As we have planted, I’ve had many prospective church plant women approach me asking for advice. “What do I need to know or anticipate with church planting?” “What should I do to prepare for church planting?”
This question was always hard to answer. Since I’m a person who needs to process things over time (to make sure I communicate what I’m thinking clearly), it took me awhile to fully understand what they were even asking me.
When I gave answers at first, like: “It’s nothing like working in an established ministry…” “It will exhaust you spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically…” “You spend most of your time on your knees in battle…”- it didn’t seem to alleviate the stress in their eyes.
So, I’m going to begin to compile a list of things that take precedent in your new world of church planting. Some of the things I offer, people will look at as trivial. Or too easy to say. And honestly, I don’t care. After almost 5 years in the church planting world, these are things that I have found make our world easier. I have not listed them in order of importance, just as they come to me. (Because that, my friend, is how my brain works. Slow processor– remember?)
#1 Keep your focus WIDE
When you become so hyper-focused on one thing within the church plant, you will miss the small details that can cause trouble down the road. As a supportive wife to your planter husband, make sure you pay attention to small details that he may miss. If the Holy Spirit brings to your attention something that may seem trivial at the time, but could eventually blow up out of proportion, tell him immediately.
- You notice the hard line of a man’s face and his condescending tone about something awry in the church… weeks later, he and his family ghost on your texts and voice mails and stop attending.
- More and more problems with leadership within a ministry seem to be being brought to the surface. Red flags… if you will.
- A family begins to pull away from you and circle their wagons with other families in the church. There is no disdain, only whispers of gossip from within the circle.
- Two women clash. Their resentment of each others begins to affect their families and then, their friend circles.
- One ministry is struggling, while another is flourishing.
- The amount of events are killing your volunteers’ aptitudes and attitudes towards ministry.
When your vision stays WIDE, you will begin to see how God is molding the plant into His Vision for it. If you have tunnel-vision, you may be a good ministry leader, but you will not be a good church planter. Make sure that as leaders you notice those small details that can bring a church down. Constantly be scanning for problems as you move ahead towards the future. All good entrepreneurs are always looking to the future. Be present in your present, but be looking ahead to where God has gone ahead of you.
#2 Don’t you dare gossip to anyone about people. Anyone.
Sorry for the super harsh vocabulary- but this one gets me frustrated. We should never open our mouth to gossip or speak unkindly of others within the walls of our church, as well as outside the walls of our church.
I am guilty of this. And it does not end well. God will hold out on his blessings for you and it always affects your church… and ultimately the Kingdom.
So, please, I beg you for the sake of the Kingdom- keep your tongue silent. You may think that you have that one girlfriend who wouldn’t ever pass the gossip on. But guess what- it will color how she views what you are griping about. She will start to watch that person/ministry more closely and have more things to add to your fire. And when that happens? Not good…
Also, don’t tell me that you just share “concerns” or “prayer requests” when you just want to “talk” and make someone else look pathetic… or make yourself look better. Get over yourself.
If you truly want to help someone out by asking for prayer for them, go to the source and ask permission. Then ask what they want to be shared. Be respectful of their privacy.
#3 Don’t criticize other church planters or ministers in established churches.
We are all in this Kingdom-Building together. If we continue to pick apart other ministries, we are literally picking fights with our own calvary.
Come on, people. It seems ridiculous right? But it happens. So put an end to it, starting in your own church. And squash it when it happens. I mean, other churches are still the Bride of Christ… no matter how tarnished. Christ still loves and died for them. Let’s instead learn to pray for each other as churches, instead of compete, gossip and tear down other Brides that God loves.
Building a united and effective church planting team is challenging, but the success of the church plant hinges on it. You must be careful and look for signs that potential team members do not appear to be a root to potential problems. But, before you look at team members look at your own leadership.
Be aware of red flags… and if you see them, address them. (seriously, address them)
Red Flag #1: If one person begins to talk bad of the church, it will spread like a virus. Their distrust of the team/church will leak into relationships, friendships and even into the lives of those that you are trying to reach. These people are divisive and need to be cut out of leadership as soon as they are found out.
Red Flag #2: If you notice marriage problems growing within a family, address it! Do not feel as though you will encroach on their personal problems if you address it. Ask them to begin marital counseling as soon as possible. Make sure you minister to your team.
Red Flag #3: Most of the church planter’s extended families are supportive. But there are those that will not be. Some will come to visit with the intention of encouragement, but leave you only with criticism and doubt that can creep into your heart. Remind your team only to trust in the God who brought you to plant this church. Reflect on the criticisms, but don’t dwell on it or own it. If the criticism continues to grow and there is no positive encouragement, relationships within the team will begin to fray. Ask families for positive encouragement and prayers.
Red Flag #4: Watch for signs of apathy. People in church planting, at times, do not feel an urgency to accomplish tasks or apply excellence to the tasks that they do accomplish. Be aware of this: soon this apathy will creep into everyone’s philosophy of ministry and the church will fail. Stay on your team to remember the reason the church was planted (to bring the lost to Christ) and appeal to them to go all-out in all aspects of their ministry.
In order for an apple to remain fresh and good to eat, you must cut out any bruises/rotten areas before you consume it. The same is true for any church. Fight against these red flags and keep moving forward.
What do we do when we are the center of gossip? How do we go about that?
First, take your injuries to your Heavenly Father who is always waiting for you to run to Him. He is always ready to listen to us; whether we are hurt, excited, or just mediocre.
Second, we must check our pride. Were we hurt by this gossip? If so- why? Was our pride injured?
Third… do nothing. Just wait. If you are innocent, God will redeem you. As a CPW, I have learned that I will never be able to justify myself to those who have chosen to gossip about me. I have to be okay with that. My goodness, it is so hard—and sometimes I wish I could just blurt out the truth LOUD AND CLEAR… but is that my pride wanting everyone to know that I’m innocent of what I’m being accused of?
(Side note) It REALLY stinks when they choose to gossip about your husband. Many don’t realize how much they hurt the spouses of those accused when they gossip about them. “And the two shall become one…” and that is so true in my case. My heart aches… mourns… and is greatly distressed when I hear untrue statements are being circulated about my husband. And even more heart wrenching for me, is that piercing stab in the back when I find that those who are gossiping are a part of the body of Christ… those whom I used to trust… women AND men who decide to become suspicious of us instead of coming to us with their concerns.
Most gossip when it comes to church planting, always comes back to the CP (in my case, my husband.) “He must be planting a church because he just wants to hear himself preach… Why would he plant a church in that town…He doesn’t know how to run a church… He is running it like a business… He is trying to take people from our church to help him plant- why can’t he find other people?… He is so egotistical- he will fail… let’s just wait and see what happens.”
These are just some of the things that will circulate. In fact, I feel as though I should sometimes put out a paper with all the gossip before it comes out of their mouths! LOL. The next headline? “THE UNSACRED BUILDING UP OF A CHURCH PLANT.” (Ha, ha! Totally makes me laugh inside… just a smidge. Hee, hee.)
All kidding aside, gossip is spiteful, vindictive and oozing with pride. Please, don’t participate in it; run away as fast as you can! And if you find yourself wanting to say hateful and prideful things, ask Jesus to change your heart. He may just be waiting for you to ask Him.
My jaw dropped. My heart raced. My face flushed. I was being called out in front of an entire classroom full of my teenage, female peers. I was an accomplice in a hurtful display of gossip and treachery- and I was caught. I found myself, tears pouring down my face while burning a hole into the desk under my hands. Some friends of mine were angry with another friend and wrote out a very nasty note to her. They then asked me to re-write it for them- so that the girl would not know who had written it out. (Not my smartest moment…as I agreed to do it for them during a movie in Mr. Essink’s darkened English classroom…agh!)
There I sat. Disapproving glares and stares from those who were innocent burning through my body. I felt their eyes everywhere as I admitted to my guilt. My coach, who I greatly respected, voiced his disappointment in us, but mostly in me. He had never expected this behavior from me, as I was “a good Christian girl…” Those words rang through my head for YEARS.
I have asked for forgiveness for my past crime. But, THE PAIN! …the pain I inflicted upon my friend, still haunts me. I was terrible. And still, even as I acknowledge my past, I still find myself tempted and have succumbed to gossip since then. Will I ever learn to keep my mouth in check? (And for some comic relief… I am now revealing a photo of myself and an amazing friend in high school… yes– this did happen!)
Yes… facial masks and African instruments… uh-huh.
We, as women, do not generally have control of our tongues. But, I wonder… is it our tongues that need the change—or is it our minds?
Are we complaining when we unleash our words?
Do we believe that we are not being treated fairly or that we are not receiving enough credit?
Do we think we are “above” something?
Did someone hurt our feelings— (how DARE they?!?)
Do we not agree with something (no matter how ridiculous it appears to others?)
Do we believe that we can do better?
Do we want to be the first to share some new SHOCKING news?
And yet, all of these reasons comes back to… wait for it… PRIDE. I admit it. I am prideful. Because when it comes to gossip—it’s all about “me.”
If everything is about “me,” then do we truly love others as Christ called us to do?
James 3:7-10 This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can’t tame a tongue—it’s never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth!
10-12 My friends, this can’t go on. A spring doesn’t gush fresh water one day and brackish the next, does it? Apple trees don’t bear strawberries, do they? Raspberry bushes don’t bear apples, do they? You’re not going to dip into a polluted mud hole and get a cup of clear, cool water, are you?
13-16 Do you want to be counted wise, to build a reputation for wisdom? Here’s what you do: Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It’s the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts. Mean-spirited ambition isn’t wisdom. Boasting that you are wise isn’t wisdom. Twisting the truth to make yourselves sound wise isn’t wisdom. It’s the furthest thing from wisdom—it’s animal cunning, devilish conniving. Whenever you’re trying to look better than others or get the better of others, things fall apart and everyone ends up at the others’ throats.
17-18 Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.