June 23, 2011

Emilie Galanos on Stress and Criticism in Church Planting

I love when I get to chat with other church planting wives, to learn from their experiences and to see how God is faithfully moving all across the country and the world. He uses different people with different gifts in different places to carry out the same mission. 

Today Emilie Galanos, whose husband Chris is the pastor of Experience Life Church in Lubbock, Texas, shares about the calling to church planting, the stress of the lifestyle, and dealing with criticism.

How did you know God was calling you and your husband to plant a church? 
When Chris and I first got married, he was on staff full time at a church as the associate college pastor in Lubbock, Texas. Four months after we married we moved to Fort Worth, Texas so he could attend Southwestern Theological Seminary. As his graduation neared, we were both praying about the direction that the Lord would have us to go. He applied to several churches, and no doors really seemed to open up. Chris had always talked about planting a church, but I was really hesitant. We continued to pray, and we met with some church planting coaches. After a couple of these meetings, and attending a church plant in Fort Worth, the Lord really began to work in my heart. We both felt very strongly that planting a church was what the Lord wanted us to do. The next big question was where He would want us to go. We literally had several locations that we were praying about, and Lubbock, Texas was not really one of the options. In the midst of all of these decisions, Chris had a conversation with his church planting coach and the idea of Lubbock, Texas was brought up. We decided to take a trip to Lubbock to see if we sensed that this was where the Lord wanted us. During that trip, we both experienced and overwhelming peace about planting in Lubbock. God opened so many doors, and details began falling into place. We moved back in March of 2007, and launched Experience Life in the fall of 2007. Since then we have grown to five weekend services with over 2500 in attendance. We have several satellite locations that meet in smaller towns around Lubbock. Chris and I are both humbled and excited to be a part of Experience Life. We would have never guessed that things would have happened as quickly as they have, but God's plans are always way bigger than ours.

What has been your greatest personal struggle(s) in church planting and what have learned in those areas?
My greatest personal struggle has been all of the spiritual attacks that our family has faced in the midst of everything. We have two children, and they both have medical issues. McKinley, our oldest, has a heart condition. Because of this, she was not able to attend church like most children. This meant that I had to stay home with her most of the time. Our second daughter was born five weeks prematurely, and until recently, we have kept her home as well.  There have been numerous weekends where we would end up at the hospital on the night before Chris would preach with random illnesses. At times, I get so over whelmed with this type of attack because it is physically, mentally, and spiritually exhausting. However, the Lord has been so gracious to me during these times. He always reminds me that these burdens aren't mine to bear, and that when I ask Him to renew my strength, He will. In a way, there is joy in the attacks that is unexplainable because I know that Satan only attacks those that he feels are a threat to him. So when I keep all of these things in mind, it makes any struggle that I have faced well worth it. 

How do you deal with the stresses and demands of the church planting lifestyle?
In order to deal with the stresses and demands of church planting, we live a very scheduled life. Not so much in the sense that everything we do is done at a set time, but more in the sense that we put things on the calendar that we want to accomplish for the good of our family. Chris and I both feel that making date night a priority is really important. We have it on the schedule, and we rarely miss it. We are also really careful with how we invest our "free time."  We make sure that there is always adequate time in our schedule for family time and rest. In the first year of the church, we weren't very proactive in scheduling out these times. After Chris had some health issues come up, we both realized the importance of maintaining a balanced schedule. This was definitely an important lesson for us to learn! 

How do you feel and how do you respond when you or your husband are criticized or hurt? 
This was one of the hardest things for me to deal with initially. We have received a lot of criticism since our church started. I am a people pleaser by nature, so being criticized can be hard to handle. However, the Lord has really shown me that every person on this planet has an opinion about what should or should not be done. But really the only opinion that matters is His. When someone criticizes the church or what we are doing, I immediately take my thoughts and feelings to the Lord. I know that He will always show me how to respond and help me deal with the situation. In these types of situations, I am reminded of how important it is to pray for our husbands as they lead the church. They need all the wisdom they can get. I pray for my husband regularly that the Lord would bless him with an abundance of wisdom. I think it has also been really helpful to connect with other church planters. Because it is in these relationships you can realize that you and your husband aren't the only one dealing with difficult issues like criticism. And when you realize you aren't the only one, it often makes the situation a little easier. 

Thank you for sharing with us, Emilie!