As mentioned, the Assessment and Equipping Steps are interdependent. We move our members through these steps simultaneously. For the ease of explanation, I will address our Assessment Step before sharing the elements of our Equipping Step.
After members agree they need to move beyond the Points to Ponder, we provide them a written general overview of the remaining steps to the field. This overview has already been shared with them in a previous conversation. A portion of this information is HERE. However, repetition–especially when people are doing something new–is a good thing.
Our Assessment Step is composed of both formal and informal parts. The formal include written-response materials, inventories, and interviews. Informal assessment comes from general observations and interactions over 12 months. No process should only assess for either formal or informal.
In his book, How to Select Church Planters (1988), Charles Ridley pointed out the importance of examining a person’s past behavior. The axiom embraced since the latter 1980s is past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. While I have never agreed completely with this conviction for assessing potential church planters (and have shared my concerns since the late 1990s), there is much wisdom in examining past activity.
Church planting assessments were birthed from a context related to funding. Since a church planting organization or network only had one dollar to give away but three possible church planters, a quick, formal, system had to be used to assist with discerning which person was the best investment with the limited Kingdom resources. Such was (and is) a matter of stewardship–when working with strangers.
However, if your assessment approach is designed to happen in community (i.e., Body life), then there there is no need for the assessment process to be completely formal and often high pressure. Also, when people are assessed in community, it is easier to observe the sanctification of the Spirit over time. Past behaviors may change. What someone was two years ago may be different now–but little time (and opportunity) has allowed for the individual to prove himself otherwise. Progress and growth may be observed in community, not in a four hour behavioral interview that happens on a Saturday morning.
Church planters’ assessments need to happen through the local church. This does not mean that I am opposed to a parachurch organization conducting assessments. They need to be involved too. We partner with at least two such ministries to assist us with parts of our Assessment Step. We greatly value and desire their wisdom and skills. And if we are sending a team to an unfamiliar context, then we want experienced people assessing where we are ignorant. However, the church is best positioned (if taught properly) to assess the life, doctrine, and skills of her members. She knows them intimately (If not, then here is a problem.) and needs to have significant involvement when preparing members for the field.
Here are three important tools we use to begin the assessment process:
Informed Consent Agreement Form. We must have our members agree to the assessment process. Without their consent, we are unable to take them through the Assessment Step. Some of the information we request and the feelings stirred are very private and sensitive matters. We want to care for our members in this process, and want them to feel safe and secure. They must know what to expect from us and what will be expected of them. Here is a copy of the agreement form.
Church Planter Profile. This tool is used to provide us with a great deal of personal, doctrinal, and lifestyle information. After we receive a copy of this information from both the husband and wife (unless single), we follow up with an interview. Sometimes during this meeting we ask questions of clarification and concern, but always lead with statements of affirmation and encouragement.
Background Check Report. This is the same tool (from the authorities) we use for all of our people who serve on staff or work with children and students. Check with your local officials for this resource.
These are the Big Three that begin our Assessment Step. We operate from the conviction of getting the most people to the unreached as soon as possible but as wisely as possible. We desire to see the Word “speed ahead and be honored” (2 Thes 3:1, ESV). We are not trying to limit our sending capacity with the desire to keep some people from the field. These three tools reveal the wonderful work of grace in the life of a person. They give us a reason to celebrate God’s goodness in that member’s life as we shepherd him to the field. However, the Big Three are intentionally designed to cause the church to pause if a matter of concern is revealed.
In my next post, I will share some of the other tools used in our Assessment Step.