Caring Beyond the Launch

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When Apollo 11 launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 16, 1969, the many staff in Houston knew the work wasn’t over. Though there were cheers and applause as the rocket left the pad, the job of seeing the crew land on the moon and return safely home was just beginning.

The same is true for church planting teams. Though they and those that send them cheer and applaud together on launch day, there is much work yet ahead. And a Planter Care Team is the “Houston” that supports the planter and his team as they continue the journey after 3-2-1 blastoff.

As pastors of sending churches grasp this reality, the beauty and necessity of Planter Care Teams will come into greater focus. Here are four observations from my own experience that will bring even more clarity to your church’s efforts at developing and deploying a plan for seeing a church planter and his team beyond their launch.

First, embrace the reality that planter care teams operate best when the members share the common elements of priority and proximity. In other words, the planter care team needs to feel close and be close. This happens best when there is time together in the natural flow of the week among those who sense a true burden and love for the planter.

Plain and simple, your planter(s) will usually find their best care from those within your staff. This is not to say non-staff people can’t or don’t care; not at all. But since care is evidenced through the four-letter word t-i-m-e, it is wise and practical to utilize the avenues where time together happens naturally and regularly.

Tip: Recruit a staff member to lead the Planter Care Team.

Second, develop a dual focus: the planter and the plant. Learn to think both relationally and geographically, seeing the needs of the planter and his team as well as the needs of the place where he and they will eventually land. Consider having the planter care team make periodic trips to the planter’s future location, showing sincere interest in things like their housing situation, school quality, and community needs.

Tip: Pray for the target area, and distribute demographic facts and figures to help your church and leaders better acquaint themselves with the plant location.

Thirdly, assign more, not less, to the planter and his team. We made the mistake early on of freeing our planters from tasks and opportunities in our church, thinking we were giving them more time to work on the plant. In reality, we were unintentionally cutting them off from life-giving moments and encouraging connections with people they knew, even potential future plant partners. We discovered we were exacerbating their sense of distance, not decreasing it.

We now require more, not less; we assign areas where things not only need developed in our church, but actually started as well. We “stack the deck” so that recruiting and relating within our faith family isn’t an option, but a non-negotiable. This kind of environment proves to actually be a relational greenhouse for the planter.

Tip: We often say, “If you’re not on their calendar you’re not in their life.” Review your planter’s monthly meetings and appointments to ensure there is proper people time within your church before they launch their church.

Finally, share the platform. Since visibility is credibility, find ways to share the platform with your planter and plant team. Ideally, rotate him into your speaking schedule during the time that he’s with you. Our planters stay for a year-long residency, and usually get 4-5 preaching opportunities. At other times, we have our planters consistently handle the congregational welcome and/or benediction, or they’ll lead our church-wide prayer times within the service. Additionally, those on their team who are musical join our worship team and assist that way. Of course, commission them before they launch and utilize your Planter Care Team in this moment for sure.

Regardless of how and who gets the visibility, remember that your affirmation is crucial. Acknowledge their role each time you follow or precede them; affirm their goals as well. Mention their team by name, and consistently communicate the launch date. Talk about the people who are caring for them, yet are staying here. Your words carry weight, so use them to help the planter and his team know they are cared for and not forgotten. This is the best way to show you have a loose grip with things that actually belong to God, and it displays that your planter has your full permission to do exactly what he’s there to do—plant!

Tip: Create moments where you and the planter are on the platform together. This one image of unity will do more to build confidence than even multiple singular opportunities and will communicate care and love in ways that go beyond words.

*This article originally appeared on the Send Network Blog.

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