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Survey: Church Planter Characteristics

Survey: Characteristics of a Church Planter
By Pastor Scott Thomas
Acts 29 Director
Executive Elder, Mars Hill Church in Seattle

I am researching essential characteristics of a church planter (elder qualified is assumed). What do you think are the top qualities of a church planter (not just a pastor)?

I asked people on Facebook and Twitter to respond to the question above. These are the comments they made after consolidating concepts. Do you have any more ideas? If so, email me or twitter me and I will post the results and give you an opportunity to vote. Once I get the voting results, I will post them for you to see what others think are the key characteristics of a church planter.


  1. Clearly called to plant a church
  2. Recommended by others to plant a church
  3. Visionary leader; track record of drawing people to the vision; the ability to win others over; Woo (in the Strengths Finder sense); must demonstrate an ability to attract people to a cause
  4. Team builder; aware of own weaknesses and always looking for others to join the team who can make up the gaps; Good at networking/relational
  5. Balanced - physical health, martial health, intellectual health, emotional health (have people they share deep stuff with)
  6. Have a Jesus worldview that sees all of life on God's terms
  7. Love people; lover of Strangers (the Greek word for Hospitality); love others well in crucial conversations
  8. Be at peace with delayed gratification from labors
  9. Missional and Evangelistic; possess a clear call to introduce people to Jesus, not merely to plant an unrepresented type of church in their community; cultural awareness
  10. Must have a dynamic devotional life; praying machine
  11. Must be a servant leader at home
  12. Must be able to preach and communicate clearly and inspirationally
  13. Desire and passion
  14. Humility
  15. Doctrinal competence
  16. Filled with grace
  17. Perseverance; not easily discouraged; thick skinned; able to deal with disappointment; sticktoitiveness
  18. Entrepreneurial; fearless & adventurous; creative; slightly crazy
  19. Financially accountable
  20. Able to be a jack-of-all-trades for a while
  21. Disciplined; hardworking; Self-starter
  22. Decisive
  23. Contagious Leader
  24. Great faith

email me or twitter me with your ideas. You can also comment below.


Thanks for your help.


Jeff Pernsteiner

on Dec 20, 2008 :: 9:14 pm

While this is a fine question to ask, it seems to assume that there are certain qualities (beyond the biblical qualifications of an elder) that a church planter must possess. That's akin to suggesting there are certain traits every good pastor must have. My experience has been that a ministries success has nothing to do with the traits of the minister, but the will of God. As I look through those 24 characteristics I can see how each of them would be helpful, but (outside of the character issues listed) I don't see anything in Scripture that would suggest we need them. Where in the Bible does Paul declare a church planter needs to be "Decisive?" When does Jesus suggest that the 12 apostles need to be "Contagious Leaders?" The focus in Scripture is on taking up your cross, repenting of sin, walking in the Spirit, etc... I remember being so impressed with that fact when I listened to Driscoll's "The Ox." That was part of why I became a church planter. I had a burden for it, but I wasn't sure if I had all the "it" qualities the other cool church planters had. I was reminded that elders (be it a new or established church) simply need to be what Paul charges Timothy and Titus to be. The rest is up to God. If He sees fit to use someones "Team Building" skills than so be it, but He might be just as pleased to use a church planter who is lousy at building teams. So while a man might not be an Entrepenuer and he might not be a "10" on the Woo Strengths Finder test he still just might be the man God called to go start that church.

Glenn Smith

on Dec 21, 2008 :: 2:14 pm

Scott, one issue that's been on my heart is the need for church planters to have a well thought-out ecclesiology. Many of the planters I see are just trying to mimic the coolest church they've seen and really have not thought deeply about their own ecclesiology.

Ken Gross

on Dec 29, 2008 :: 12:16 pm

A thought occurred to me about this. Isn't one of the roles of a person with the spiritual gift of apostleship supposed to be church planting. I would start answering your question by researching how that gift has manifested itself in the Scriptures.

I am new to this network and am wondering if there is any work being done to establish an Acts 29 church plant in Katy, Texas where I live?

Josh Hair

on Jan 13, 2009 :: 11:16 pm

I am new to the blog and do not want to sound pressing about what is right or wrong. Clearly, in my opinion, what Jeff Pernsteiner had to say was absolutely correct. Scripture is clear about what an elder is to look like and how one qualifies for that specific office. The main focus most people have is how a natural leader should look according to John Maxwell or Andy Stanley; whereas these are great leadership qualities to have and may make things go a little smoother, I think SCRIPTURE should be the main focus. Work on these issues first and maybe along the way become good at team building or "contagious." A church planter must be called of God and have a burden for it, and at the same time realize that even these will sometimes seem hopeless when trying to plant a church. But one must be persistent and endure the hardship, because seeing a church God has entrusted to you succeed is the greatest feeling one could have. Only by His strength and mercy are we even able to move and decide. To God be the glory!