Building Your Core Team (with Dave Henson)

Dave Henson has been around church planting all of his life. His parents were involved in planting churches into the suburbs of London, and after Dave married Hannah, they moved to the Midlands and were involved in various ways in six church plants, before they planted The Well Church in Loughborough, and then began to get involved in Russia and moved to St. Petersburg to plant Hope Church.  In this hangout, Dave shares his experience of how to build a core team.


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What is a Core Team?

  • A core team is a team that carries that vision to plant the church, and that are sacrificing everything to make it happen.
  • The core team phase only begins when the lead couple have one or more people with them who bring them life and encouragement. 
  • View the core team as scaffolding for the church plant.
  • Churches (however large or small) always have a core team. This is the heart of a strong church.
  • Be prepared for your core team to change faster than you expect. Not everybody in the original core team will stick with you.

How Big Should a Core Team Be?

  • It is unusual to start with a large core team. Most core teams are initially very small. The exception to this is when leaders are sent out to plant from large established churches.
  • Church planting with a small core team feels hard in the moment, but it is a wonderful opportunity for church planters to develop in character, in communication with their spouse and key leader, and in self-knowledge.
  • Because church planting is very emotional it is crucial that leaders of core teams learn how to communicate with their spouses, with their teams, and with apostolic oversight. 
  • It is important to have a long-term view of building the team. Church planters can get worked up if they don't instantly see success. Relax and have fun as you go.

Who Should Be In Your Core Team?

  • Purposefully recruit the first 2 or 3 people. Know what you are good at and what you are not good at and find people who balance this.
  • In Acts 20, the team that Paul took represented every church or region in which his ministry had been successful. There were different cultures and personalities that could represent Paul's teaching and values to different people and contexts.
  • Recruit people who bring life to you.
  • Recruit people who you can disciple. It is easier to do this than to insist on doctrinal agreement before you start.
  • Recruit people who have shared values. Talk about your church plant with like-minded leaders. Try to get on conference platforms. Build relationships with like-minded churches (the idea isn't to sheep steal, but many leaders will be very happy to see if God is calling anyone to go with you).
  • Recruiting broken people can be both easy and helpful. Yes, broken people need some of your attention, but they can become great servants and friends in the work.

How to Recruit People for Your Core Team

  • Work hard at recruiting people who are just moving into your area.
  • Don't waste too much time marketing about the church to people in the area. People who live locally will tend to find out about you anyway through word of mouth.
  • Having a 'sales pitch' is important. You need to be able to tell your story well. Have a 30-second version, a 3-minute version and a 30-minute version. Talk about prophecies that you have been given, your strategy and the area that you are planting into (show people the best and the worst of the area).
  • At the start, you are the picture of what the church will eventually be like. Your generosity, your hospitality, your organisational skills (or lack thereof), and your prayer life will speak of what the church will become.
  • Take people with you to as many places as you can. This is a great way to bring people through from the fringe to the core. 
  • Share your stories of what God is doing.
  • Pray a lot.

Q&A

1. If you are building a core team with your friends, what happens as the church grows if those friends don't have the ministry capacity to remain part of the core?
  • Dave Henson operates an open-house policy, and make sure his friends know they are always welcome round.
  • At times, you need to prepare people for this transition. Even if you are not able to go to them as much, make sure they know they can still come to you.
  • Social media can be very useful for maintaining these friendships.
2. Can you expand on why you feel relationship is more important than shared theology with the core team?
  • You can bring somebody on board theologically over time.
  • This can happen through the way you model your theology in how you live.
  • Helping somebody to shift theologically can happen organically over time through lots of small conversations.
“A church plant is like a giant. As it moves forward, it can seem unstable because there is only ever one foot on the ground, yet there is momentum and forward progress.” (Colin Baron)
3. What issues are you presented with when you recruit broken people into your church plant? 
  • It is important to build friendships with them.
  • Make sure you keep them active. Dave Henson has had people that he has worked with painting houses and doing other practical jobs.
4. What were the differences in the core team when Dave Henson planted in a large city compared to when he planted in a small town?
  • In Loughborough, Dave deliberately recruited with a view to giving the church away and doing himself out of a job.
  • In St. Petersburg, he was very intentional in recruiting the people he wanted. He would write letters to them, spend sacrificial amounts of time with them, often driving for many hours to meet up with them.
5. Should new converts be part of the core team, or should you just look for established Christians?
  • Always look for new converts. Converts are very mouldable to the shape of the church plant.
  • Be purposeful in evangelism from the word go.
  • Be realistic about how much weight new converts can carry in the church plant.
  • Make relationships key and have gathering events that can build the fringe very rapidly. Evangelise as a team in that context.
  • Meals can be an excellent setting to gather non-believers. Organising things like community barbeques is a good idea.
  • The challenge is to continue with gathering events but to add in things like Alpha where you can explicitly explain the gospel.
6. How do you stay sane while you hold a vision and are waiting for other people to turn up who you can build with?
  • When church planters have nothing else going on in their life, it can become so intense that it makes it actually makes it more difficult.
  • Make sure you have a job outside the church plant and are around people and doing something.
7. Are there any dos and donts for inviting non-Christians to core group gatherings?
  • Dave Henson tends to separate it out. Some meetings are gathering events and others are core group meetings.

Recommended Resources

To develop your thinking on this issue even more, we recommend the following book: 

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