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. 

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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

5 Ingredients to an Empowered Team

As pastors and leaders we fulfill a unique leadership role in a one of a kind organization. It is our job to equip and enable the people in our community to be the church to our community. We are instructed to lead and then get out of the way. In light of that the most impactful thing we can do is to clearly empower our teams (both staff & volunteer). 

Special thanks to  emdot  for the photo (modified). 

Special thanks to emdot for the photo (modified). 

There 5 ingredients to an empowered team: 

1. Clear Goals

What are the measurable targets we are trying to hit? Why are they important? Is everyone crystal clear on what’s most important right now? 

2. Clear Strategy

If we’ve laid out our goals, how do we plan on getting there? What’s the game plan for now? An empowered team needs to know what the plan is, even if that plan changes once it meets reality. 

3. Clear Roles

Who’s responsible for what? Remember, assumptions will kill progress. Clarifying who’s responsible for what saves frustration and last minute scrambling. Write it down, the more detail the better. Personal note: I’ve got myself in trouble when I didn’t clarify tasks beyond categories. Clarify what the role includes. 

4. Clear Boundaries 

If you team is going to feel empowered they need to know what their boundaries are. A lack of boundaries means you will spend your time refocussing their efforts. Which are the pieces you need each person to own and deliver on? What can they make decisions around, what's off limits? 

5. Clear Communication/Feedback Loops

Once you send your team on task, how do you make sure that everyone has the opportunity to get feedback to the right people? Are you asking them for your thoughts? Once Sunday is done, we often set our focus on the next 7 days. Do you take time to get feedback from your team? Send them an email on Sunday night or Monday morning. Close the feedback loop. 



I leave you with this, a reminder of how important it is to be clear. Bill Hybels recalled a conversation he had with a churchgoing buisinessman during a conference at Willow Creek. He said, "Bill will you speak with my pastor?..."

“Tell him to put a target on the wall. Any target on any wall! People like me just need some direction, some reason, any reason for staying in this game. I’m dying here. I’m dying here.”
— Bill Hybels “Four Things You Must Do"