If planting a church scares you to death, I want to offer you some amazing encouragement: You not only can survive, but you and your family can thrive on this journey! Here’s how.
When my husband told me in 1996 that he wanted to start a church, my response was pretty much: “Do you mean with no people and no building and no money? Well, the thought of that makes me sick on my stomach.”
I eventually saw God place His desires in my heart and fulfill them as I became increasingly excited about the possibility of church planting. If planting a church has given you a similar reaction of nausea or if, in fact, you are scared to death, I want to offer you some amazing encouragement: You not only can survive, but you and your family can thrive on this journey!
In the past 26 years, we have seen God do what only He could do.
We decided when we packed up our little family and moved to Dallas, Georgia, that we wanted to be part of seeing God do something so great that we could never take the credit. He has come through in a powerful way and done things we could not have pulled off on our best day. It has not been easy, yet we are very humbled and grateful that our two wild little boys grew up to be great men who love God, their wives and the church.
So how is it that you can thrive and your family can survive the journey of church planting? Here are a few quick thoughts for you.
Have fun! Put things out in front of you to look forward to. Schedule family vacations and date nights. Take your day off and make your home fun and happy. Let every family member feel like your home is a refuge and a place where they are fully accepted.
Embrace busy seasons like Christmas and Easter. When you are in ministry, you sometimes have to celebrate on a different day or work extra hard. Anticipate it and make it an adventure!
Don’t talk about how difficult your life is. Everyone is busy, and most of the people in your church are working really hard too. Your job is just different.
Let your kids be normal. Don’t put unusually big expectations on them just because their dad is the pastor. Be aware that they live in a fishbowl. Let them cultivate their individual and authentic relationship with God, one that is not forced.
Be the real deal at home.
Pray as a couple and as a family. And pray more specifically and earnestly than ever. Several years ago, we started walking our dog around the church for several reasons. One reason was that our church was in some financial difficulty, and we needed to pray about it. Secondly, our English lab, Gibson, had an unusual amount of energy and we needed to walk it out of him! Since our walks began, we got a labradoodle, Lucy Montana. In the past six years, we have walked our energetic dogs and prayed around the church for so many specific prayer requests personally, for our boys, our families and our church. We have seen God move in answering our prayers so specifically that there was no doubt He had heard us and answered us. Our messy and holy prayer walks continue to grow our faith and draw us closer together. Wherever you are in your prayer life, I want to encourage you to increase it a notch. Pray more specifically, and pray with the authority you have been given through Jesus. Pray expectantly, and let your kids and your church see God do things they have never seen Him do before!
Do what God has called you to do. Stop worrying about what everyone thinks. You cannot please everyone, and you most certainly cannot thrive if you are comparing yourself to other people. Set yourself free.
You deserve real, authentic, naturally occurring friendships. Loneliness is very common in ministry, being surrounded by people but not feeling close to any of them. We all need safe friendships. By safe, I mean friends who do not want anything from you. When you have safe friends, you can be yourself around them. You can “clock out” and relax. Because these friends are rare, it is so important to ask God to give every member of your family a safe friend.
Choose what is important over what seems urgent. In ministry, there will always be people who pressure you with urgent things they think you need to do. If we just do all the things that seem urgent, we will look back and realize we left out the most important things. You must learn to say no.
Love big, and get everything you need from Jesus. All of our significance and security must come from Him. We cannot look to anything less than Jesus to give us everything we need. He is faithful. He is crazy about you! And He will build His church.
May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. (Eph. 3:19)