May 16, 2011

What to Expect When You're Church Planting

God called us to plant a church in 2008. At the time, my husband was a college and missions pastor at a large established church in Texas. We didn't have any church planting experience so we had no idea what we were getting into. But we were gung-ho, filled with faith, and excited about our church planting adventure. 

It took about a day into it to realize that church planting was going to be harder than I had expected. I didn't expect my gung-ho faith to give way so quickly to fear, discouragement, and doubt. I also didn't anticipate that, after three years, I would be such a radically changed person. 

Are you and your husband preparing to church plant? Here are some things you can expect as you plant:
  • You Will Grow the Hard Way: You can expect to grow in ways that only come through difficulty, stepping outside your comfort zone, and the testing of your faith. I have gone from relating to God in a good-girl, checklist kind of way to knowing my utter need for Him. I now completely understand John 15, that I cannot do anything apart from Him. No amount of work, charisma, or planning can make a seed sprout. He alone causes growth--in me and in the church.
  • Your Marriage Will Be Challenged: Before we planted, I read that even strong marriages are tested through church planting. Small divisions or strife becomes great chasms because of the stress church planting places on a marriage. My husband and I had a strong marriage before church planting so I assumed that we wouldn't be affected by it. I was wrong. Church planting brought problems to the surface that were not problems before, things like communication and conflict resolution. Thankfully, we have faced those things head on and I would say that, having gone through the fire of church planting, we have a stronger and more intimate marriage than ever before. 
  • Your Husband Will Need You and Your Full Support: My husband is not the type to get stressed or to worry. He is pretty laid-back and, if I do say so myself, a great leader. He entered church planting with experience and a personality and giftedness well-suited for this work. I didn't expect to see him get discouraged or fearful, but there have been those times when my job has been to earnestly encourage him, pray for him, and support him in his ministry. This is tough work and sometimes it will be hard for you to watch what it takes out of your husband.
  • You Will Experience Opposition: There will be people who just don't understand what you're doing or will think you're weird. There are also some who will tell you about all the church plants they've seen fail in your city. But you can also expect spiritual opposition. I knew about spiritual warfare before church planting, but I have never experienced it like this before. I highly recommend reading and studying spiritual warfare before you church plant, something like Spiritual Warfare by Jerry Rankin.
  • It Will Be Great For Your Kids: I love how church planting has affected our kids (when we planted, they were 5, 2, and 6 months). They are known and loved by people in the church, especially those who were in the core group. They have been involved in outreach to our community. Most importantly, we get to talk to them about what we're doing and why, which sparks lots of great conversation about faith.
  • Relationships Are the Key: I cannot emphasize enough that relationships and hospitality will be key to your church plant's success. Our growth has happened one relationship at a time and, sometimes, it's taken years of building relationships with people before they ever set foot in our church. Expect to open your home alot as a tool for ministry.
  • It's Worth It: There will be times you'll think to yourself, What have I gotten myself into? Church planting is hard work, the hardest ministry work I've ever been a part of. But it's so worth it! I could fill up pages and pages of my journal (and I have!) with the things I've seen God do. Alot of people don't get such a front-row seat to the action, but you and I do, and that's something to be thankful for.
Church planting wives, what would you add to the list? What should wives preparing to plant expect from the experience?