August 12, 2013

How to Start Well in Church Planting (Part Three)

I had a great time speaking with Shauna Pilgreen last week at the Send North America Conference in Dallas! The following post (and the one before and the one before that) is based on our talk, How to Start Well: Transitioning Your Family Into Church Planting, so some of these ideas are hers. You can find Shauna online at

In the last two posts, Shauna and I shared fives tips on transitioning into church planting. They were:
1. Prepare by developing a love for your new city.
2. Once you're there, study the culture.
3. Help your children transition.
4. Make connections with people in your community.
5. Nurture your marriage and family.

Let's continue with three more tips today.

Christine: Deal biblically with inevitable difficulties
Church planting is difficult and we all kind of expect that. But we don’t often expect just how hard it will be for as long as it will be.

There are some difficulties and challenges coming your way. You will have opportunities to doubt, fear, and even want to give up.You will experience opposition and spiritual warfare, which will primarily target your marriage. Satan will look for ways to divide you two and cause you to resent your husband.You will experience exhaustion.You will come face-to-face with your insecurities.You may deal with disillusionment or bitterness.You may face discouragement if and when your life and church look differently than how you imagined it to look.

Yes, these are challenges, but these are all very good things because they cause us, if we let them, to trust God, to let go of self-sufficiency and depend on Him. They teach us perseverance and endurance, and how to serve sacrificially without looking for anything in return.

My encouragement to you is this: because you will face difficulties and challenges, make this your motto: Difficulties will come. I won’t be surprised by that. Instead, I will embrace them. In 1 Peter, Peter says it is a blessing to suffer for Christ. When you embrace the difficult parts of things and move forward in faith, God will shift your whole world. You will experience Him as faithful and worthy of anything you go through. You will gain His perspective on life, faith, church, and ministry.

So expect them and embrace them. Here’s a few hints on how I’ve learned to embrace difficulties:

  • Know your calling so you don’t waver when you get fearful. Write down how God called you to this. Record and celebrate small victories. Record how you’ve seen God work so you can go back to it for encouragement.
  • Feed your faith: be in the Word daily, look for examples of how people trusted God and how God worked. Read resources that feed your faith.
  • Learn to recognize when spiritual warfare is taking place. Know your weaknesses and how Satan will try to use those against you. Example: thought patterns/glass half empty; he will try to affect your marriage and family before anything else
  • Ask for help. Get people on your team who can encourage you and pray for you. Tell them honestly how you’re doing. 
Shauna: Know your role within the church
Church planting usually requires “all hands on deck” from the beginning. You might be fulfilling roles you never dreamed of! Be prepared to serve in whatever capacity is needed in the beginning, but be paying attention to the discovery of your sweet spot -  how God wants to use your giftedness in the church. It could look very different from how you’ve served in previous churches or ministries.

I encourage you to have this discussion with your spouse, not that he dictates where you serve or how you use your gifts, but church planting is a sweet partnership where you are stronger when serving side by side and when you’re on the same page. Share with each other expectations you have regarding your role within the church.

Consider these questions:
What does your spouse see you doing in the initial stages?
Where do you think you are best gifted to serve?
What are you passionate about seeing take place in your church?

There’s a big disclaimer: Service in the church body has nothing necessarily to do with the fact you are a pastor’s wife. It has everything to do with your role in the start-up process of the church - your role as a servant in the church. Some of you have a strong passion to be very active in the leadership of the church. Others prefer to have a behind-the-scenes approach. Some want the only role of taking care of husband and kids on Sundays and serve the church during the week. Knowing your role within the church is for every church goer to determine. Ours included.

I think it is healthy to revisit these questions every few months. Church life is ever changing which means your activity is ever changing.

Ultimately, we serve out of our passions. Use your passions, once lined up and surrendered to Christ, to best serve the local body of believers with whom you are entrusted. And as you journey on, be open to hand roles over to others, to delegate, to step back, to lead, to follow, to pray.

Christine: Cling to Christ
In church planting, you learn quickly that the gospel holds you in your city. In the beginning, no one cares that you are there and no one would care if you left. People may not be stampeding to the door of the church and there may be very little results for your labor.

What holds you there? What enables you to have another conversation or another Sunday morning or another family over for dinner?

It’s not your husband and the fact that this is his calling, because he will fail you at some point and what if he’s just as discouraged as you are?
It’s not the church you came from or the team that you’re there with.
It’s not obligation because obligation gets tiring very, very easily.

It’s the gospel. It’s Christ. It’s His calling on your life and your commitment to Him. It’s that you know that the power of the gospel is able to transform lives and cities. It’s the future reward of the fruit that comes from the gospel.

So your commitment to Christ and to His gospel is your anchor in everything you’ll do as a disciple, a wife, a mom, and a church planting wife. Nurture this relationship you have with Christ. Know God intimately, because all of ministry flows out of this relationship. You will quickly wither up and die if you are not connected to the sustenance that comes through God.

He loves you and He will sustain you and give you everything you need for what is ahead.

Now that you've read all our tips, I'd love for you experienced church planting wives to share what helped you transition. Or if you're headed into church planting, what questions do you have?