Something in their experience of God makes them unusually unsettled in more traditional church ministry and drives them to reach new people for the kingdom.
This trait may get them labeled as non-conformists or create suspicion in our connectional appointive system, even if they are loyal United Methodists. They may be unusually impatient with business as usual in UMC life. They have apostolic zeal. They have experience leading people to Christ and discipling them.
They have history in at least one vibrant and growing church (possibly in a previous healthy new church start).
Knowing intuitively what a healthy, vibrant church feels like and what is normal for growing ministries that are evangelizing people are invaluable experiences for a new church planter.
They are self-aware and coachable.
They have taken spiritual gifts and personality inventories and understand themselves, personality traits, strengths and weaknesses, and generally what makes them tick. They are coachable and open to this resource as a means to even greater effectiveness in ministry. Studies have shown that church planters who are coached grow their congregations 50% larger and more quickly than planters who are go it alone.
They have affinity for the mission field and the mission field has affinity for them.
They know the territory where they are planting and really love it. They have often lived in the community or in very similar communities or have had previous experiences in getting to know the community, so they begin with good instincts. If not, they team with such people.
They already have a network of relationships in the community where they will be planting.
These relationships may be largely within the context of a sponsoring or partnering church where they have served on staff for a time before leaving to plant. They may have gone to school in the community.
They have strong support from their spouse and family.
They and their spouse (if applicable) are at peace and unified about the ministry of new church development and they have embraced the sacrifices entailed. New church projects are hard on marriages. Marriages that are under severe stress or break early in the plant jeopardize the future of the new church.
They demonstrate a vibrant faith.
The landmark study of successful mainline planters detailed in the book Extraordinary Leaders for Extraordinary Times revealed that effective planters have a strong sense of calling, deeply established prayer habits, and keen understanding that church planting is a God thing.
They have demonstrated history of building relationships in the community and leading these friends into church life.
The best test in assessing high-potential planters is past behavior. No behavior has more relevance than past experience leading unchurched people to Christ and/or to church.
They are catalytic innovators.
They have a history of leading successful start-ups. This relates to the “entrepreneurial gene” typically found in good planters. It almost always has evidenced itself prior to the church plant. In earlier life they may have started a small business, grown a youth ministry, led a major initiative in their college sorority or a guided a social justice project, mobilizing diverse parties from across the community. They may have started a church before and be ready to do it again.
They are competent vision-casters.
Though styles and cultural norms vary across racial-ethnic groups, high-potential prospects are good communicators, able to deliver compelling and culturally relevant sermons. Good planters typically look you in the eye, talk to you in plain language about real life and how Christ makes a difference and why this new church is the best thing since sliced bread. They come across to unchurched people as down to earth and relevant.
They are tenacious.
Church planters have a “won’t give up” and “won’t back down” disposition that enables them to ride the sometimes rough currents of ministry. Problems, obstacles and failures cause them to step back, reconsider other options and press forward again. Sometimes this comes across to the institutional church as arrogance, stubbornness or ego, as if these are necessarily negative things. Tenacity is a welcome trait found in high capacity church planters.
They are team builders and understand the value of replicating themselves and giving ministry away.
It is important to look for planter-types who have either the experience of building solid teams (beginning with a launch team) for ministry or recognize the importance of this and welcome coaching and training in this area.
They are deeply committed to The United Methodist Church.
They are willing to support The United Methodist Church and to plant a church which they eventually will give over to another pastor whom the bishop appoints.