Teams are important for planting churches. The lone ranger approach just doesn’t cut it, particularly in council housing estates. Often, men ask me for my opinion on planting churches and one of the first questions I ask is this: ‘What is your main spiritual gifting?’ Almost 100% of the time the answer is Bible teacher, or preacher. Great gifts but wrong answer if you want to plant a church in an inner city area, at least.
You need five main abilities to be a lead church planter (in my experience). (1) evangelism (2) a personality (3) an ability to attract and inspire and (4) a desire and ability to train & equip (5) an entrepreneurial spirit. (We will assume an ability to handle the scriptures as axiomatic to our discussion).
Niddrie was a one-man band when I took over and that is why it was relatively dysfunctional in terms of reaching the community. Not because the previous incumbent was bad but because there was only one of him. We now have several full-time members of staff:
(1) A full time woman’s worker – necessary in an age of single mothers and needy females because it is inappropriate for a man to be carrying out this ministry. If you haven’t got a woman on your team then don’t plant on a housing scheme. More on this to follow.
(2) A full time youth worker and school’s worker – necessary for obvious reasons. The work needs a fully orbed and comprehensive strategy for reaching children and walking them through the age ranges until they become adults. More on this to follow.
(3) At least 1 full time pastoral assistant – we currently have 2. One gifted with people and the other in teaching the Bible. How long I keep them both is anybody’s guess. But I have them at the moment and I intend to use them and encourage them to the full extent of their growing abilities. More on this to follow.
(4) Several ‘interns’ learning a wide range of ministries. Sometimes a person will join us expecting to be great with children but they actually suck and move on to something else. Niddrie is a great proving field for young people wanting to explore if this type of ministry is for them. More on this to follow.
All of my co-workers receive ongoing theological training and are encouraged to either mentor and/or grow a small group of people (believers and unbelievers) around them for the purpose of ministry multiplication. Some rise to the challenge and some are incapable. This, in my opinion, is the best way to grow a work in an area like ours. Otherwise, one man is swamped by the needs of the many and actually becomes relatively ineffective for the gospel.
With teams come problems depending on how you manage them. I like the messy, gamblers approach to team building. There is not a person on my team who has not been a risk. They didn’t come with perfect credentials and fully orbed theological understanding. Some of them have been a bit naughty in the past and some of them require more coaching than others. But, all of them have a desire and a hunger to see the gospel proclaimed in Niddrie. And, they want to learn and grow. All-important factors.
My approach has caused problems over the years both in Brazil and the UK. People haven’t worked out as well as we would have liked. They were not ready, or they couldn’t cope with the cut and thrust of inner city work. Personal and moral failings previously hidden came to the fore. All causing stress and tension in the teams that I have led. But this is normal. We shouldn’t be seeking it but we should be embracing it as an opportunity to learn and to grow as leaders and as team members. What mistakes were made? How do we try and minimise them from happening again? What did we learn about ourselves? What would we do differently? All of these, painful though they are, are a part of the process of growing effective leaders.
The issue, I suspect, for many UK churches is looking for the ‘perfect candidate’ or the ‘safe bet’. The fresh faced eager beaver with his Dick Lucas DVD collection who’ll do a sterling job but is as about as inspirational and charismatic as the chairman of the John Major Underpants Appreciation Society. We will never train ‘indigenous leaders’ in places like Niddrie if we don’t take risks and gamble on the fact that we might hit 50 failures before we strike gold.
At the moment I have imported leaders in, but that’s OK, their job is to make a mess, establish contacts and keep the wider vision in mind. It’s not ideal but it’s a start and we’ll see whom the Lord sends our way over the coming years.
We will return to this topic again because it is so important.