church planters. Movements which take seriously the stewardship of church planters, their families, and church planting resources, understand the need for a formal assessment process for these candidates. Almost all groups do some sort of assessment on prospective planters, at least in an informal sense. Most groups evaluate the character and doctrine of those they deploy. Yet a more formal assessment process broadens the scope of evaluation by addressing additional areas for consideration.
The number one reason why new churches fail (up to 70% in the west) is because they are started by the wrong planter. That’s why an assessment process for the selection of planters is crucial. The consequences of poor selection are profound, not only in terms of dollars invested, but also in terms of damage to people’s lives – the planter, their family, the core planting team. The effects of a failed planting effort create a ripple effect, affecting everyone involved.
Jesus took time to pray and interact before choosing his key leaders. Because it is so important to lay hands on the right people, the Lord needs to provide discernment about who to choose and not choose. Ralph Moore, a prominent church multiplication movement leader, starts by looking for leaders who have evangelized, discipled, and multiplied groups or ministries within the local church. Based on this evidence of basic competence and feedback on the person’s character, he then prays and asks God to show him which of these leaders are being called to church planting. After that, he talks with these leaders and asks them to get confirmation from the Lord regarding a possible call to church planting. Upon confirmation of that call, he assesses what training they need and helps them get it.
Although some may find the idea of formally assessing a potential planter unsettling, up-front assessment is one of the most critical elements in successful church plants. One denomination recently completed a research study that found that, over the first four years of a new church plant, planters who had been assessed led churches that were on average 20% larger than those of un-assessed planters.
Here are some of the areas that are covered in the assessment process:
- Strengths: What are the strengths each potential planter possesses and are these the right strengths for the planting assignment. Weaknesses may eliminate a person, but it’s best to start by identifying strengths.
- Skills, competencies, and giftedness: These arebest assessed through an objective behavioural interview, which looks at the potential planter’s proven history in the light of specific church planting guidelines.
- Character qualities: These areassessed through observation in a coaching relationship, as well as gathering personal references, conducting interviews, and administering specific assessments.
- Emotional and marital stability: Leaders who finish well maintain healthy relationships with family and friends. Family members and friends of the potential planter are included in the assessment process.
- Biblical/Theological understanding: Knowledge can be assessed through a traditional exam process or through an informal process that helps a potential planter assess his/her biblical and theological understandings and areas that require growth.
- Philosophy of ministry: A clear philosophy of ministry, which comes from the potential planter’s experience, values, gifts and calling, will help you assess their compatibility with your organization and will increase their own effectiveness. Philosophy of ministry should be assessed not only by listening to the potential planter’s statements, but examining their past behaviour to see if it falls in line with that stated belief system.
Good assessment should happen on several levels:
- Initial Interview: A conversation to help set and direct the potential planter on the right path.
- Initial Assessment: A basic assessment that stewards the resources of the movement. If every potential planter has an in-depth assessment too many resources are poorly expended. Consider using existing standardised tools for this stage.
- In-Depth Interview: Helps your movement leaders go deeper, to be sure that the initial indicators are correct and that there is alignment with the movement.
- Final Assessment: This is the final step to be sure that vocational planters have the ministry skills, planter wiring, and interpersonal ability to plant a church. This can range from a four-hour behavioural assessment to a two-day assessment centre experience*.
Assessing potential church planters is a solid investment in the future of a multiplication movement. Taking the time and effort to choose the best candidates will make a difference – both now and for years to come. Putting a reproducible assessment process in place now will allow for expansion to meet the increasing need for more church planters in the future.
* The behavioural assessment process developed by Dr. Charles Ridley measures 13 characteristics of effective church planters and has been used for over two decades for selecting church planters worldwide. For more detail on Dr. Charles Ridley’s 13 characteristics of effective church planters make contact with us.
For further insights into these elements, check out the other articles in this section of the Blog.
Would you like to know more? Download the free booklet on Assessing Church Planters Click Here
- Be Fruitful and Multiply
- Cultivating Multiplication Movements: Coaching Guide with Storyboard – Ministry Specific Resource (PDF)
- Cultivating Multiplication Movement Storyboard – Ministry Specific Resource (PDF)