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Eight Soft Skills of a Church Planting Leader

Don’t miss Accelerate on September 10-11, which is a two-day workshop for any denominational, associational or network leader to understand how new churches impact the legacy of your organization. Whether you are a national, regional or local church planting leader you will gain a wealth of knowledge and practical insights from our speaking team.

Eight Soft Skills of a Church Planting Leader

by Gary Rohrmayer

There are two raw leadership skills that make a leader great. First, leaders get things done: they take the responsibility in achieving the goals and objectives of the organization. Second, leaders positively impact people around them: they make the people around them better through caring, inspiring and encouraging them.
We have all been around leaders who get things done while rubbing people the wrong way. These leaders achieve short-term results and have a hard time finishing well. We have all seen leaders who are the life of the party but never get anything done. These leaders have a great time for a while, but end up dragging down the organization to ineffectiveness.

What moves a leader towards greatness is when they possess and develop both the hard skills and the soft skills of leadership.

Hard skills deal with the technical side and specific tasks related to the core competencies for doing your job. Soft skills deal with the relational, emotional and intuitive nature of working with people.
Here are eight soft skills unique for church planting leaders to consider from the life of Barnabas, the “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4:36).

  1. soft skillsHe possessed a generous spirit (Acts 4:36-37). Generosity was the foundational quality that marked him and bled through every other area of his life. As movement leaders, we need to cultivate the skill of being generous with our time, our praise and the resources that are entrusted to us.
  2. He was a leader who embodied integrity.“He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith…” (Acts 11:24). His goodness and generosity were a result of him personally being possessed by God, living under the control of the Holy Spirit and putting all his hope in the Lord. Leaders worth following are leaders worth emulating. The skill of walking in the power of the Spirit will take a lifetime for a leader to master.
  3. He had a deep belief in people’s potential(Acts 9:26-27). Barnabas believed in Saul (Paul) when no one else did. We don’t know why or what he saw in Saul, but he believed in him and was willing to risk his reputation as well as his life to bring Saul into the circle of the Apostles. The skill of genuinely believing in others will help us overcome our natural mistrust and cynicism. Every time a leader deploys a new church planting couple, they put their reputation and the reputation of their organization on the line. After 20 years, I rejoice over those planters who exceeded my dreams for them and I grieve over those whose potential was never achieved.
  4. He was willing to take great personal risks when needed(Acts 11:22, 25-26).Barnabas was sent to Antioch and he went to Tarsus. Traveling in those days was a deeply risky adventure (2 Corinthians 11:26-26), and yet Barnabas put his life on the line to encourage churches, find potential leaders and plant churches. What personal risks are you taking in your ministry these days? Leaders who skillfully take appropriate risks lead organizations to the next level. But those who settle in lead organizations that plateau and eventually start to decline.
  5. He was a grace-finder.“When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God…” (Acts 11:23). When Barnabas arrived in Antioch, he saw beyond his own cultural biases, his own personal worship preferences and the immaturity of an infant church. Instead, he saw evidence of God’s grace at work in the hearts of these new believers. He saw love for Jesus, true conversions, hunger for the word of God, a desire to reach the world and generous hearts who cared for the believers in Judea. The skill of thinking clearly about the big issues of the Christian faith must be cultivated by church planting leaders.
  6. He was a true leader-maker because he provided opportunities for leaders to thrive. Barnabas gave Saul (Paul) a platform where he grew and shined as a leader (Acts 11:25-26). He saw him grow into the very leadership fabric of Antioch Church (Acts 13:1) and partnered with him in the mission to Asia Minor. During the Asia Minor trip, Barnabas saw God’s hand on Paul and allowed him to be the chief spokesman of the team, which started out as Barnabas and Saul and then become Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:7; 13:42, 43, 46). Movement leaders know how to skillfully and humbly push leaders beyond themselves onto new heights of fruitfulness.
  7. He was not conflict avoidant, but conflict resilient.He was willing to face down the Apostolic leaders of Jerusalem over the doctrinal and missional tensions of their day (Acts 15:2). He was willing to confront his protégé and end his partnership (Acts 15:39). Church planting leaders in historic denominations and associations tend to find themselves smothered by bureaucracy and years of institutional sin. They must possess the skill of when to speak up, challenge the status quo and speak into their superiors’ decisions respectfully. Every organization is one decision away from a breakthrough that will shape it for decades to come. Church planting leaders must learn how to speak passionately and correctively into the lives of church planters to keep them on a mission with Jesus.
  8. He was ready to give a second chance. John Mark left the team for reasons unknown (Acts 13:13), but that did not sit right with Paul. Before their departure on the second missionary journey, we read, “Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them…” (Acts 15:36). For some reason, Barnabas was willing to give John Mark a second chance and Paul wasn’t. The feelings were so strong that it led to the end of their partnership (Acts 15:39). This tells me it was a big deal and something that was not taken lightly, which shines a light on Barnabas’ gracious actions. The skill to discern when and where to give second chances is a must for a church planting leader because you never know what impact you will make on that leader and that leader’s impact on the world. John Mark went on to partner with Barnabas, then Peter. He wrote the Gospel of Mark and eventually was restored as a close confidant of Paul’s (Colossians 4:10). All of which would not have happened if Barnabas did not forgive him and extend a second chance.

Church planting leaders tend to be the behind-the-scenes workers, like Barnabas. Yet through Barnabas’ depth of character, emotional strength and relational skill set, God made him a key leader who was at the heart of every movement of God that we see in the New Testament. He was active in the Jerusalem movement (Act 4:36, Acts 9:26), we find him at the heart of the Antioch movement (Acts 11, 13) and we see him at the foundation of the Asia Minor movement (Acts 13-15).

North American church planting needs more Barnabas-like leaders who will come alongside and work behind the scenes to raise up and reach the next generation of church planters.

Be sure to register for and attend Accelerate to learn how to be a more effective church planting leader and multiplier.