Autonomous church planters should come under the authority of a church plant Management Team. Here’s what a Management Team is:
The New Testament makes a strong case for congregations being overseen by a plurality of Elders. But when you’re starting a new church from scratch, you won’t have Elders (and typically shouldn’t – more on that below).
There are different models of planting churches, but from a leadership structure standpoint, planters in my circles are starting new, legally autonomous congregations. So all of the leadership systems and structures they experienced in past ministries must be recreated for the new church.
A Management Team will function as your temporary Eldership. I’ll explore those roles in my next post; we’ll stick with form for today.
It Should Be External
Those installed on your church plant Management Team should meet the Biblical qualifications of being Elders. Even if you have a candidate or two that meet that criteria on your initial Launch Team, you should still have an external Management Team.
Ultimately, your ideal local Elders will be people who came to faith as adults at your church plant. They will own your mission & DNA like no other. But it’s important not to install your local Eldership too soon in the church plant for two reasons:
- You’re creating a new church culture; transfer Elders will come with another church’s DNA
- Promoting new believers to positions of spiritual authority too quickly can be destructive to all parties
Where to Find Them
There are different ways of going about assembling an external Management Team:
- If you have strong ties with a local mother/sending church, staff or Elders from that church could serve
- If several churches have formed a network to birth your church, a rep from each church could serve
- Your mentors and former ministry colleagues could serve
One thing to be sure of, though, is that the team you assemble is able to govern you. You need people who are willing to speak the hard truth to you and call you to account. Don’t assemble a toothless advisory board of yes-men.
Another thing you should strive for is diversity of age, wiring, background, race, etc. We were first called Christians in Antioch, where the leadership was diverse [Acts 13].
How Many Should Serve?
Your Bylaws will spell out how many should be on the team, but it should be no fewer than 3 (especially if it’s you and 2 others). You’re submitting to their collective authority, so you shouldn’t be able to out-vote them.
And especially for a church just getting started that has to move fast and make lots of decisions, I’d suggest not making the team too large. The 11-man squad pictured above would not be ideal.
Long Distance is OK
Though there may be some advantages to your church plant Management Team being local, today’s technology makes virtual meetings incredibly viable. So don’t let geography limit your pool of candidates.
How Often Should They Meet?
Again, this should be outlined in your Bylaws, but at the very beginning, your church plant Management Team will probably need to meet every month for an hour or two. This church plant thing is a moving target and there will be lots of decisions that need to be made quickly.