It was six years ago, this month, that I resigned my position as Pastor of Outreach to plant a church. God had been knocking on my heart for a while and I finally surrendered to the call. Some days I still feel like a church planter. I’m not sure when you start to feel like a regular pastor. No one gave me a timeline for that!
In the beginning, I read everything I could find on church planting. Everything! And I still read quite a bit on the subject. One startling observation on the material out there? It’s all written for men. I’m sure there are some denominations who believe women can plant churches…mine, for example. But I guess those denominations don’t write books on church planting.
So here are ten tips for [women] church planters:
God loves me. I love God. I love myself. I love people.
Make this your mantra and burn it into your brain! As a woman in ministry, you will have to have an unwavering commitment that God loves you and He has called you. You! Not your husband. Not your neighbor. And not a man. He has called you, a woman, to be used to share the Gospel. And the Gospel needs you; a woman.
Stop freaking out about not having a mentor.
All I heard the first two years was how I really needed a mentor. Yeah, that never happened. I had some great friends, male and female, who had experience as ministers. They were my go-to people. They recommended books, prayed with me, and talk me off the ledge a few times. Women church planters are a rare breed. Women clergy are a rare breed. We are multiplying, but, in the meantime, work with whatever God grants you. Trust me. God has a plan and He will help you get where you are going.
Keep your relationship with God and your family fresh.
As women in ministry, many of us feel driven to produce in order to keep up with our male colleagues. Equally, as women, we tend to also be relationship driven. I found these two inner driving forces often collided. Do whatever you need to do to make that relationship with God top priority. If you need to change up your spiritual disciplines, then do it. But stay connected to God. And your relationship with your spouse and children should be such a close second that it looks like one and the same.
Earn your spouse’s trust.
I recently read a blog post by a male church planter who stated that he was logical and his wife was emotional, therefore she needed to “just trust him”. I could write a lengthy post about that comment alone, but I will save it for later. However, you do need to earn your spouse’s trust. Not because you are a woman, but because you and your spouse are partners in ministry. Church planters and ministers alike know that their spouse can make or break their ministry. Honor your husband/wife and they will honor you in return. Remember, you are asking them to step out on faith.
Church people are a blessing…and a curse. Choose wisely.
You may have a burning passion to reach the unchurched. Unfortunately, not everyone shares your vision. They think they do. They will tell you with great conviction that they have a heart for the lost. But they have no idea what they are signing up for by joining the journey. They can be your greatest asset. And they can be your greatest stumbling block. Pray. Hard. If you have any negative intuition, then strongly encourage them to wait before joining you.
Find favor in your community.
Once you identify where God is sending you, work at finding favor in your community. Identify a good coffee place to study, and frequent it consistently. Look for opportunities to connect and serve alongside your neighbors. Do what it takes to get noticed. And then bless them.
Share the vision. A lot!
Share your vision for planting your church with everyone. First, it will help keep the passion fresh in your spirit. You will need to keep your passion fueled to help you press through the tough days. You also need to share the vision over and over again because your core team will forget. They didn’t have that revelation moment you experienced. They need you to tell it again and again until they can tell it.
Live and die for the vision.
Nothing is as important as the vision. Except people coming to Christ. Nothing. Protect it. Honor it. Eat, sleep, breathe it. If the vision lives, then the church will grow.
Be open to God fine-tuning the vision.
You must live and die for the vision. But God is the Author of that vision. He has the right to make changes, fine tune it, shift it a degree or two. Hold the reigns of the vision loosely enough to feel God’s leading.
Remember, your story is unique.
In the early days, I compared my story to everyone else I heard. Many of them were wild, crazy stories of abnormal and exponential growth. It paralyzed me. You are unique and your story is unique. The path that you take will reflect your personality, experience, and your environment. Give yourself as much grace as your give to your congregation and maybe a little more.
If you are sensing God calling you to plant a church, then I hope you will surrender to Him. Find someone you can talk to about it. The world needs more church planters. And it most definitely needs more women church planters. Be the change you want to see.
Death is a subject most avoided in our culture. We are afraid to talk about it. We do our best to stay busy and not think about it. We spend most of our money trying to avoid it. Yet, the death rate in America is still 100%. Think about it. No one leaves this world without passing through the tunnel of death.
In more recent years, we have started to talk about it. But we frame our conversations as life after life. So, even our discussions about death are really about after-death, but not death itself.
Fear; I suppose. Fear of the unknown. No one knows for certain what happens when we cross to the other side of life. We can speculate; make assumptions, foster hope. But we cannot truly know until we get there.
I think it’s a little like marriage. We can talk to people and get advice. We can develop skills and find resources to better prepare us. Yet, as someone who stands 25 years on the other side of “I do”, it is nothing how I had imagined.
I have a friend who experienced one of those near-death moments you read about from time to time. He was clinically dead, and his soul encountered Jesus in the realm between heaven and earth. It changed him.
He is not the same person who died. And his life now bears the marks of Christ. I suppose we truly cannot encounter Christ without being changed. We either become more like Him or we are hardened on the inside.
But my friend knows what happens. Sort of. He knows what he encountered and his fear of death is gone. He is confident that he will be embraced by God’s love when that day arrives.
You and I and others who have not had such an experience play the trust game. We have to have faith. We have to trust in the unseen, unknown, and untested. We have to trust the testimonies of people like my friend. We have to trust the stories of men and women who encountered a Man named Jesus 2000 years ago.
The author of the Book of Hebrews wrote that faith is being certain of what we do not see. Hmm.
I suspect we have different definitions of certainty.
Certainty is the “quality of being reliably true”. Reliably true suggests it is something we have experienced in the past and we can trust that it will happen again in the future; like the sun shining tomorrow. I am certain the sun will shine tomorrow because I have experienced the sun each day for the 46 years I have been alive.
So perhaps we could modify that statement for our generation by saying “faith is being reasonably certain of what we do not see”. That’s works for me. I can be reasonably certain of life after death. I can be reasonably certain because I can reason that my friend’s experience is available to more persons than him alone. I can be reasonably certain because people have seen a clear transformation in him after this encounter. We can be reasonably certain because of so many who’s lives have been radically changed when they encountered God. And this reasonable certainty eases my fear.
If fear of death is actually fear of the unknown, then can we rely on reasonable certainty to ease that fear? Could you trust that people for generations have been radically changed by something greater than themselves? And could you trust this One who has changed them to care for you as well? If you and I are still waiting for absolute certainty, then we may never experience freedom from fear of death. But if we can be reasonably certain, then we might move from fear of death into the joy of life.
So, today, consider that fear is keeping you asleep in your recliner. Wake up to the joy of life that is found in reasonable certainty!
In Malcolm Gladwell ‘s recent podcast, he shared the story of Hank Rowan. Rowan was a philanthropist in the 1990’s who gave a $100 million donation to a small college in New Jersey. He gave this to a small, public school rather than his alma mater (MIT) or any other prestigious university. Rowan became a trendsetter with his gift, but not in the way one might imagine. Since then, other philanthropists have given gifts of $100 million or more to other schools. However, the majority of those donations went to wealthy, prestigious, private universities. Not small, struggling, public schools.
Gladwell highlights the difference between Rowan and other donors, such as Phil Knight of Nike Corporation. For many donors in the West, philanthropy is Superstar driven or strong link driven. In other words, they desire to give their money to the superstar universities, even though these schools already have multiple donors, because they believe that investing in the biggest and brightest is the best way to spend their money.
Rowan, however, is a weak link driven philanthropist. He believes that the secondary education system will benefit when we give to the weaker schools and build them up. In other words, when the weak link becomes stronger then all the schools become stronger.
Gladwell uses the idea of soccer to make his point. In soccer, a team is only as strong as its weakest player. Since a weak player is more likely to miss a goal or make a mistake, the weakest player is the one most likely to cost them the game. Therefore, if the team wants to improve their winning average, they need to improve their weakest player, not their best player.
The idea of weakest link strategy vs. strong link strategy made me stop to think about how we function as local church bodies and denominations. In particular, the evangelical church in the West tends to favor the strong link strategy. We spend our time, money, and people resources on strengthening the superstar players.
I have seen this most often with “mature” Christians. They come to a place in their discipleship where they are “no longer being fed spiritually”. So they leave the small church to seek out the superstar players. They take their resources and give them away to the biggest and best; the large or even mega church.
Now, if you are a new Christian…if you are still learning this whole follow Jesus thing, then I am not speaking to you. But if you can quote scripture like there’s no tomorrow and if you know who your pastor is talking about when they mention the name “Melchizedek”, then yes I am talking to you.
There are many small churches much like that small college that need your resources. They need you to teach a bible study, rock a baby, and help serve hot dogs at the next event. They need you to put your time in at the sound booth, hand out bulletins, and plan the next teen event. They need your resources.
As Believers, we love to throw around the bible verse that it is better to give than receive. But then we plant ourselves in a large church with lots of resources and hand our kids over to have someone else take care of them. When all the time there is a small church in your neighborhood struggling. They are not struggling because they are irrelevant or unwilling to change and grow. I know there are many out there in this category. But there are just as many who are reaching hurting, broken families. Yet they are slowly drying up in resources. Time, money, people….resources.
What would happen to the Church (with a big ‘C’), the Body of Christ, if we strengthened the weaker church? What would happen if we invested in the small, struggling church who is actually making a difference, but simply running on fumes? What would happen to the mission, the Great Commission, if we strengthened our weak link? Is it possible that we would ALL become stronger? Is it possible that we would ALL reach higher? Reach more broken, hurting people? What would happen if the “mature” Christians would give and not only receive?
I have this idea that in those small, weak “links” we would find people who God could use to change the world. I think if we invested in these weak links, we would be stronger together. Perhaps you are sitting in a larger church or mega church now and God is calling you to give more than you receive. Could it be that you are asleep in a recliner? Could it be time to wake up and answer the call of God? Could it be time?