How Planters Can Learn from Baseball: On Building a Church-Planting Farm System

Kansas City Royals GM Dayton Moore said in a recent statement that he plans to spend the next two-to-three years restocking the organization’s farm system. For those of you who don’t speak baseball, a farm system is a network of minor-league teams affiliated with a Major League team. Players for the Royals’ minor league teams are under contract with the Royals organization, meaning that they can be “called up” at any point to join the Royals’ forty-man roster.

In other words, a farm system is a system of players with potential–a place where they can spend years developing their skills under the instruction of experienced coaches. The Royals don’t have the expendable capital of the New York Yankees or Chicago Cubs, so a farm system is important because, when well managed, it becomes a wealth of resources upon which the team can draw when in need of developed players in the future.

For example, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer both spent time in the Royals’ farm system before heading to The Show. Dayton Moore’s plan is to spend some time strengthening the system in the hopes that in the next few years it will begin to churn out more World-Series caliber players.

Church planters can take a lesson from the world of baseball here. If you hope to multiply, your plant needs a farm system. That is, you need a structured and organized way of developing future leaders in your plant.

How do you do that?

I sat down with a couple of experienced pastors and planters to find out.

1. Start a residency program.

Identify potential leaders in your plant and invite them to become residents. For some plants, this will be a very structured, organized endeavor involving regular residency meetings with pastors and elders, writing and presenting papers on particular theological and pastoral topics, preparing and delivering sermons for evaluation, and so on.

For other plants, it might be less structured. But the point is a simple one: you need to have some kind of plan in place for how you will develop future leaders.

2. Grant your residents an all-access pass to your ministry.

For many planters, pastoring your plant is a daily grind involving meetings with members, holding office hours, sermon preparation, hospital visits, and the like. Invite your resident to take part in those things. Grant him a peek behind the curtain at the ins and outs of pastoral ministry. Take him to visit a sick church member. Let him sit in on a meeting. Show him how you prepare your sermons.

In other words, grant your resident exposure to the realities of church-planting ministry. A potential player cannot learn how to play baseball in theory alone. Nor can your resident learn how to do ministry in theory alone.

3. Develop the person, not the vision.

One planter shared a story about a resident who aspired to be a pastor of teaching and preaching but had no apparent gifts in those areas. It became clear during this young man’s residency that his gifts involved providing biblical counseling for hurting people. Thus, biblical counseling became the focus of his residency.

Here’s the point: your resident will have personal strengths and weaknesses, natural gifts and deficiencies. It is your job to identify these and develop him accordingly. You cannot make a 6’7″, 230-pound first baseman into a short stop. Nor can you make a resident into something that he is not.

4. Think theologically and practically.

Good theology is vital, but a good theologian will not always make a good pastor. Strive to marry theological and practical considerations for your resident. It is important for him to have strong and consistent views of atonement, original sin, and the like. It is also important for him to know how to write by-laws and conduct business meetings.

5. Utilize NAMB resources.

This is a shameless plug. The NAMB Church Planting Pipeline in particular is a great resource for those looking to discover and develop future planters. It allows for up to three years of thinking and training for future church planters, and covers a total of thirty church-planting competencies. You can learn more about it here.

To summarize…

Take the following steps to develop your plant’s farm system:

  1. Launch a residency program intended to identify and train future planters.
  2. Allow your residents to see the ins and outs of church-planting ministry.
  3. Keep your resident’s strengths and weaknesses in mind.
  4. Utilize the wealth of resources available through the North American Mission Board–particularly the Church Planting Pipeline.



5 Ways Planters Can Protect Themselves from Sexual Scandal

Vice President Mike Pence set off a Twitter firestorm a few months ago when he stated that he observes a couple of simple rules to protect his marriage. First, he said that he refuses to be alone with a woman who is not his wife. Second, he said that he avoids attending events featuring alcohol if his wife is not with him. His opponents called him a bigot, a pervert, and a sexist.

Weeks later, Hollywood erupted in a volcanic explosion of sexual misconduct allegations against men like Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer. Maybe if these men had employed Mr. Pence’s rules to their own lives, their integrities and careers would still be intact.

But the point is this: in a culture that is hypersensitive to issues of sexual misconduct, and in an age when an accusation is as good as a conviction, public figures must protect themselves. Church planters must protect themselves. The healths of their marriages, families, and ministries depends on it.

I sat down with a few experienced church planters and pastors to discuss this issue. Here are a few pieces of advice I jotted down during our conversation.

1. Avoid private messaging.

Church planters are pastors, and pastors must interact with female church and staff members. Keep these encounters public. Avoid private-message exchanges via Facebook, Twitter, or texting. In the event that a woman sends you a private message, get another person’s eyes on that message thread as soon as possible.

2. Hold meetings in public.

If a female church or staff member asks for a one-on-one meeting, move that meeting to a public place. Private meetings with women are often the breeding ground for inappropriate relationships, so eliminate the possibility of encroaching upon dangerous territory by making your meetings as visible as possible.

3. Share issues brought to you with your fellow pastors/elders.

Some will object to this rule, asking, “But what about confidentiality?”

Keeping a church member’s private affairs confidential is important, but not more important than preserving your integrity. Your people should know that you have to share with your fellow pastors for the sake of transparency and accountability.

That is not to suggest that you should betray the confidence of your people–only that you should establish policies in order to protect yourself from completely private and potentially-dangerous interactions with female church and staff members.

4. Involve your wife.

Tread lightly here. As I mentioned before, you do not want to betray your people’s confidence. Your wife does not need to know every detail of their private lives. She does, however, need to know about your interactions with other women. If possible, she needs to be involved in them. If a woman wants to discuss a sensitive issue with you, ask if it is okay to involve your wife in that discussion. Better yet, ask the woman in question if she would like to meet with your wife one-on-one.

5. Be vigilant.

You might think that you are not vulnerable to moral failure, but you are. Just as pride cometh before the fall, so a false sense of invulnerability cometh before the failure. The moment you begin to think that sexual scandal cannot happen to you is the moment that you will cease to employ these common-sense rules. Remain vigilant.

Note: This post resulted from a conversation with Matt Marrs of Northland Baptist Church, Craig Coppenbarger of Valor Church, Joshua Hedger of Emmaus KC, and Christian Williams of The Grove.


Plant Profile: The Church in Waldo

Send KC church planter Peter Assad has never met a stranger. He exudes an unreserved, approachable aura that makes him easy to talk with and hard to outdo in kindness—a kindness which allows him to accept your offer to pay for his coffee only if he can pay for your lunch. As we sit discussing the ins and outs of balancing a young church plant and a family—his wife Grace, children Annie and Wes, and a third little Assad on the way—a woman with three small children in tow approaches Peter in obvious distress. He puts his work on hold and takes a few minutes to minister to her.

Peter Assad is, in short, the sort of church planter that Waldo—and Kansas City—needs.

The son of a father from Syria and a mother from Lebanon, a desire for racial unification in the body of Christ helped to shape Peter’s church planting journey. “I don’t like this talk about ‘color blindness’ in the church,” he says. “The people of God ought to strive for unity through our diversity.”

And such is the kind of unity Peter desires to see take hold at The Church in Waldo. Upon his arrival in Kansas City, Peter began to notice the obvious divides erected between the white community and people of color.

As one whose passion for evangelism began at a young age and developed into a call to and desire for domestic missions, Peter recognizes that the answer to issues of racial division does not lie within the halls of government. “Unity won’t be achieved through social programs,” he says. “Unity will only take hold through the gospel.”

But Peter is quick to point out that racial reconciliation is only one of many types of reconciliation the gospel provides. It is hope for the broken and the hurting, mercy for the suffering, community for the lonesome. And God’s chosen agency for the proclamation of the gospel? The church.

Unfortunately, “church” is a word that the Waldo community greets with natural skepticism. “But it’s a word I’m willing to fight for,” Peter says.

And fight for it he has. Since opening its doors in January of 2016, TCIW has nearly doubled its membership, not including several attendees involved in the current membership process. It has celebrated eleven new believers and seven baptisms. But Peter and his team do not take credit.

“In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said, ‘I will build my church,’ and we believe he meant it,” reads TCIW’s website. “We desire to be a local expression of that same church Jesus promised He would build—a church that the gates of hell would never prevail against. So as His body, as His church, as the hands and feet of Jesus, we press in. As we learn from Jesus to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly, we dig deep and reach out to make known through word and action this glorious Savior we’ve come to know.”

Learn more about The Church in Waldo here.



On Casting Vision

You will often hear church leaders quote Proverbs 29:18 when discussing the importance of vision casting. That is, you will often hear them quote the first part.

Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained.

But there’s an oft-neglected second half to the text. Here it is in its entirety:

Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained.

But happy is he who keeps the Law.

The parallelism here likens a lack of vision to a failure to keep God’s law. In other words, the verse in its context says little about what we might think of as “vision casting.” In reality, it is a statement on the importance of obedience.

That leaves a lot of leaders scrambling for a biblical basis for vision casting. Where do we see it in Scripture? Where is it commanded? Where is it modeled?

The troublesome reality is that you will be hard pressed to find an explicit reference to or model for vision casting in the Bible. The general idea is present. Especially in the Old Testament, faithful people waited on a vision from the Lord before taking action. The disciples awaited the Holy Spirit’s coming in the upper room before establishing the church in Jerusalem. The Spirit himself directed the church to set Paul and Barnabas aside for the missions set before them.

As such, the desire for a direct vision from God is not a bad thing. But consider the advantages the missionary of today enjoys that the apostles and early disciples did not–namely, the complete canon of Scripture. What vision can you hope for that is not already present in the sufficient, inspired Word of God?

Jesus already cast the perfect vision for his church, and he did so more than once. In Matthew 16, Jesus promised to build his church on the foundation laid by the apostles. In Matthew 18, he envisioned his church as an embassy of heavenly accountability and grace. In Matthew 28, he gave his disciples explicit instruction on how to build the church. He also made strong statements about the scope of the church’s mission, saying that it will include disciples of all nations.

Who can improve upon that?

“But wait,” you might say. “Doesn’t NAMB assess potential planters on their abilities to cast vision?”

Yes, it does. But not in the way you might think. When a NAMB assessor asks you to describe your vision, he is looking for a specific plan. Where do you aim to plant? Why did you choose that community? What strategies will you employ to gain credibility in that community? When do you aim to launch? Do you have a launch team? How are they involved?

In other words, “vision casting” within the world of church planting needs to do two fundamental things:

  1. It ought to assume that Jesus already cast the perfect vision for building his church. In simpler terms, he already established “the bottom line.”
  2. It ought to outline a specific strategy for contributing to Jesus’s “bottom line.” What steps will you take to make and baptize disciples? How do you plan to teach them all that God has commanded?

In sum, vision casting is, at its heart, equal parts trust and hard work. You must first trust that Jesus will keep his promise to build his church. The work is ultimately his. That does not, however, give you a free pass to slack off. God is moving in and through his church. How do you plan to join him there?





8 Church Planting Lessons Learned the Hard Way

Editor's Note: S/O to Matt Maestas, who directs the NAMB Assessment Center in KC, for writing this guest post. This piece is condensed from a series of posts on failure at his own blog. If you'd like to read all three, you can start here.

It took me five years to write this. It took me five years to come to a place where I am healthy enough to admit, without qualification, that I failed. Why without qualification? From the day we closed De Soto Community Church, the first and only church I have planted—the first church I gave my blood, sweat, and tears—I could admit failure, but only while including others in the blame. Yes, I had failed, but if this person hadn’t done x, or if only I had known y, things might have been different. But as Joco Willinck and Leif Babin say in their true and helpful book Extreme Ownership:

Any team, in any organization, all responsibility for success and failure rests with the leader. The leader must own everything in his or her world. There is no one else to blame. The leader must acknowledge mistakes and admit failures, take ownership of them, and develop a plan to win.

So how did I fail?

1. I didn’t pursue enough training.

I am thankful that the North American Mission Board (NAMB), has created more paid pathways for internship and apprenticeship in order to aid those called into church planting. When I began my planting journey, as I was completing my M.Div. at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, there weren’t internships and apprenticeships available at the level they are now. Furthermore, I didn’t know anyone planting anywhere in the city. To pursue more training would have meant a move to a different city for at least a year and a need to raise support. While these realities are reasonable and necessary, I wasn’t disciplined enough, nor was I willing to walk that path. As a result, not only did I suffer, but my church plant suffered too.

2. I didn’t submit to assessment.

As director of our NAMB Assessment Center in Kansas City, I often find myself jealous of the high-caliber assessment our potential planters receive today. Assessment was a requirement when I was planting, but there wasn’t a clear and defined expectation for what assessment should look like. In my case, assessment involved meeting regularly with men I knew and trusted and receiving feedback from them. While these men loved and cared for me, a level of detachment from my assessors and me would have done wonders in pointing out areas of concern along my planting journey.

3. I failed to raise support.

When I began planting, my wife and I had no children and she was working a $12/hour job. Our needs were not burdensome and I wasn’t comfortable with the idea and mechanics of raising support. As a result, I didn’t raise much support at all. While in the beginning this didn’t seem like a large burden, it hamstrung us down the road when it came time to rent worship space, send out material, and buy simple things like signage. While money isn’t the most important factor in determining the success of a church plant, the lack of resources can be detrimental, especially when attempting a big push after creating momentum from ministry wins.

4. I didn’t recruit and train.

I took a Revelation 22:7 approach to recruitment: “Whosoever will…come!” That was a terrible way to call people into spiritual warfare. Of those that came with me when I planted, not one remained when I closed the doors. Many of those on the initial team I recruited never moved to the community.

Secondly, I didn’t bring an experienced leader with me. While I had served on staff at a church prior to this and led in other areas of ministry, I had never led a group of people at such a level before. The combination of my lack of senior leadership, my age when I planted (twenty-six), and the fact that my wife and I had no children at the time led to a reluctance from my congregation to follow someone unseasoned. Planting with a plurality of leadership voices, including with those from different phases of life, would have served to guide me better through difficult decision making.

Of the whosoevers who came, I assumed a level of Biblical knowledge, missional behavior, and ownership of vision they didn’t possess. My team’s lack of equipment in those areas was my fault. Since I didn’t prepare and train them, it shouldn’t have surprised me when they failed, or consequently when we failed.

5. I launched too soon. 

While our core group had been meeting for several months before we moved to the community where we planted, our family had only been in town about three months when we held our first preview service. Most of those who came were well wishers and servants from our sending church about twenty-five minutes away. I didn’t give myself enough time to build relational and missional credibility in the community before we began worshiping weekly.

Furthermore, while we did a great job serving in the community once we launched, that service should have started months before the first worship gathering and lasted much, much longer.

Additionally, while I thought everyone was on the same page with the vision, purpose, and mission of the church, as well as how we would pursue and fulfill that mission, the truth is that they weren’t. The responsibility of casting clear and compelling vision was mine, and while it was clear in my mind and heart, I’m not sure our people embodied it well. It didn’t translate, even though it sounded really cool. As Brian Sanders said, “If you have to remind people of the vision every seven days, there’s a good chance they don’t own it.”

6. I didn’t listen.

Insufficient listening has a direct relationship with unpreparedness. When those in the church came to me with legitimate concerns, I should have taken time to listen. Instead of slowing down, practicing pastoral patience, and listening more intently, I used my vision as a stick to beat people with. That practice resulted in feelings of inadequacy and guilt in those who, in my eyes, just didn’t get it.

7. I didn’t capitalize on the victories.

God did a lot of incredible things in De Soto. The Gospel was preached, lives were changed, and the name of Jesus had a good reputation in the community through the work of which we were a part. Our neighbors grieved when we left. Civic and governmental leaders voiced sadness we were closing. Teachers and school administrators were also saddened. Yet when the good things which led to that sadness happened, I didn’t celebrate. When our members gave of their time for sports camps and block parties, I didn’t honor them. When we received more contacts than we could handle at outreach events, I didn’t follow up as I should have. Many times these things occurred because I never asked and equipped others to join me in the work.

8. I wasn’t humble enough.

I let my youthful arrogance get in the way. I didn’t walk closely enough with others who could speak with clarity, honesty, and insight into my life and leadership. Those people who could have helped weren’t there because I didn’t invite them in. Young leaders must fight for other people to pour into our lives. One constant in the lives of the leaders we most want to emulate in our lives and ministry is a full schedule. If we want time with them, we must remain teachable and persistent. I wasn’t. Saying you didn’t meet with your coach that month because he or she didn’t respond to your one call or email is on you and you alone.

So what lessons can we learn from Matt's story?

1. Pursue training at whatever cost. 
2. Submit yourself to assessment and counsel. 
3. Work hard to raise support. 
4. Recruit and train. 
5. Launch only when ready. 
6. Listen. 
7. Capitalize on victories. 
8. Humble yourself. 

Matt recognizes why he failed, but he's glad that he did. You can read why here.


Send KC Plant Suffers Vandalism, Offers Forgiveness

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. – Matthew 5:43-44 

Pastor Mike Roy and members of Pathway Church suffered thousands of dollars in vandalism damage this month. A security camera caught on tape a nineteen-year-old man shattering the glass front doors to Pathway Church’s meeting space in Raymore, MO before destroying the camera itself. When all was said and done, the young man had destroyed at least $25,000 worth of furniture, electrical equipment, and more.

While Pastor Mike trusts authorities to hold the vandal responsible for his actions, he was quick to offer forgiveness. “Our heart went out to the young man and we’re very concerned for him. We believe that the legal and law enforcement system needs to take its course. It needs to do its job but we are also concerned for him and praying for him,” he said. “It did raise concern in us that he expressed anger toward God. Down the road we are interested in helping him more directly if we possibly could.”

You can watch local news coverage of the vandalism and Pastor Mike’s response here.



4 Ways to Catalyze Evangelism & Discipleship In Your Plant’s Community

At a recent planter gathering here in Kansas City, one of our planters asked the following question during roundtable discussion:

What can I do to better create a culture of evangelism and discipleship in my plant?

No doubt this is a question with which a lot of church planters struggle. Many times, growth does not meet expectations, and the result can be a lot of disappointment and frustration.

A few Send KC planters offered suggestions too good not to share.

1. Do a few things well rather than many things poorly.

This may seem obvious, but many planters stretch themselves and their limited resources too thin. Find one or two areas where your plant can excel and grant those areas priority. Are your people hospitable? Try hosting an event for your community. Are they generous and faithful givers? Adopt a local school and provide lunches and classroom supplies for underprivileged students.

In other words, strive for excellence in a couple of areas instead of striving for mediocrity in several.

2. Meet five new people each month.

Churches cannot grow if leaders do not form new relationships. Go to the same places at the same times–the gym, grocery store, a favorite coffee shop, etc. Set a tangible goal to use those places to form five new relationships each month. With time and consistency, those relationships can grow into friendships, and those friends may grow into disciples.

At the least, people in your community ought to know you and like you. Strive to make that happen.

3. Burn your ship.

Many communities are used to seeing churches and their leaders come and go. Make the sort of investments in your community that show you are there to stay. Evangelism and discipleship conversations in your community will grow out of honest efforts to become entrenched in your environment.

Don’t just live in your city or town, be a neighbor. Attend PTA meetings. Establish rapport with local business owners. Befriend local elected officials. In other words, prove that you care enough about your community to stay in it.

4. Prove your credibility.

“Can I trust this guy?” is the question people in your community are asking themselves. What have you done to prove you are worthy of their trust? Sadly, many people outside the church think of Christians as people who claim to care about others but really don’t.

One group member shared how his church adopted the local police department and committed to providing care packages for its officers–boxes filled with granola bars, pens and pencils, flashlights, Bibles, etc. Simple gestures like that can show the community that you care. Consistency in those gestures can show that they aren’t just a gimmick–a lead-in to your sales pitch.

In sum…

In order to catalyze evangelism and discipleship in your plant’s community:

  1. Do a few things well.
  2. Meet five new people each month.
  3. Burn your ship.
  4. Prove your credibility.

Excellence in these areas is sure to help demolish boundaries between you and your community and enable you to carry the gospel to people near to you and far from God.


The Send KC Team