25 Lessons I've Learned in Church Planting
Updated: Jul 23, 2021
In 2008, God called my husband Kyle and me to plant a church in Charlottesville, Virginia. Entering church planting, we had eight years of ministry experience under our belts at an established church, but we didn’t yet know what we didn’t know. We had so much to learn and, more accurately, God had so 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 any obligatory service I can give Him. I write extensively about this in my book, The Church Planting Wife: Help and Hope for Her Heart. But I’ve learned an additional thing or two in this crazy adventure called church planting, and I’m sure I’ll learn more as we move forward. Here’s what I know so far:
Hospitality is essential.
For the church planter, church planting teaches two things more than any other: that God is faithful and how to depend on that faithful God.
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.
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 cannot know everyone.
Church planting happens one relationship at a time.
Sometimes church planting feels like you’re pretending to be a church. And then one day (after back breaking work and lots of prayer) you realize God has built an honest-to-goodness church right before your eyes.
You cannot church plant without support and encouragement from others.
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.
The church plant often takes on the personality and the passions of the church planter and his wife. This is why it’s important to cling to Christ and have biblical vision.
Most people, especially outsiders, don’t know what it means when you say you’re church planting. And they think you’re a little bit crazy.
One of the greatest assets and resources a church planter has: other church planters and pastors in the same city. These relationships should be cultivated.
One of the hardest relationships a church planter may have: other church planters and pastors in the same city. Sadly.
The calling to church plant must be sure because it will have to be returned to again and again in the face of discouragement, defeat, and uncertainty.
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 will 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).
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, nursery workers, the janitors, and the seats that are permanently bolted to the ground.
As much as possible, a church plant should be structured how it wants to look a year in the future.
It is unhealthy for the church planter, the church, and especially the church planting wife if she is doing childcare during church each week.
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.
Slow and steady growth is healthy growth. Explosive growth can be fragile growth.
A good worship leader is essential and hard to find.
Spiritual warfare is real.
Church plants should never be started by a pastor who was disgruntled or unable to sit under authority at their former church. Church plants cannot be rebuttals to another pastor’s way of pastoring. They must be built upon a clear call from God.
A church planter and his wife must pray for and develop a love for their city, and not just their city, but for the people of their city.
The church planting wife's main role in helping her husband is, like Aaron holding Moses' arms up in battle, praying for and encouraging him to keep on.
There is joy and reward in sacrifice and service.