Recently, in part one of a series on developing your church planting team, I wrote about the importance of getting on the same page by having a literal page. Today, in part two, we’ll focus on the second thing you must do when building your team: going to the bottom.

In another life, I worked for a huge network marketing company. It was an incredible experience, and I learned some invaluable, transferable principles about building and leading teams. One of my mentors was a rock star in the business, and he always talked about the importance of “going to the bottom.” In other words: get down in trenches with your team.

He would often say that success is solidified in the trenches. The same is true for a church planter and your team leaders. When we talk about going to the bottom, what we’re saying is this: be with your people, battle with your people, and build with your people. Warning: this is hard work. It takes time, energy, money, and lots of meetings. This will consume you, but it is worth the effort.

Be with Your People

“We’re doing this together. I’m with you. I’m for you.” This is the mindset of a true leader. This isn’t babysitting, this is war. The enemy has several aliases such as distance, distraction, and even delegation. Our temptation is to let them run and leave them alone. Why? Because we fear being a micromanager. I get it. No one likes to be that guy. But this isn’t that. This is about being with your people.

When Jesus picked the 12 disciples, he prayed all night and when he came down and it says “he appointed twelve so that they might be with him.” You have to understand that we are in the people business. To lead your team well, you have to be with your people, cultivate trust, have fun, and the work will get done.

Battle with Your People

This is a fight—a good and necessary one. This is a fight for clarity and communication. Most, if not all, problems are derived from a lack of clarity and miscommunication (or worse, zero communication). Run to clarity. Empty the cup. You cannot leave a single drop of expectation or responsibility in there. Get it out of your head and your heart, and get it on paper and into your people. To lead well, you have to constantly battle confusion and misunderstanding.

Build with Your People

Leading a team as a church planter, especially in your first year, is like constant on-the-job training. As the planter your primary title is Chief Job Trainer. As the CJT, you will have to go to the bottom of departments, teams, and sub-teams. You will have to know the basics of who, what, why, and how. The vision must penetrate all areas of the organization.

The temptation is to sit back and be an armchair leader who expects your people to come to you once a week for coaching. The only problem here is you’re just not that good, and your people are not ready-made leaders. More than likely, you have all doers and maybe one or two leaders, if you’re lucky.

So how do you help a doer become a leader? You go the bottom and build with them. When you do this, you build into them, and they will begin to pick up some leadership stuff. It just rubs off. But if you don’t, they won’t.

Let me remind you that church planting is dirt work. You are building something out of nothing. This is not an interim gig or transition into an already existing church. You are literally digging this out of the ground, so you will get dirty. If you want your teams to thrive, you will have to get in the trenches. When you commit to go the bottom, your leaders and teams will be better for it.

Read part three of this series here.

Bryson Isom

Bryson Isom

Bryson Isom is the pastor of Valley Life | Camelback, located adjacent to the campus of Grand Canyon University.