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Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Perfect Team

The guys in boy bands aren't usually friends that grew up together, singing barber-shop quartet songs on the street corner for tips. No, they are strategically selected by professionals through shopping mall casting calls that attract thousands of talented applicants. 23 seconds to prove you've got the right stuff, and then "Next!"

"We've got the 'Bad' boy, the sporty one, the funny one, the good dancer... We need the cute one!"

In a lot of ways, putting together a church planting team with the IMB is a similar process. We know what we want before we know who we have. Our time on the field and Spirit-led strategy tell us what sort of team we need on the field. A strong self-starter. Someone with administration skills. At least one who is gifted in evangelism. A couple that can lead us in prayer. In our minds, we put together the perfect church planting team designed specifically for the location, culture, and strategy. Like a missionary boy band. We write personnel requests for each of the positions and then let the organization handle the selection process.

Which is good until my "Already has the language, gifted in teaching, experienced graphic designer." request is filled with a "Willing to learn the language, gifted encourager, slightly interested in design" applicant. Hey, we can only send people who apply. Then there's that balance: Someone with experience, but not so much that they come in thinking they've got all the answers. Young, but not immature. Outgoing, but not annoying. Flexible, but reliable. I've been thinking a lot about what it would look like if I could put together my "dream team." Guess what? It would look a lot like the team I've got now. Here's an example of who I'm looking for right now:

ISC Couple. (Career workers are over-rated and expensive)
Age: 28-34 (Young, but not too young)
From: California (Outside the Bible belt, with postmodern worldview)
Children: None (Hard to go out all night with kids)
Education: University, Graduate School (People here are highly educated)
Abilities: Language, team player, Cultural adaptation (Basically, someone with a head start)
Experience: Three years teaching in public schools. Published author, songwriter. ("Secular" experience, artistic/creative)
Spiritual Gifts: Teaching (discipleship), Encouragement (team maintenance)

You might look at the profile I've written and say, "Yeah, we're all looking for them to be on our team. But I'd like to add a couple of things. I'm looking for someone who fits the above criteria and:

Doesn't think drinking is wrong. This almost always results in what I like to call "condemnation evangelism." We need people who aren't so totally overwhelmed by the sin of the people that they can't see, well, the people. Sin is flaunted in front of us, but we have to be able to recognize and appreciate the good things this culture has to offer, and to be able to learn from these people.

Isn't worried about their "witness": The fact of the matter is that here in Europe, you don't have a witness. That you don't drink, smoke, or use certain words does not communicate anything, especially to people that do not see these things as bad. People don't see Jesus in you for what you don't do.

Enjoys the adventure: Every day on the field is different. We love to find people that don't just wait for things to become "normal," but are open to trying new things, meeting new people, and loving every minute of it. People can tell if you don't want to be here. It makes them not want to be around you.

Humble in self, confident in Christ: Everyone that comes to the field comes to the point where they have to give up. We'd like to have someone who already has. In a foreign language, you don't have a personality, much less a sense of humor. When people have to put a lot of effort into understanding you, it makes you feel stupid. We need folks that are okay with making fools of themselves every day. Sometimes twice a day, just for good measure. They need to have the confidence in Christ that will motivate them in spite of that.

Fun to be around: Sure this one is hard to quantify, but who wants to work with a guy that has no personality? Or someone that takes themselves too seriously? We're looking for people who are interesting, fun, and know how to tell stories. We want the couple that makes you feel good about yourself when you're around them; like you're not a weird missionary.

To me, a couple of people like the one I've outlined here would make for the perfect church planting team. If you are the person I've described, send me an email...


shannon said...

you forgot the big one: must be a member of a SBC church for minumum of 2 years.

mr. t said...

Hey, there are exceptions to team building, even in our company. When we moved to South Asia we prayed that God would provide someone to go with us. We went to a "pioneer" area where no one from the company had ever lived and felt we needed help from the beginning. God led someone to go with us, and it was someone we would not have chosen. We knew them well and worked with them before in Latin America. Turned out to be a good match and we had a successful two years with this couple. Now, we had to get our region to agree to allow this couple to accompany us. They made an exception, although with some reservations about it. God still works in mysterious and miraculous ways, even through our company!

Anonymous said...

darn! i just missed out on the 'perfect team member' status :-D

strike one: we're career (at least, that is how we were hired, but i'm not doing this for my own ends)
strike two: i'm in my forties
strike three: i'm not from cali (but i've got the postmodern worldview worked out)
strike four: i've got kids
strike five: College (not univ) but no grad school ...
ah, but i've got language already ;-) and i'm culturally relevant
experience: fifteen plus years experience. i've only been published in quotes.
last strike, tho: my gifts are not in teaching and encouragement ...

it's all relative ...
what you are seeking for your dream team is perfect for your location/people group. in our town, being our age and having kids has opened more doors than you'd believe. it also does not hurt that the kids are in the national schools. so we can't stay out until all hours, we're too old for too much partying anyhoo ;-) (but back on the plus side, we don't think drinking is wrong ... just drinking and driving).

enjoying the posts. good luck on the applicant search :-)

Publius said...


This post really caught my eye, especially the second part referring to attitudes about, say, American cultural mores and humility. Many of those have been conversation topics in my home in the last year.

My question is this - how representative is your post of the attitudes of most team leaders (or whatever you call them) in Western Europe? Are most teams looking for people like what you have described, or is it just you?

stepchild said...

I'm not really sure what other team leaders are looking for. I think that wile most of them have a "type" in mind when they write a job request, the standard procedure is to send it to the Richmond Office and hope for the best as our crack team of candidate consultants handle the screening. There really isn't a whole lot of, um, recruiting that happens.

I would say that someone who fits the "profile" in my post would be a good candidate for service in Western Europe. Our team's strategy isn't that different from many of my coworkers. But as another commenter pointed out- this is specific to our ministry and cultural setting. Maybe "Team Scandanavia" is all about mimes in the park and loudspeaker evangelism.

stepchild said...

Good point. We all know that 2 years in an SBC church is the key to effective missionary service, good theology, and highly developed personal hygiene habits. As we're seeing a rise in interest in IMB service from people who are involved in the same sort of nontraditional churches that we're starting overseas (churches that may not officially associate with the SBC), we're going to have to re-evaluate that policy.

I'm really glad to hear that the Board allowed you to build your own team. I think that's the way it should be, what with Paul's biblical example and all. But I also know that this isn't always so easily done, and that there are times when putting together a "dream team" is hindered by some less-than-dreamy considerations.

Just because you aren't who I'm looking for doesn't mean you're a bad person. I mean, you might be a bad person, but it isn't because you're over forty and you have kids. You may make a great missionary- one to rival the likes of Ms. Lottie herself. Sorry if my post discouraged you.

In my ministry, I've found that God gives us what we need to do whatever it is He's asked us to do. Kids, a dog, our age, our interests and our idiosyncrecies can all open doors to ministry if we're looking for that sort of thing. Oh, and in that last sentence, I do not mean to imply that kids and pets are pretty much the same thing.

mr. anonymous said...


no worries on the disappointment. we're already here and 'appointed'. if it was hard to tell from the post, i had my tongue firmly embedded in my cheek when i wrote about the strikes against me (after all, if you cannot laugh at yourself, look in the mirror again).

of course, i certainly hope i'm not a 'bad' person ... but i know that i'm not perfect. it would be great to have a right fit for each and every position on the field. (if we ever cross paths, remind me to tell you about the position i was looking at ... and am very glad i did not get.)

having been on both sides of the fence, now (so to speak), i share your view on trying to fill a post with only the applicants available. we rely on a person to be called to the field, then need to further rely on God having gifted them in the areas we need the most help with.

side note: i'm glad we did not bring the dog. the only doors that would have opened would have been the doors of the animal control van! :-b

Anonymous said...

And then you have the people who meet most (if not all) your criteria yet they face a major obstacle: they agree with and exhibit common Baptist characteristics, but they are not Baptist in church membership. They have a yearning to show God's love through everyday life in a post-mod setting and are not intimidated by questions, doubts and semi-hostile attitudes toward Christianity (heck, I agree with some of their hostility!) But being raised Southern Baptist has left me with the thinking that the only way to financially make it in WE is to go through the Board, and to fear any thoughts regarding independent missions.

See, there are worse things than getting unwanted team members - you could not get wanted ones.

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