Written by Linda Seidler
It was 2010, and we had a big dream. My husband, Tim, and I had been serving in ministry for almost 12 years when we decided to plant The Experience Church right in our hometown in the hills of West Virginia. Up to that moment, we were founders of and were leading “The Experience Ministry”, a 30-member multi-denominational crusade team that traveled regionally for seven years.
The transition from traveling ministry to church plant was so incredibly exciting! We were those starry-eyed visionaries who were believing big and asking for big things from a big God (Ephesians 3:20.)
We truly believed with all of our hearts that our supernatural God could do anything at anytime. But we also had a bit of practical sense to know that in order to achieve our dream, we had to get some strong legs under us so we wouldn’t collapse from the mountainous weight of responsibility that was quickly unfolding. And honestly, at that point, most of the time we were making it up as we went along.
Can you relate?!
Looking back to the beginning, there are so many aspects of church planting that I really, really wish I would have known. I’ve narrowed it down to just a few that I hope will help you on your church planting journey…
1. I wish I would have known to become associated quickly with a network or group of churches.
To get the support and encouragement you need, search for some seasoned church planters who are doing church similarly to you. Why? Because they have already been where you are right now! They have experience in starting something from nothing. They are intimately familiar with how to deal with and overcome the hurts and heartache associated with the people they are leading. They understand the dynamics of developing leadership and how infrastructure will strengthen your internal ministries. They have learned that there is just as much a business side of church as there is a spiritual side. And the list goes on and on. This resource has proven to be invaluable to us, and what I have found is that church planters are eager to help other church planters along their journey (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.)
2. I wish I would have known to realize there are pioneers and settlers, and my church needed both.
Let me explain. A pioneer is someone like you and your spouse–a visionary who is willing to grab onto the mission, forge the way, work hard, push forward, and do whatever it takes to see it to fruition. Most pioneers have great stamina, and stay focused on what the next step is to propel the church forward. Now the other person needed in the church is the settler. The settler enters the picture after the pioneer has already paved the way. Settlers come to a church after it has existed for awhile and works in the ministries that have already been established. When I understood the dynamics of both types of people, I knew they were both necessary to make our church work its best. It was an a-ha moment for me. I was able to see these differences were actually advantageous and needed for our church to function at optimum capacity (1 Corinthians 12.)
3. I wish I would have known that even the toughest days wouldn’t last forever.
There were days when I wanted to throw in the towel. There were seasons when I didn’t think I would make it to the next one. There were moments in my church planting life that brought me so much joy that I thought I’d explode, and then others where the word exhaustion was an understatement. If you are on the front lines of church planting, then you understand the mental, physical and spiritual endurance required for a church to grow. It takes a ton of hard work and needs cultivated, watered, fertilized and tended to everyday–and we know that God is who grows the church–yet we are the ones who do the physical work. It requires a daily practice of endurance and perseverance and stamina, and it is something God has equipped you to be able to do! And I want to remind you, just as others have reminded me, to keep on keeping on because this tough season will NOT last forever (Galatians 6:9; Colossians 1:11.)
And although not in detail, here are some other important things I wish I’d known:
4. Not everyone who starts with you will go the distance with you.
5. Give yourself permission to be imperfect.
6. While it’s important to be authentic, it’s not necessary to be transparent with everyone.
7. Don’t try to be all things to all people.
8. Develop a tough skin while maintaining a soft heart.
9. Your heart will be broken many times over, but you will survive.
10. Learn to let go of hurts and forgive quickly.
Written by Tiffany Cooper
My husband, Herbert, and I often joke that we didn’t know what we were doing when we planted our church in 2002. We laugh but it’s completely true. We first felt the call to plant a church in the spring of 2001. We had never been part of a church staff but that didn’t slow us down. We moved full steam ahead, full of enthusiasm and faith, ready to reach people who were far from God. I wish I knew then that reaping a plentiful harvest according to Matthew 9:37 was also plenty painful.
As a church planter, I prayed for a huge harvest of people. I joyfully gave my whole self to the call. The enormous amounts of time invested, the physical sacrifice of being a mobile church, even living in a season of uncertainty could not deter my passion to reach my city for Christ. However, my gleeful naivety was soon smacked with the reality that there was pestilence among the harvest.
Pestilence. It is deadly, harmful and destroys crops before the harvest. It comes in different forms but each type has the potential to corrupt. Many times, it comes in the form of people who may have started out with a pure heart, but eventually began to want their own agenda instead of the one we felt God desired for this new church. In our first year as a church planter, I encountered various types of difficult people:
- People who openly questioned our calling. (That was the first time in my journey as a church planter that I cried and felt such deep pain. Even now I can recall how blindsided I felt by the betrayal.)
- People who tried to use their power to control our decisions. “I’ll do this for you if you do what I want you to do.”
- People who wanted us to add ministries and do things “like our old church did.”
- People who were never satisfied. They always shared a complaint but never a solution. And certainly not a compliment.
- People who would stir dissension among others.
And that was just our first year as a church.
Thirteen years later I can tell you that I’ve encountered many more types of pestilence as I sow and reap in ministry. I can also tell you with 100% certainty that we must learn how to deal with difficult people or they will not only harm the harvest, they will also steal our vision, passion, focus, joy, and more. So, how should we deal with difficult people? Pastor Rick Warren shares four powerful truths from the life of Christ:
Jesus had to deal with a lot of difficult people. Here are FOUR methods he modeled through his life:
- Realize you can’t please everybody (John 5:30). Even God can’t do that! One wants rain while the other demands sunshine.
- Refuse to play their game (Matt. 22:18). Learn to say no to unrealistic expectations. Confront them by “telling the truth in love.”
- Never retaliate (Matt. 5:38-39). It only lowers you to their level.
- Pray for them (Matt. 5:44). It will help both of you. Let God handle them.
Make this Bible verse your goal this week, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Rom. 12:18 NIV)
Romans 12:18 has been my comfort each time I encounter a difficult person. No matter the situation, even in the midst of pain, I desire to do what I can to keep the peace because I know that obeying God’s word is always best.
In my life, keeping the peace has meant:
- that sometimes I have that much needed difficult conversation in love and sometimes it means that I simply keep my mouth shut.
- that I look beyond a person’s words and/or actions aimed at me to something deeper. Perhaps I’m an easy target for other issues in their life.
- that I choose to accept that I’ve done all I can in a difficult situation even though someone may talk badly about me long after they’ve left the church.
- that I choose to love and not retaliate. It’s easier to love when you view it as an act of obedience to Christ.
- that I pray. I pray for each person involved and for each person who could be affected.
Our response to difficult people will determine our harvest. It’s not about what they have done; it’s about how we respond. As servant’s of Christ, we must do what we can to “live at peace with everyone”, to love beyond our own capacity, and pray, pray, pray.
Friends, no doubt, there is plenty of pain in ministry but God’s harvest IS way more plentiful. Continue to dig deep and sow seeds in your city. Tend to your field, cultivate it, nourish it, and protect it. As you sow, stay watchful for pestilence but never let the pestilence overtake you. You are the keeper of your field, entrusted with God’s precious harvest. Plant, plant, pull, plant, plant, pull, plant, plant, and REAP! You were created for such a time as this!
Written by Trisha Davis
My husband, Justin, and I planted our first church in 2003. I was completely clueless as to what we were getting ourselves into but we had a vision and passion to see people find their way back to God. In those early years I found myself becoming a jack of all trades. I often lead in areas of ministry out of obligation rather than calling because I thought that’s what good pastor’s wives do.
Three years into our church plant and over seven hundred people later, I operated out of a posture of bitterness and resentment, rather than a burden to help people grow in their relationship with Christ. Although our church was thriving, Justin and I were struggling and our marriage imploded. I was so caught-up in my quest to find value in what I was doing in ministry and in my relationships with others, I lost site of where my true value comes from.
What I wish I would have known about church planting is that finding your value in Jesus, above all else, will bring clarity to your capacity to engage in your calling AND have healthy relationships in your current season of ministry.
When we find our value in who we already are in Christ, the overflow of our relationship with Him, allows us to engage in our calling and thrive in healthy relationships.
So how do you begin to practically live out your calling in ministry and continue to have healthy relationships? It begins as you examine and get honest about your capacity to engage in relationships and calling in your current season. In other words, ASK A LOT OF QUESTIONS! Become an expert about YOU.
Here are 3 key questions to bring clarity to your capacity to engage in your calling and relationships in your current season of ministry.
•What occupies most of your time in a given week?
Finding out this information will take effort and humility. Begin by using a simple calendar to track what you do in a given day for seven straight days. If you’re anything like me, you will be surprised by the truth your calendar reveals about your ability to effectively manage your time.
•What are you passionate about?
This is often the first question to finding the path back to your calling. Your calling as a pastor’s wife or woman in ministry isn’t about playing roles your congregation wants you to play. Being a pastor’s wife or woman in ministry, is understanding how your God given giftings can be used to glorify God.
•Who are you building relationships with?
When you have a clearer view of what occupies the majority of your time, and have clarity of your calling, you can then begin to create space to engage in healthy relationships. So how do you practically begin to build healthy relationships?
Here are a few things that I have implemented in my life as a church planter to help me build healthy relationships:
Be intentional with your relationships.
Carve out time to define who are your MVP’s, VIP’s and RIP’s.
MVP’s are the people who are the most valuable in your life. This is your husband and children. Your family. This is the VERY SMALL group of ladies you can be real an honest with. Those women who see beyond your title and love you well in your current season of life and ministry.
VIP’s are the key relationships that keep you healthy emotionally, physically and spiritually. These are the people who help you stay healthy, growing and challenged. These are your mentors, counselors, bible study leader, small group, fitness coach and yes… even your doctors and dentist.
RIP’s are the people, who given the time and space, will unapologetically drain the life out of you. While you can’t avoid these types of relationships, you can manage the amount of time you give to them. The key is to recognize them and minimize the emotional investment and time given to them.
Be creative with your relationships.
Take charge of your schedule and be creative to find what works for you. Define days and times that work to manage these different areas of relationships. Knowing what works for you will help you better respond to that “when can we get together?” question. It also keeps date nights and important events in your kids lives top priority.
Be honest about your relationships.
Be honest with your relational time management. I’m a highly relational leader which, plays well for ministry, but the dark side to being a relational leader is becoming emotionally depleted. This means I can be tempted to give leftovers to my family, myself and my relationship with God. Knowing your leadership style will better equip you to know and understand your capacity to engage with people in different seasons
Your season of life, your capacity, or your relationships, were never designed to provide enough worth to make you feel valued. Your value is found in who you are in Christ. And when you pour into your relationship with Jesus first, it begins to bring clarity to your capacity to engage in your calling and relationships in your current season to become a pastor’s wife who is leading and loving it!
Written by Liz Sarno
Eleven and a half years ago, we were sitting around a table at a restaurant with ten other people following the last Easter service at the church we were all attending. The church was dissolving, the pastor was leaving and someone looked at soon-to-be husband, Chris and me and said, “What are you doing next Sunday?” Chris replied, “I guess just meet us down at the Miracle Center at 10:30am.” And with those words our church was planted in the community outreach center where we ministered weekly to the homeless.
I thought it would be no big deal to start a church. After all, I had grown up in church and had been attending them most of my life, so really, how hard could it be? Chris was an evangelist, and although I had never led worship, I could sing. And take care of kids, and pay bills, and clean. I was usually great at solving any problem that came my way. We weren’t part of a church planting organization, didn’t have anyone coaching us, and didn’t have a checklist of what you are supposed to do to plant a church, but we were sure we could figure things out along the way. In those early days there were so many things that I wish I would have known. Mostly though, I wish I would have known the rewards of church planting. It might have made the heartbreaks a little easier.
Had I known what a beautiful thing it would be to watch God come through for us time and time again and know that I could always trust Him to take care of every need, it would have made the stress of certain seasons a lot less difficult.
Had I known the joy I would experience watching my own children worship God in kid’s church, it might have made those frustrating Sundays, when I was trying to teach 20 children by myself in a cramped room, much less overwhelming.
Had I known I would look into the face of a someone who had been strung out on drugs, and living on the street until they found Jesus through our church and completely turned their life around, it might have made the disappointment of those who made wrong decisions sting a little less.
Had I known eleven years later I would be standing arm in arm with faithful individuals God brought to serve in our church, and who have remained with us through thick and thin, it might have made the pain of betrayal by their less loyal predecessors hurt a little less.
Had I known the joy I would one day experience watching others flourish in their gifts and abilities, it would have made the discouragement of seasons where the harvest was plentiful but the laborers few a little easier to walk through.
Had I known the joy God would bring me in the form of precious friends who would come into my life, friends I could trust, hope with, and dream with, friends who would accept me for who I am and love me even with my flaws, I would have cried a little less about the ones who stabbed me in the back, used me or talked badly about me. It would have made the loneliness a little easier too.
I’m not going to tell you planting a church is easy, but I will tell you it’s worth it. The joy is bigger than the pain. The beauty is greater than the ugliness. The rewards far outweigh the difficulties. If God has called you, He has equipped you, and has many blessings waiting for you. God’s Word is always a great reminder for me:
So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith. Galatians 6:9-10(MSG)