7 Myths Uncovered About Church Planter Assessments

I was a huge skeptic. A new friend told me we needed to consider sending our newest potential campus pastor through a church planter assessment. I scoffed at the idea. I already knew our guy was awesome. Why would I go and spend a few thousand dollars just to confirm what I already knew? What a waste of money!

Thankfully my friend is a persuasive person. He encouraged me to, at very least, observe and I caved. With my arms crossed, I jumped on a plane to Vegas to watch an assessment in action. 

7 myths uncovered.png

As much as I hate fulfilling any stereotype, I was a HUGE one. I’m sure there were several people who heard me describe how we were “different” and I wasn’t sure this would work in our situation. Without a doubt, every other experienced assessor was just being polite as they waited for me to come around.  

And throughout our experience with assessments, we’ve uncovered 7 myths about church planter assessments.

  1. Assessments are only for church planters. //
    While the assessment is primarily targeted at church planters, it covers skills and competencies I believe all key staff members should have. It is common to see church planters, worship leaders, campus pastors, and various other staff hires attending assessment. For example, not every staff member will be pitching a missions board asking for money, but talking about money in a clear, professional, compelling manner is a valuable skill no matter what role you fill. 

  2. They won’t understand how church works in my region. They have no idea how we do things here. We are different! //
    You’re not that different. Your context might be, but leadership is leadership no matter where in the world you find yourself. Character and teamwork don’t change depending on which ocean you’re looking at. And if there are regional differences, the best assessments have someone from that team to help answer questions and provide perspective. 

  3. The people closest to our candidate have already validated their calling, why do we need the opinion of strangers? //
    I struggled with this at first, but it wasn’t long before I got nervous that I wanted our candidate to succeed because I like him. We had already been on a ministry journey together and I quickly feared this may cloud my judgment. Having a respected group of strangers take an analytical and experienced look at any candidate can help you validate things you weren’t 100% confident with, while also providing advice you wouldn’t otherwise have access to. A group of experienced assessors have no “sunk costs” with a candidate. They don’t have preconceived ideas about who a candidate is, or who they know. All they can see is the candidate in front of them. 

  4. They are too expensive. //
    Imagine this. You make a bad hire. How much have you spent on salary before you realize it? How long before you do something about it?  If we're going to spend 10 of thousands of dollars on this individual over the next year, a few thousand to make sure we’ve got a solid game plan is probably worth it. 

  5. How are you going to judge our candidate? They don’t even know him/her! //
    But they will. The goal going into each assessment is to deeply understand what makes each candidate unique. The best assessments encourage you or someone from your team to participate in the process to help provide a more intimate understanding of what makes each candidate unique. 

  6. Aren’t they just measuring me against a cookie cutter recipe? //
    Nope! They really are not. Every candidate is an individual and the goal of a great assessment is to give individualized specific feedback and coaching. The goal isn’t checking all the boxes on the checklist. It’s helping each unique child of God discover their best, most God-honoring next step. 

  7. Fine, but why is their spouse coming? //
    "If I'm the one in the designated ministry role, why does my spouse need to participate in the assessment?” is a question I think many candidates wrestle with. Especially those coming from larger churches. What we know about marriages is that they are a team. What happens to one effects the other. Not only does a spouse provide some perspective, but who else would you want on the journey with you. While not every spouse will be energized by the experience, they provide such a unique and powerful impact on the future, I can’t think of any other way to replicate. Trying to reach a God-given potential without them seems like it isn't possilbe...or healthy. 

I’d encourage you to consider sending your next church planter, campus pastor or staff hire through an assessment. Better yet, I’d encourage you to go with them. I’m willing to bet you walk away completely convinced that this will be an incredibly useful tool in your ministry tool belt. 

You can find more about the assessment we use on the Stadia Church Planting website

The 1 Question You Forget To Ask Before You Preach

When writing any message there are a number of questions that need to be answered. What do you want your audience to know? What do you want them to feel? What do you want them to do? What scripture do they need to understand? What problem are you highlighting? What theme are you developing? ...just to name a few.

But the most important question, the most overlooked question, must be answered first. And the answer to that question will change how you approach every other facet of your message. 

The question is this: Who are you speaking to?

The answer to that question isn’t a simple one and the more detail you can provide, the more personalized your message can become.

If we were to jump on the phone and I asked you that simple question, how would you answer?

(I encourage you to write the answers to these questions down every time you begin your message prep. In fact, grab a piece of paper and follow along right now.)

Let's unpack that simple question with some detail. 

How old are they?

This makes a difference. Their stage of life changes how they view your topic. Their life experience impacts their perspective and their reaction.

For example, if you speak about parenting, are there only young parents in the room? What if there are grandparents present? What about teens? How does what you’re saying impact them?

What gender are they?

How does your message apply to men? Does it apply differently to women?

Where are they in their faith journey?

This question is incredibly important and how you answer this question will eventually describe the audience you attract. If you decide that your audience consists of maturing believers and you speak only to how they can apply what you’re teaching, you will eventually only be speaking to maturing believers. People exploring faith will feel out of place and likely decide that what you are speaking about is out of reach.

On the contrary, if you only speak about issues that people exploring faith are dealing with, your maturing believers will eventually loose interest assuming that what you are saying doesn’t apply to them.

Understand that everyone is at a different part of their faith journey and speak to each one.

What socioeconomic factors are they dealing with?

Socioeconomics can effect the points of pain your audience feels. If you only use examples from one group it can be hard for another to relate. You might be dealing with the same core issue, but how it manifests itself may be different.

What is their family life/home life like?

Family and home life create the context for most people’s lives. Are they coming from a broken home? Are they coming from a stable home? Who’s working? Is it just mom, dad and the kids at home? Are their other parties involved (grandparents, roommates, etc)?

Where do they fit in the family?

How does your message apply to Dads? Does it apply differently to their children? And what if they are sitting next to each other…which they most likely are. Are you speaking to them individually or as a family unit?

This list is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a valuable place to start. Most importantly, understanding your audience is the difference between speaking to the group and speaking to the individual.

Understanding your audience is the difference between speaking to the group and speaking to the individual.
— StevenJBarker

Applying this to your message prep:

Before you write any message, clarify who your audience is. Understand them in detail and write it downl. Do this before you begin your message prep. Then jump in to your regular routine. 

When you get to your final product, review it through the eyes of your audience. As you rehearse, imagine you are speaking to specific individuals representing the "list" you created prior to your prep. Then make the necessary adjustments as you go. 

Answering that "most important question" will help create a message that will meet them where they are and help each member of your audience taking own spiritual next step. And that's what it's all about. 

Question of the day: What other questions do you ask to better understand your audience makeup?

How To Make Your Best Contribution to Your Team

Understanding your best contribution comes from appreciating how you impact the world around you.  It's valuable to know what gives you energy and what fills your tank, but even more than that it's important to know how you effect those around you. In my opinion there is not a better place to start than in Marcus Buckingham's book Standout

Marcus has written an number of books as the relate to strengths in the work place, "First, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently" is another one of my favorites.

Needless to say, that when I had the opportunity to participate in some 1:1 coaching around my StandOut results, I jumped on it. Not only did I get a much clearer understanding of how I effect the team, I walked away with clear action steps. 

My personal recommendation is simple, pick up these two books. They will impact both your own contribution and your ability to manage your team (keep an eye out for his 12 questions). 

Steven J Barker - Stimulator | Creator

StevenJBarker Standout.jpg