I’ve lost count of how many I’ve done since then and of how many assessors I’ve trained.
The impact was immediate—a dramatic decrease in the number of church starts that “failed”. Church planter assessments, done properly, work.
So why do so many movement leaders shun them? There’s a good reason—movements don’t need to do church planter assessments because they’re doing them all the time.
For them, assessment begins even before some comes to faith in Christ. They’re looking for people who are well connected and contagiously share the gospel.
Movement leaders look for the new disciples who are faithful and effective in making disciples. Church planter training, church planter assessment, church planting ministry begins from day one. That’s what movements do.
They don’t say, “Why don’t we give you a salary and startup budget, and you can plant a church, and become it’s first pastor.”
Instead they say, “Who else in your world needs Jesus? How can I help you reach them? How can I help you disciple them and form them into a community?” That's what Peter did with Cornelius (Acts 10).
Ralph Moore does this. He finds some young adult and teens and challenges them to get out of the church building, and go down to the local skate park and start making disciples. He challenges his “mini church” leaders to reproduce leaders and groups.
When Ralph sees a pattern of faithfulness and fruitfulness, he’s found himself a church planter. No need to do a formal assessment, he already knows the quality of their life and ministry.
Dave Lawton is the same. He assesses his planters on the front line meeting people, sharing the gospel, making disciples, forming groups.
But Ralph and Dave are not my authorities. Look at the way Jesus grew leaders for the harvest. He tested their character, faith and ministry effectiveness on the road, as they travelled from town to town sharing the gospel.
Formal assessments have their place, but not as a substitute for the hard work of growing leaders who have been tested on the frontline.