Keeping Core Members In A Church Plant

I often hear church planters say to expect to lose half the original core members within the first year of a new church plant. While I agree that is the trend, I don’t think it has to be that way.  I am now in my second plant.  With this second church we went about the core selection in a very methodical way, fully intending to keep all original core members if possible.

I love the fact that 3 and half years after we launched every one of our core members are still actively supporting Grace Community Church.  (We did have one couple move, but we knew they were going to before we launched and they return often and still support us financially.  Another couple moved to accept a call to ministry, but they are back with us at the time of this post waiting for God’s next assignment for them.)

As the founding pastor, I actually interviewed all potential core members a couple of months before we had our first informational meeting.  (I have a co-pastor, but he had not committed to the plant at this step in our formation.)  Everyone I talked with was told they “may receive an invitation in the coming weeks to an informational meeting”.  Not everyone I talked with was invited.  It wasn’t that they weren’t great people.  In fact, I only talked with great people. It was that we were looking for some certain characteristics of great people.

What makes a successful core group?  Some of these we didn’t understand until a year or more into our launch, but we are so glad God led us to these characteristics.

Here are the common characteristics of our original core members:

1.    The people were placed on our hearts before we ever approached them. Cheryl and I both agreed I should talk with each one.

2.    They were passionate about the church plant from the first conversation. We didn’t have to talk them into being core members. You might say we looked for the Mary heart not the Zechariah heart. (Luke 1) If they asked “When?” it was different then if they asked “Why?”

3.    They had a holy discontent with their current walk with Christ.  They knew they wanted something more, but didn’t know how to address it.

4.    They understood and were willing to own the vision as their own. They were willing to sacrifice and, once we started, would have planted the church even if no one else ever came.

5.    They planned from the beginning to contribute time, money and resources to the cause. (Everyone assumed responsibility.)

6.    Although not a requirement, every man I met with (I met individually with the man first) got teary-eyed during the initial conversation about the church plant.

Obviously planting a church should be a work of the Holy Spirit.  As you are praying for the people God wants to use in this way, trust the impressions He places on your heart.  You are certainly not a failure should you lose core members. I would encourage people to go elsewhere if their heart is not in it, but I do believe it is possible to keep all core members in a new church plant.

If you are a church planter or part of a church plant, how did you find core members?

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5 thoughts on “Keeping Core Members In A Church Plant

  1. I made the mistake of picking talent. Any they walked away.

    Someone told me to pick Heart over Talent . . . and I agree.

    Recently Carl Lentz, Judah Smith and Phil Dooley all said pick camaraderie over heart over talent . . . and I agree. You have to be able to do life with these core members not just serve in a Church like other congregation members.

  2. I am part of the core leadership of a 6 1/2 year old church plant. We were chosen by God’s leading us all in the same direction at the same time. There were twelve of us in the beginning. Now there are six, and another couple that was on the “fringe” at the beginning has stepped up. It’s been a God-thing all along. We’re growing together, closer than ever. Could I put a finger on how? Only by saying that there’s been a lot of sacrificing of self. We’ve learned to let go of “our” things and cling to God’s. Not always easy, but definitely always right.

  3. Great thoughts here! we’re not planting any churches in the near future but I see how this applies to pretty much any “big change” that is going to be made in the church. Thanks!

  4. It has been an incredible thing to still serve with the core team here at GCC. Thanks for the post Ron, Glad we can talk through this process. God did a special thing with that group of people and they let go and let others join the dream every step of the way. It has been fun!