In real life, arranged marriages can work well. In church planting, not so well. Here’s what I mean.
We have neighbors who are from India, and they’re in an arranged marriage which is doing quite well. The story is interesting. He was born in America, so he’s a natural US citizen. When he was getting to the wife-hunting stage his mother contacted his uncle in Mombai, who put ads in the newspaper for women of specific education and background. Then mom went to India and interviewed these girls, narrowing the list to five. Our neighbor then went and met with them to conduct his own interview of sorts. Within a day he and his prospective wife made the decision that they would go for it, and they were married about a week later.
It sounds a little goofy to our culture, but it apparently works. They at least had the advantage of having loving people around them (in the is case, his mom and uncle) to do some preliminary screening.
In church planting, arranged marriages don’t work so well. Here’s what I mean. Any time a new church planter welcomes someone into their inner circle (ministry partner, associate staff, leadership team) without first having some notable history with them, they are risking serious value and agenda disharmony. Sooner or later some big blowup happens, and it happens all the time. Church planters are understandably desirous of having good people partner with them. But unless they have had some history where trust and understanding has been forged, too much is left to chance. Tick-tock, tick-tock. Something will go nutty. It will be a disagreement on music, or scheduling, or location, or name, or policy.
Here’s my advice.
First, make a commitment to not allow the feel-goods of the moment to beguile you into thinking anyone should get a pass. Everyone needs to be vetted.
Second, read the chapter entitled “Leadership Backlash” in the book Church Planting Landmines (by Gary Rohrmayer and me).
Third, customize your own Values and Agenda Harmony survey, like the one attached here, to help you get the discussions going with prospective inner-circle people.
Church planting is full of landmines. Give strong consideration to what I say, and you’ll have fewer bruises in the process.