The Most Important Lesson I’ve Learned
By Billy Waters
Before we started Wellspring, I still remember my church planting coach saying to me, ‘Billy you have failed the assessment and if this church plant has any chance of success it is because of your wife.’ I couldn’t agree more. I have a wonderful wife and I didn’t have a clue of how to start a church.
After our public launch, by God’s grace, Wellspring grew steady and sure. And now, looking back over fourteen years and having planted two other churches and grown to be a mid-size community, I think I have begun to understand why we have been able to survive and grow. We had a committed core of fifteen people that were willing to persevere with me through all of my faults and foibles and through the dry and rainy seasons of church planting. We had great chemistry and developing quality of relationships was top of mind.
In building core teams, it is natural to look for availability and interest. In the people we hire, it is easy to be dazzled by competency. In trying to create momentum, we need vision, people and programs. When looking for the people to fulfill the vision and lead the programs, it is so tempting to be lured by the glitz of a good performer and not consider the chemistry fit. I would suggest that the most important work we do is generating high quality relationships by focusing on team chemistry.
In the early days of vetting leaders, I used the four C’s as a guide: competency, character, chemistry and calling. Of those four, I considered competency and character as non-negotiable. Now, I consider character and chemistry as non-negotiable and competency as something that can be developed. Chemistry of the group is just as important as the character of the individual because chemistry speaks to the character of the team.
There was a season at Wellspring that while on the outside the ministries looked great; on the inside, problems were brewing. We had strong leaders that were highly competent but the team relationships were strained. Work was increasingly difficult as relationships were polarizing.
During this season, one of our leaders was let go. Even though this was an incredibly difficult time, there was a positive shift for us as a Pastoral team. I still remember one of my mentors telling me, ‘Billy, it is better to remove someone who is toxic than to hire another rock star.’ He was right. Having the right chemistry that is based on trust and driven by vision is a game changer! The most important lesson that I have learned is that cultivating quality of relationships is job #1.
There are many ways to increase quality of relationships in a staff; anything from collaboration in purpose filled work, developing rules for healthy conflict or clearings, doing a check in before staff meeting, or building into your year fun events like paint ball or taking cooking classes together. Regardless of the strategies for fostering quality relationship, it all begins with hiring a person that is the right chemistry fit.
The one piece of advice that I would give any church planter is this: developing quality of relationships is job #1.