Building a Great Team (An Excerpt from “Church Planting 101”)
Douglas Crumbley

Douglas Crumbly is a church planter, pastor, entrepreneur, author, husband and dad of three daughters. He was born in the sleepy small town just north of Atlanta in Rome GA and still resides there with his family and the church that he leads. ( Douglas has a passion for the people of God to find their purpose and follow the plan that God has for their life. With a strong belief that the greatest days of the church are still ahead, Douglas pursues this purpose through leadership, prayer, his mandate to see Heaven invade our churches, and mentoring/fathering other pastors and ministry leaders. Click here to learn more about and order “Church Planting 101.”

Building a Great TeamAs we have already learned, it is important to build your launch team with people who are leaders, godly, smart, talented, and exemplify great soundness and character. If you have to fudge in any of the areas, never fudge on character or their ability to lead others.

Every church-planter’s top priority should be to build a great team of leaders around them.

In this chapter I will show you what ingredients every great team has. I will teach you the ingredients that every team member must have. I will show you how to attract these leaders, and I will show you how to release these leaders to succeed.

But first, let me give you the definition that we have adopted of what a team is: a small group of people from three to twelve that shares common goals as well as the rewards and responsibilities for achieving them.

What Every Great Team Has

Every great team that has accomplished much has many of the same common denominators. They are constant, and are the same ingredients whether the team is leading a church, a business, or a military operation. They are what they are, and the sooner your team is built with these definite qualities, the more apt for a successful church plant that you will have.

Number 1
Great teams will always have a shared mentality that strives for the bigger picture.

This does not mean that every person on the team is a big picture thinker. On the contrary. It does mean however, that the outcome of every decision on every front has the big picture of the ministry in view. They are always asking how each decision affects the ministry as a whole, the vision as a whole, and the mission of the entire ministry. This is the major difference between a committee led church, and a team led church. Committees are concerned how the decisions of the ministry affect their area. Teams are concerned how their decisions affect the overall ministry.

Number 2
Great teams always come back to what the vision and mission is.

For the vision is solidified in the hearts of the people of your church, you will have to continually fight for it. Make no mistake here. Distractions in the form of good ideas, motivations, and needs will shout at you from the housetops, but you will have to fight to keep these good things from becoming replacements for the great things. Great teams filter everything through the vision that God has given to you, the leader.

Number 3
Great teams are not moved by issues, instead, they move issues with their mission emphasis.

This one is the most difficult to teach from a laboratory setting. It’s one of those things that you can practice and become proficient at while in the clinic, but until you are faced with this, you’ll still not be able to grasp the toughness of this one.

Let me give you a scenario that you will face.

In the early days of your church you will have hundreds of voices crying out for your direct attention. And whether you’ve realized it or not, God did not make any of us with infinite powers to be in more than one place at a time. You may feel anointed at times, and begin to think that you are Holy Spirit junior, but I can tell you that is the pizza that you ate the night before talking to you. You are only going to be able to do what you can do, and although many may get upset and even leave your church because they want a pastor whom they can call on at any time with any little whim they have, you’ll only be crippling your church by giving in to that.

Be there for your launch team, elders, board and leaders when they need you. But for the rest, be there when you are able, and in the mean time build out systems and small groups to facilitate the ministry these people are crying out for.

In other words, great teams are not moved by the so-called knee jerk reactions that many pastors lead their church with. And seriously, hundreds of pastors lead their entire ministry this way and it’s keeping the churches in America small. If you want a larger church, learn to be willing to work the system, build out systems, and implement them so that more people are being ministered to.

Number 4
Great teams do not make decisions based on the whims and knee jerk reactions of a few loud people.

This sounds a lot like number three, and it may be very similar. When you plant your church you will have many, many people making many, many suggestions about what you and the leadership of the church should be doing. These things will always fall into one of three categories.

  1. Things we should be doing.
  2. Things we should never do.
  3. Things we should do later

Never be afraid of the hurt feelings that people will probably have when they are told no. The vision is way too important than the feelings of a few people.

Number 5
Great teams are not afraid of conflict among the team members. In fact, conflict is encouraged.

This is the one part of team leadership that I enjoy teaching to spirit-filled leaders the most. We are so used to not questioning our leaders, praising the celebrity status of some, and fear that we may in some way touch God’s anointed that we fail to use the gifts, strengths and anointing that God has given to us. The people whom God sends to you are not there just to serve your every whim. God anointed them with gifts that you do not have! Trust them and allow them to speak into the ministry’s life. Allow them to speak into your life. I want you to think about something. Most of your leaders will have given, sacrificed, and followed the dream with as much passion as you have. Treat them as leaders that God has sent to you. Make them your first ministry priority and you will be amazed at the growth of your church.

Number 6
Great teams are not afraid to pay the price for greatness.

In his book, The Indisputable Laws of Teamwork, John Maxwell spells out that there are four prices each team member must pay for the team to be successful. They are as follows:

  1. Sacrifice
  2. Time Commitment
  3. Personal Development
  4. Unselfishness

I strongly suggest you insure all of your team members have job descriptions that clearly spell out your expectations. This won’t solve all of your issues, but it will go a long way in making leading your church more manageable.

Number 7
Great teams are leading teams.

You will have to know the difference between leading and managing. Leading always has the future in mind, managing always has the present in mind. Leading asks, “Where can we go?”, managing asks, “Where are we at?”. And while both are necessary, please hear me, in the beginning there will need to be a whole lot more leading than just the management of the church.

You must come to the realization that your church is not limited by status quo, traditions, policies, or management. It can literally become exactly all that you and your team dream what it should be. Don’t be afraid to lead!

In the early days of your church launch there will be and should be a lot of creative brainstorming and dreaming of what your church will look like in the future. Along with that, once decisions have been made, it will be up to the leaders of your team to actually go and make them happen. I suggest finding a great project manager who is really good and proficient at note-taking, emails, gathering information, and at keeping the entire team on a good management track.

The Qualities of Every Great Team Member

There is so much that I could say about the qualities you will need to look for in a team member. And because everyone will be on his or her best behavior during the first year, you will need to dig deep. The following are a few suggestions for further exploration in mining out the truth about a person, BEFORE they are asked to serve on your launch team.

  1. Look at their FaceBook page. And not just the current posts, go back a couple of years or as far back as you can. If you see a few posts that are red flags to you, you better pay attention to them. Any flaws in character will only be magnified and harmful if put into a leadership position.
  2. Contact their former pastor or pastors and ask the following questions:
    1. How long were they with you?
    2. How well did they serve?
    3. What are their strengths/weaknesses?
    4. How did they treat people?
  3. Do a spiritual gifts AND a Strengths finder profile on them.
  4. Run a nation-wide background check on each leader as well as have one ran on yourself.

Your team needs to be made of of people who are loyal to the vision, the leadership team, and are full of intense passion for the new church plant.

In short, you are looking for people of integrity, character, and who also have a good temperament. This is not the place for insecure people who are pouters or hotheaded. They need to be people of their word, loyal and of course, spirit-filled.

How to Attract Leaders

If you are not good at leadership, and most people are not and have to be trained in it, I suggest that you take time to learn leadership before you begin the process of starting a church. Where is the best place to really learn leadership? A conference? A book, or through a few Mp3’s? Although these should be used and you should take advantage of them often if not daily, I believe that the local church where you are currently attending to be the best place to learn how to lead.

I recommend sitting down with the leadership at the church you currently are worshipping at and volunteer to lead a class, a small group, or serve on the leadership team somewhere in the ministry. Tell them about your plans to plant a life-giving church and that you are seeking to learn and grow as a leader yourself. Ask for their permission to literally grow that aspect of the ministry and then go for it. You will be amazed at how much you will learn after a year or two of helping someone else build out their ministry, and then how much better and more equipped you will be when it comes time to plant your own church.

Think about it. Leadership is Leadership. If you cannot get people to attend and be active in the Sunday School class you lead, how in the world are you going to be successful at launching a church? If you can’t get along with team members serving in a children’s ministry, how will you ever build a top leadership team for the entire church with high impact leaders? If you are not able to host and grow a small group of twelve people in your home, how will you grow a church to a hundred plus?

I know that it would be much easier to give you ten steps to attract top leaders to your ministry. But, I would only be frustrating you if I did just like many of the church-planting books tend to do. There is no ten step program to attracting leaders that will fit every church planter no more than there are exact duplicates of fingerprints, or snowflakes. Each person is unique. How you attract leaders with your God given personality and quirks will have to be discovered through maturity, reading everything that you can on leadership, and then practice, practice, and practice. Other than telling you to improve your people and social skills, attracting people will be a learned/graced development that is necessary for every church planter to excel in. So, get busy with reading, developing skills to listen, communicating, and negotiation, and most importantly, volunteer to lead in some aspect at the church you attend.

Releasing Your Team to Lead

Many of the church leaders in our nation are where they are as a leader because of repeating learned behavior. They continue to get the same lack of results as the one they learned leadership from. Generally, it goes like this: a pastor will take a few bible scriptures, learn a few pet doctrines to begin with and teach, visit a couple of larger churches where the pastor is very domineering, and then try and model it. I’ve seen it dozens of times and dozens of times watched as the churches never get beyond a certain level of growth, traction and effectiveness.

It’s the Law of the Lid

The lead pastor’s inability to recognize that he is the one keeping his church from being effective has put a lid on the top of the organization. Regardless of how hard they may try to grow the church they continually keep hitting the same lid never realizing they are the problem! This is the reason many pastors tell me that their church will reach a certain level of growth, stop, fall back and grow to that level again. The whole cycle continues to repeat itself year after year. And MANY times leaders are needing a breakthrough, but have no idea that the kind of breakthrough that they need is not always spiritual! Sometimes, and most of the time, it’s a breakthrough in leadership.


If your idea of leading is being the boss, having everyone report to you, answer only to you, and jump at every command that you give, then enjoy having a church that will never be over thirty, or at the most, eighty people. Trust me when I say this, those days of growing the mega-church with an insecure domineering leader are over. You will have to release your leaders to lead.

At Journey my philosophy has always been this, Every decision needs to be made at the lowest level possible. I have not always adhered to this, but I am thankful for the strong leaders that I have surrounded myself with because they always remind me when I step out of the very team model of leadership that I helped to create.

Years ago a wise instructor taught me something very valuable about releasing those around me to lead. It was in the form of a question that I have never forgotten. He asked, “Why would God search all over the world in answer to your prayers, send you Spirit-filled, anointed, and gifted people with a passion for what they are called to do, and then expect you to not allow them to lead?”

This is a question that every church-planter should ponder often.

Click here to learn more about and order “Church Planting 101.”