Church Plant Connection

Posted by Tiffany Cooper

I’ve had the privilege to meet many church planters here at Leading and Loving It.  As a church planter, I feel an instant connection!  In fact, it made me think about the beginning days of our church.  Here are few things that came to mind…the list is long so I’ll just mention a few:

  1. Lead by Example:  Much of ministry is simply leading by example, especially in the beginning stages of a church plant.  Your work ethic, servant’s heart and attitude will set the tone for those partnering with your vision.  This is a conscience decision, not one based on your feelings.
  2. Push for Power:  There are people who will use you in an attempt to get power, push their agenda and gain access to your husband.  They may even try to use you as a secretary, trying to get info to your husband.  I quickly learned to say,  “If you call the church office they can help you with any question you have,” or “You know, I would feel terrible if I forgot to tell Herbert, it’s best that you call the office to make sure he gets the message.”
  3. Shepherd vs. Friend:  Do not seek your most intimate friendships with those in your church.  They may happen over time but don’t seek them out.  Embrace your role as a shepherd who directs and loves.  I regret the times I got too close too soon.  I have now found more intimate friendships with other pastors’ wives.
  4. Come and Go:  A large number of people who start with you will not stay.  This was hard for me to grasp until it happened to us.  Many, a lot, of the people that partnered with the vision we had for Peoples Church are no longer with us.  There are many reasons for this.  I encourage you to maintain a good attitude and handle those who leave with grace.
  5. Renaissance Women:  As a church planter you are a renaissance women.  It’s not so much about serving in your area of passion as much as it’s about serving in the area of need.  Okay, it’s more like you are serving in every area of need!  Your great sacrifice will result in a great reward!
  6. Minister to the Pastor:  Church planting pulls you in many directions but your greatest ministry is to your husband.  He needs your support, encouragement, strength, “I’ve got your back” attitude, and unconditional love.
  7. It will be harder than you think.  It will require more of you than you think.  Your goals and plans will likely happen differently than you anticipated.  Most of all, you realize you don’t have all the answers and you can’t do it on your own.
  8. Growth Track:  If you’re like me, you will grow as a leader and learn more than you imagined possible in a short amount of time.  Honestly, it wasn’t always by my choice, more out of necessity.  I made some mistakes our of pure ignorance, usually small things that would be okay if I was anybody other than the PW.

What are some thoughts or questions you have regarding church planting?  I will gladly answer them.  I am an open book, as are the other ladies here at L&LI.

50 thoughts on “Church Plant Connection

  1. Aimee

    Wow, I can so relate to this post. We are 5 years in to our church plant, and when you said,

    “It will be harder than you think. It will require more of you than you think. Your goals and plans will likely happen differently than you anticipated.”

    I was screaming, “Yes!” There have been many, many moments where God has truly shown off but there have also been times where I have been so hurt that I worried for awhile if I would ever recover. Church planting is definitely not for the faint of heart.

    I would definitely agree with you that you need to find your deepest, most intimate friendships outside the church. This is something I’ve had to learn the hard way and was one of the main catalysts that led me to search out groups like this!

    Good stuff and thanks for capturing it so well!

  2. Vanessa

    I, out of not knowing any better, got into a situation where I got “too close, too soon” and it just ended up weird and I’m still so torn up about the way things have worked on with this person. Any advice on how to handle this – do you just let it go or have conversations?

  3. Dana

    I definitely agree with the “renaissance woman” statement. So many well-meaning people have told me over and over to never serve somewhere unless I am specifically “called.” While I think this is a noble thought, I don’t know of anyone who is called to clean church toilets or the like. Sometimes, a willingness to serve where you are needed is how you model a servant’s heart. In time, God will raise up leaders for some of the ministries I currently handle. But if He has made the need clear to me, and if He has granted me the skills to handle it, then I need to do it until that need is filled elsewhere. Not having music lyrics on the projector screen because I’m not “called” to type them up isn’t really an option.

  4. Lee Ann Berthiaume

    As a church leader, this was right on target for me, also. One of the things that I struggle with in my ministry assisting our Pastor is to “work where the needs are” not where our passion lies. Thank you for the reminder that our God knows our heart’s desires in the midst of our service.

    Finding that “outside” friend can be challenging, but it is definitely needed. Relationships w/in the church are fragile. AND, “it will be harder than you think”…who knew the challenges we’d face until they knocked on our door? 🙂 Thank you for being real with us and an encourager along the way.

  5. Rachael

    Hi Vanessa! I would say have the conversation. I’m not Tiffany and not sure how she will answer, but I have learned having those hard conversations have sometime created so much fruit. For me and for them. Praying lot’s of grace for you.

  6. Rachael

    I agree all of this is pretty much right on. SO glad i had some mentors to tell me this before we started.

    Church planting is the hardest thing ever, but so rewarding! I would add in one more. Embrace the small beginnings. I am trying so hard to Embrace all the little things, because I know one day they will be the big things! Ya know ??

    I totally agree with your husband #1. Even above your babies. He was there in your life first before they were and so many times we get that flipped.

    Great reminders!

  7. Tiffany Cooper

    Aimee, I’m so glad you found your way to us. I also found Lori and L&LI while searching for connections outside of my church family.
    You said it well, “Church planting is definitely not for the faint of heart.” Right on. But that’s also why I love it, it challenges me to grow outside of my comfort zone.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I feel ya sister!

  8. Tiffany Cooper

    Vanessa, without knowing all the details it’s hard to give a absolute answer. In terms of a once close relationship, I would say this:
    1. Always operate with grace and love. Don’t try to defend yourself or make yourself right. Apologize if needed.
    2. Don’t answer questions that aren’t being asked. For instance, just b/c you feel a certain way or perceive something a certain way doesn’t mean they do. Don’t deal with an issue that hasn’t been raised.
    3. I think conversations are good if it will bring closure or healing. You will have to make the judgement call on this specific relationship. I tend to lean toward convos. Although, there have been situations when I’ve just had to let it go.
    4. If it’s a situation that needs attention, always talk, do not send an email. 🙂 They can’t feel your emotion or true intentions in an email.

    Those are just a few things I put into practice:)

  9. Tiffany Cooper

    Well said Dana! Above all, it’s about having a servant’s heart. A servant’s heart in the area of your passion and a servant’s heart in an area of need.
    Thanks for sharing:)

  10. Tiffany Cooper

    Lee Ann, I used to tell myself that once we got passed the beginning stages it would be easier. I now know that ministry means I will always be pushed and challenged. I used to also tell myself that in the next season of life things would slow down…I was wrong on that one too:)

  11. Tiffany Cooper

    Rachael…absolutely rewarding! You were blessed to have great mentors in your life. I didn’t have any when we first started but was blessed to have many enter my life shortly after…they still speak into my life and challenge me!

  12. jaye bice

    I’m so relational and I often don’t see that people want more out of me than friendship…like my husband or access to his ministry. We have learned to stick close together and we do not discuss church matters to anyone but ourselves (he of-course handles the staff). I believe we are good at protecting one another & I DO LOVE taking care of him and our children. :)Thanks for the post.

  13. Vanessa

    Thanks ladies for your feedback. This is a relationship where a convo has already taken place and I am still feeling very confused. Tiffany – would you mind if I email you so I can share more details? Would love more insight.

  14. DisneyCyndi

    Not a church planter (more like re-planter) but there are a lot of take aways for me in this. This is good advice for any PW if you ask me. Thanks my friend!

  15. Lori Wilhite Post author

    I had a long friendship totally collapse. I finally ended with a let’s-part-in-peace-and-hope-the-best-for-each-other closure conversation. Always tough. Saying a prayer for you Vanessa!

  16. Melissa Rorabaugh

    Such a timely post for me. My husband and I are being moved by God in a new direction.

    I never saw myself as a ministry wife, but God did. I never imagined we would be moved towards church planting, but {maybe} God does…

    Our prayer: Dear Lord, Your will. Nothing more. Nothing less. Nothing ELSE!

    Thanks for the wisdom!

  17. Kendra

    Tiffany – I was nodding and agreeing all throughout this post! Church planting has been the hardest ministry venture we have done so far, but also SO rewarding! God definitely blessed us with flexibility and GRACE to endure – and even ENJOY (most of the time :)). Thanks for this post!

  18. Crystal Johnson

    Thanks Tiffany! Awesome. We are 4 years into our 2nd plant. To me, church planting is sort of like labor, birth, and child rearing. It is long, difficult, and painful- and then out pops something beautiful……that you have to feed, nurture, teach, give structure to, teach to play well with others, teach to feed self, help discover gifts and then equip them to use them, all with the ultimate goal of them growing healthily in a real relationship with Jesus and reproducing. In the process God teaches us frequently to trust Him….For 5 years we lived not knowing when or if our paycheck would come. It might be on the 1st, or the 12th, or the 30th! BUT, it always came. And that was a miracle n our little inner city church full of bikers:) He has been faithful and keeping Him first, following after His whispers above ministry and the whispers of people is a challenge worthy of taking on. Out of that personal relationship flows the fruits He produces in us to help us deal with all that comes our way with that grace Tiffany speaks of. God knows we can’t do it in our own human efforts! Oh how we rely on HIM!

  19. Peggy

    Oh my goodness. I am so very much connecting with what has been said in this certain blog that I’m nearly in tears. I WILL BE BACK to read more of the entirety this blog. This is speaking MY language! Thank you! I’ve added you as a friend and I’m now following you too. Thank you AGAIN! Hugs

  20. Mindy Carlettini

    Thank you GOD for this website! I am so excited to meet other pastor’s wives, and THIS post is great for me, as we just planted a church in Sept.’10. Thank you Tiffany for sharing and for pushing me towards embracing my role as a pastor’s wife!

  21. Tiffany Cooper

    Melissa, our life was set up perfectly and we loved what we were doing…I signed my first teaching contract after graduating from college and my husband traveled speaking all over. Life was amazing. Didn’t plan on church planting either until the day God called us from our current life to a life of church planting. We love it!
    Praying for you as you seek direction for this season of life!

  22. Jessica Cornelius

    Tiffany, I did the same thing. I used to always tell our new staff,” things will slow down after this”. I have learned not to say that anymore. It’s kind of a joke now when we say that sentence. We are blessed to have a team that thrives on taking new ground for Christ, and not being appathetic.

  23. Nicole

    Thank you for this! I am a full-time teacher (high school English), who just married a church planter last year. He became the official lead pastor last July and since then, we have more than doubled in attendance. I have experienced and walked through so many “new” things, it’s not even funny! But I LOVE what we get to do and LOVE doing it alongsid of my husband. You answered so many of my questions up there. THANK YOU!!!

  24. Raven Mayhorn

    This is such great advice. Not only are we 3 years into our 1st church plant, but this is our 1st time as sr. pastors as well… It’s kind of a learn as you go thing. I took great comfort reading this post and knowing that what I’m seeing and feeling is normal… lol Sometimes I don’t feel normal, I feel like at any moment I could scream “what am I doing??” Of course God keeps leading and I keep following… =) Hubby and I keep trading places, reasurring each other this is what God has called us to do. And connections like Leading and Loving It that help! Thanks!

  25. shari sutherland

    went through this post again… cause it was that good,lol! This should be on a plastic-coated card, with the steps on it, that we carry in our wallet or something!

  26. Linda Vogt

    Wow! This has truly spoken to my heart. These past 2 weeks have been so tough. I sat in my car and just bawled to the Lord the other day about our church plant. I didn’t want to discourage my husband anymore than he had already been so I just poured it all out to the Lord. When I came home my husband knew I had been crying and that something was wrong. I eventually told him my fears and hurts and he was more than supportive. I don’t have close friendships outside of our church. I made the mistake of getting too close to some of the women in my church. 2 of my close friends have recently left the church plant. My heart is so heavy.
    I am so thankful to God that I have found you all. I am in Las Vegas and could use a friend outside of my church. I signed up and joined a Virtual Group. Pray for me as this has been a rough week.

  27. Lori Wilhite Post author

    Hey Linda.

    I don’t usually have the opportunity to do this with people … but since we both live in the Vegas Valley, let’s get together for coffee.

    I know I’m on the complete other side, but we can meet in the middle, or I’d be happy to meet you at Central. We are on our break for another week and a half, but I’d love to get together soon.

    Shoot me an email at leadingandlovingit[at]me[dot]com

    I’m so sorry that you’ve been through such a struggle. But I’m also grateful for people like you ministering to those in Vegas. 🙂

  28. Teresa D. May

    We planted for 10 years and it seems the bottom fell out. God lead us to join our efforts with another ministry and continue in his service. Your points
    so blessed me.I have been there done that and have the purse and shoes to match. God lead me to write a book a year ago to encourage PW’s because of the great need I had when I served in this capacity. Title of book:THAT FRONT ROW SEAT-ENCOURAGMENT TO PASTOR’S WIVES AND THOSE WHO LEAD”

  29. Jennifer

    Tiffany, what an excellent article! I am planting a church right now. While I am excited all the time, I find myself terrified at other times. Part of that is being a woman called to be a lead pastor. The rest of it is the unknowns that you have shared here. Thank you for the wisdom and thoughts. I cannot wait to share it with my husband and team. There is something that we all can apply as we move forward!

  30. Christal

    This was helpful. My husband and I are a year away from moving from Cleveland, Oh to southwest Florida to plant a church. I am honestly a bit overwhelmed and have no idea of where to start as my role and help to my husband. I heard about your website listening to the churchplanters app and the Velocity conference. There is so much to do in the next year. What would you say is the most important thing for me to focus on, if there is one, as we begin the process of our launch?

  31. Kristie

    Regarding point number 3 above…is that biblical? Jesus was a shepherd and a friend….and called himself both…though I am not Jesus, I would like to think it is possible to follow His example…

  32. Lori Wilhite Post author

    I don’t know. I don’t think its not-Biblical. I think it is just acknowledging how incredibly difficult it is. Letting those super close friendships develop naturally over time instead of forcing them, and taking advantage of connecting with other friends who are in ministry as well who are safe. Just my two cents anyway. 🙂

    Community was definitely something Jesus modeled that we want to make sure to go after! For sure! 🙂

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