25 Things I’ve Learned from Church Planting

In 2008, God called my husband, Kyle, and me to plant a church in Charlottesville, Virginia. Though we had eight years of ministry experience under our belts at an established church, we didn’t yet know all that we didn’t know. We had much to learn and, more importantly, God had much sifting and pruning to do in our hearts.

God has shown me that, more than anything, he wants my heart. He wants a tender, moldable heart willing to obey more than he wants any obligatory service I can give him. As I write in my new book, The Church Planting Wife: Help and Hope for Her Heart (Moody, 2013), I’ve learned a thing or two in this crazy adventure called church planting—and I trust I’ll learn more as we move forward. Here are 25 things I’ve discovered so far.

1. Hospitality is essential.

2. Church planting teaches two things more than any other: that God is faithful and that we must learn how to depend on that faithful God.

3. Programs matter a lot to some people, especially families with small children. It takes special families who can grasp the vision of church planting to invest in a church plant on the ground level.

4. On the other hand, some people love the early stages of church planting but become uncomfortable when the church grows to a size where they can no longer know everyone.

5. Church planting happens one relationship at a time.

6. Sometimes church planting feels like you’re pretending to be a church. And then one day (after backbreaking work and lots of prayer) you realize God has built an honest-to-goodness church right before your eyes.

7. You cannot church plant apart from the support and encouragement of others.

8. The Word is living and active. When we let God speak through his Word, he changes people. Every church plant must gather earnestly around the Word and the Christ to which it points.

9. The church plant often takes on the personality and passions of the church planter and his wife. This is why it’s important to cling to Christ with biblical vision.

10. Most people, especially outsiders, don’t know what it means when you say you’re church planting. And they think you’re a little crazy.

11. One of the church planter’s greatest resources is other church planters and pastors in the same city. These relationships should be cultivated.

12. Some of the hardest relationships a church planter may have are with other church planters and pastors in the same city. Sadly.

13. The calling to church plant must be sure since you’ll need to return to it again and again in the face of discouragement, defeat, and uncertainty.

14. The gospel is everything: it sustains when discouragement comes (and it always does), it keeps a church planter and his wife in their city (because there will be times when they want to give up and leave), it compels its ministers forward (and sometimes it’s the only motivation left), and it changes lives (which makes it all worth it).

15. A church planter cannot drive by an established church without appreciating what it took to make it that way. And he will first think about the secretaries, the nursery workers, the janitors, and the seats permanently bolted to the ground.

16. As much as possible, a church plant should be structured according to how leaders want it to look a year in the future.

17. It’s unhealthy for the church planter, the church, and especially the church planting wife if she’s doing childcare during church each week.

18. A failed church plant is not failure. Lack of faith is failure. Service in God’s name with a heart far away from him is failure.

19. Slow and steady growth is healthy growth. Explosive growth can be fragile growth.

20. A good worship leader is important and hard to find.

21. Spiritual warfare is real.

22. Church plants should never be started by someone disgruntled or unable to sit under authority at his former church. Church plants cannot be rebuttals to another pastor’s methods and ideas. They must be built on a clear call from God.

23. A church planter and his wife must pray for and develop a love for their city—and not just the city but for its people.

24. The church planting wife’s main role in helping her husband is, like Aaron holding up Moses’ arms in battle, praying for and encouraging him to press on.

25. There is unimaginable joy and reward in sacrifice and service.

  • http://lisaspence.com Lisa Spence

    We are a church split-turned-plant and though I am not the pastor’s wife I find your lessons here to ones we too learned, particularly the part about people thinking you’re crazy. :) But a hearty amen to #2 above: the Lord is indeed faithful and He has proved Himself to us over and over and over again!

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  • Ruth Li

    I feel very graceful for u sharing ur true feeling and wisdom concerning raising a church.Though short,but many line indeed speak to me, as I have been living in church for so many years,cause it is an essential place for my spiritual and faith growth.In reading ur message,I am reflecting the respective details in the churchs that I have experienced and seen,there are lots of problems that both the planter and the flowers have overlooked,and deep in my heart I could always feel some important thing is missing, that is the Word and Spirit of God,and the planting pattern connected to following God’s will. My church sometime would like to incorporate social activities(of course out of good will in order to make the church grow) to attract people attention,and woo their interest,and to achieve the success in number of attending,but fail to make clear to these people what and who should they be really focused on. As for the one-relationship at a time u mentioned,there is a kind of lack in most churches around me too.In fact,I really wish that church fellows to establish a Life-growth communication atmosphere,and people when in face-to-face talk, they can be more attracted to God and life-related topics,as I haven been caring so much and sensitive to.Without
    God’s being together,a church is in shortage of nutrition.And,the No.23 is really edifying,as I have read a book”ready to be a helper”,explain the role that a woman and a good wife should play.

  • Ruth Li

    It should be helpful good book,kind of attracting me to make a plan of reading,don’t know if there is english or Chinese version in China??

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  • Ray Ortlund

    Well done. Thanks.

  • Elizabeth

    Thank you for sharing,My husband sent me a link to your blog after recently sharing with him that I have a burden on my heart about the loneliness of being a pastors wife. We are also church planters and I am looking forward to reading your book. The Lord definitely used your encouraging words. Thank you.

    • http://www.gracecoversme.com Christine

      I’m thankful it was helpful to you, Elizabeth. I hope the book is, too.

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  • Jennifer

    Although we are not a church planting ministry couple, we are still in ministry. My husband has been a minister for almost 17 years. Even though your book is geared towards church-planters…much applies just the same, with the established church ministry. I have been craving to find some books or blogs or forums for Pastor’s Wives. I consider us to have a special calling! Our spouses can leave ministry whenever they are tired, discouraged, burnt-out etc…but we can’t! It takes a very special person to be a PW.

  • James Kessler

    Thank you for this. I’m glad God has made you such a fine steward of your joy, fear, laughter and pain in the process of planting. I’m sure this will be a blessing to many.

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  • http://onlinechurchplanting.com Thomas Blair

    Hey! I love the site and your ministry. Church planting is my passion an I am trying to reach more people with my site. Would you be interested in featuring my site on one of your pages to get the word out?

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