Building Teams In a Church Plant (with Geoff Surratt)

Geoff Surratt  has served on the leadership teams at Seacoast Church and Saddleback Church, where he was Director of Church Planting under Rick Warren. He has also served as Managing Director of Exponential. He is an author of The Multisite Church Revolution, The Multisite Church Roadtrip and Ten Stupid Things that Keep Churches from Growing. He now serves as Pastor of Church Planting at Southeast Christian Church in Parker, Colorado, as well as coaching churches and leaders around the USA. In this Broadcast Geoff speaks about Building Teams in Church Plants.


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  • There are 10 ingredients of a successful church plant

1. A Very Clear Sense of God's Calling

  • If you can imagine yourself doing any other ministry, do that!
  • A lot of church planters just want to do church differently from the one they were in, so they plant that. That is not a compelling reason to plant a new church.
  • There needs to be a desparation to see people far from God become Christ followers, and the only thing we can think of to reach those people is to plant a new church.

2. The Leader Needs to Be Gifted

  • Not everyone is called to be a lead church planter. Many are called to be part of a church planting team. 
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"It all rises and falls with leadership."

  • Can the leaders inspire other people to follow?
  • You can see if people can do this by looking at their history.
  • Somebody that can identify, develop and deploy.
  • A successful church planter's leadership is resilient.

3. A Supportive Family

  • Satan always comes after the church planter's family.
  • The church planter's family needs to be all in.

4. A Real Need

  • Is there a real need for a new church like the one you're going to plant in the community you're going to?
  • A successful church plant will move into a community that does not already have great churches.

5. A Strong Affinity With the Community

  • Understanding culture takes time.
  • Do you have a heart for that community?
  • Church planters should be motivated by a desire to reach people who don't know Jesus.

6. Effective Strategy

  • There are a lot of really good things to do, but they are not the same as a strategy.
  • In Acts, Paul had a very clear strategy. He would start by going to the synagogue and preach Jesus, form relationships in the community, go to the market place, start gathering the church and appoint local leaders.
  • Are you following a strategy that has seen success, or are you creating a strategy that you think will have success.

7. Team

  • People will support a world they helped create - invite people into the process.
  • We all come with an agenda. Take the time to understand what everyone's agenda is.
  • Everyone is a potential team member. Never say no for somebody else.

8. Adequate Resources

  • Planting a church will take longer, cost more, and be more complicated than most leaders imagine.
  • Think about how to support your family and how to pay the rent.
  • A successful church plant will have a steady supply of prayer, expertise and money.

9. Engaged Network

  • A successful church plant is usually part of a network.
  • Very seldom is a successful church planted by somebody all on their own.
  • Paul had the support of the other apostles and a whole network of other leaders that he had connected with.
  • If there is a church in the community that will partner with you, that is a huge bonus.

10. Divine Providence 

  • Sometimes God blesses a new church plant in spite of the leader, strategy etc.
  • There is no substitute for God's blessing.

Q&A

1. How picky should you be about who you choose?

  • We shouldn't be picky with anyone who wants to connect early on, yet incredibly picky with those we choose for significant roles.
  • Resist giving role titles early on in the church plant.
  • Jesus preached to the masses, and for a while didn't have the 12 disciples around him. But when it came to the time to choose key leaders, Jesus was incredibly picky about who he called disciples or leaders.

2.  What do you look for in key leaders?

  • The first thing you're looking for is integrity. You want to make sure they are who they say they are, which takes time.
  • Do they agree with the vision and mission of the church plant, and also the leader's agenda?
  • A leader is someone people will follow. What you need is someone who leads and attracts gifted leaders.

3.  How do we give people the opportunity to shape and create without losing vision and values?

  • You have to have a strong framework of what God is calling you to which all other ministries hang on.
  • What is the short non-negotiable mission statement? 
  • Then be confident to let the other things go.

4.  How do you prevent possessiveness of ministries within the church?

  • Everything flows down from the leadership.
  • The founder needs to serve everybody else, does the leader act as if they are building their own empire?
  • There is a need for relationship between leaders.
  • Be wise and trust the leaders, but at the same time lean toward more freedom knowing that you will deal with issues down the road.

5.  How do you get leaders to work together?

  • Prioritise time initially with those who are truly invested.
  • The more compelling the vision, the more engaged people will be.
  •  People will be engaged in something they believe in and will have a long-term return.

6.  How do we give a compelling 'change the world' vision in a new church plant?

  • In casting church vision, explain where the church is now, but that it can't stay there.
  • What we can invite people into is the picture God has given the church planter.
  • As a church planter, avoid arrogance that the vision can come about with just you. It needs to be clear that there is love toward the community and the early small group of planters.

7.  How much space is there for others to work out their own calling within the early church plant?

  • A key role of the church planter is to develop leaders. Ask what the dreams are of the individuals in the core group. In order to help fulfil those dreams, start within the church plant and its growth.
  • Expose leaders to training and responsibility.
  • Invest in those leaders.

8.  Do you invest differently in short-term and long-term leaders?

  • Both are incredibly necessary.
  • Short-term leaders are like scaffolding on a new structure. When the structure is done the scaffolding is no longer needed, but was crucial for the construction stage.
  • Invest differently in the short-term leaders, love them, develop them, and bless them when they leave. This shows to everyone else that you care about those involved.
  • Go the deepest with those who are set for long-term investment.

9.  How do you manage the relationship between being part of both a church plant and family?

  • Your family is your ministry and your priority. 
  • What has God called your spouse to do? 
  • Resist the temptation to make your spouse the go-to person.
  • It is important to create space outside of the church that has nothing to do with the church. It is the church planter's job to guard that space.

10. What are some examples of teaching series for the early core group?

  • Talk about the vision of the church over and over again.
  • Teach whatever helps your team grow as disciples. 
  • Avoid preaching a lot of sermons at early launch team meetings, they are for growing and loving one another.

11. How do you shape the prayer life of the early core group?

  • Prayer begins with the leader. Let the team know what your personal prayer life looks like.
  • Pray for the personal needs of the group. People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.
  • Pray for the church plant and where it's going to go.
  • Get a devoted prayer leader on your team, so you know there is prayer going on behind the scenes everyday.