Leadership Types in Today’s Church Planting + 2

Two chairs to add to the Leadership typologies table?

These past few years I’ve been privileged to work with a new and upcoming church starting network called Cyclical, which was founded by a friend (and serial planter), Nick Warnes. Nick and his creative content team assessed the kind of starters (church planters) Cyclical is encountering across North America and Canada, and devised a helpful list of nine leadership typologies. This is well worth interacting over, and you can download the short ebook at Cyclical Inc.’s website (http://www.cyclicalchurches.com/resources-1).

The nine typologies Cyclical identifies are as follows:

1. The Large Launcher
2. The Pastoral Leader
3. The Niche Maximizer
4. The Fearless Dreamer
5. The Unlikely Hero
6. The Maverick
7. The Tribal Leader
8. The Experienced Entrepreneur
9. The Deconstructionist

When I see lists like this, my Maximizer-Intellection brain quickly moves to scrutinizing mode, both to see if the category distinctions hold true and also to see what may be missing. In this case, I do see a bit of category overlap when I compare the characteristics of each. But, overall this strikes me as a good way to highlight the diversity of leader types that come to the church planting table. In earlier years, I think church planting groups/organizations focused far too much attention on very narrow version of the ideal point leader. Those versions typically emphasized the fast-moving, fast-talking extrovert, hi-dominant, alpha-male kind of leader. And they made almost no provision for shared point leadership configurations.  Makes me wonder how many churches were NOT planted in the past 20 years because leaders either tried to fit a typology that didn’t match their natural orientation, or they disqualified themselves because they concluded they didn’t “make the grade?”

After my own mulling over Cyclical’s nine categories, it seems to me there are two very important categories missing. And so (of course), I decided to fill out the original nine with two additional typologies, laid out in the same format as the ebook descriptions. I sent these to Cyclical, and perhaps they’ll be considered and even integrated in, such that the ebook actually becomes “11 Typologies of Church Starters.”  We’ll see. Here’s my two additional categories, which I’d be happy to have you if  scrutinize as you also review Cyclical’s original nine:

10. The Recruiter-Developer

Characteristics: This person has the capacity to sell you just about anything. However, unlike any dubious salesperson, they genuinely care about the trajectory of peoples’ stories. They’re fierce advocates for retrieving lost sheep or those whose flaws have driven them “outside the camp,” and they can be good at discipleship 101 where baby steps need proper celebration.

• Winsome personality
• Patient with people’s flaws/sins
• Good celebrator of small wins (
• Often superb at “good-newsing” that provokes conversion

• Can overlook pathology in the name of inclusivity
• Not great at helping people find the best fit once they’re in
• Can be proprietary or competitive with, which can render them ineffective at intra-organizational allying beyond their tribal allegiance

• Your evangelistic fervor is contagious, so be careful not to over-promise as you get people on the magic bus. And make sure you handoff those new disciples to others who can help them find a deeper immersion in the Christ-life and roles that maximize their gifts/callings. O, and watch out that you don’t elevate or empower people too hastily.

11. The Movement Provocateur

Characteristics: This person excels at sniffing out key relational and organizational connections conducive to a wide latitude planting of the gospel. They tend to be adept at emphasizing the unity/commonality shared rather than that which divides. They can be movemental in their capacities to be seers, design systems and broker connections.

• Collaborator/Diplomat
• Highly strategic
• Trustworthy reader of the times
• Theologically astute

• Can quench legitimate prophetic warnings/urgency in the name of forging organizational alliances
• Discerning the Spirit’s voice amid many other important voices of power

Be careful to shrewdly guard the essence of the gospel in whatever coalitions you galvanize for the sake of generic “goodness.” Don’t suppress that which differentiates each participating group from another, but celebrate your differences as much as what you hold in common. Surround yourself with your own discerning clearness committee as a sieve to scrutinze your seeings and strategies.

Dan Steigerwald

I help pioneering leaders and pastors engage fresh ways to lead and multiply mission-shaped communities while tending to their holistic formation along the way.  Having worked for 30+ years in cross-cultural missions, church planting and pastoring, I know personally how hard and soul-depleting ministry can become. Some wells from which I draw:  I hold a DMIN in Leadership in the Emerging Culture from Portland Seminary. My coach training is through Creative Results Management, and I have ACC credentialing under the International Coach Federation (ICF). Also, I have authored several practical books (see Amazon) around which I coach, train and teach: Dynamic Adventure: A Guide to Starting and Shaping Missional Churches (2017); Growing Local Missionaries: Equipping Churches to Sow Shalom in Their Own Cultural Backyard (2014); and Grow Where You’re Planted: Collected Stories on the Hallmarks of Maturing Church (2013).