Today I begin a 5-part series of posts related to critical issues facing church planters in the United States and Canada. Several years ago, I did an informal study in which I surveyed 190 individualswho were involved in many different areas of church planting. They were from four Canadian Provinces and thirty-nine states. They represented thirteen different denominations, parachurch organizations, and non-denominational groups.
My desire was to find out what were the five most critical issues church planters were facing at that moment in time. I wanted to know what they felt were the most pressing matters.
My research methodology was a very simple one. I emailed them one question: “What do you believe are the five most critical issues in North American church planting?” Remember, I said this was an informal study (But, hey, when you are working with a research budget of $0, and no research team, you have to start somewhere.).
Since the time of the study, I have continued to ask the same question to church planters, denominational leaders, those coaching church planters, etc. And their responses are either the same as the findings from my study, or very close.
While I have discussed the findings of this study in different publications, this is the first time I have blogged about it. I am starting this series today for three reasons:
1) I want you to know the major issues pressing on church planters in the United States and Canada today.
As a church planter, you need to be aware of these matters, long before you and your team enter the field. If you are already on the field, you need to be aware of these matters and strategize accordingly. If you are supervising, mentoring, shepherding church planters, in order to better minister to them, you need to know what is on their minds–even if they are not verbally communicating these to you.
2) I want to extend a call to others to take up the challenge to do a better, and up-to-date study on the critical issues facing church planters.
We need to know the challenges and how best to equip others for such labors. Find out if my informal findings are still true. If not, what are the new critical issues?
3) I want to challenge us to develop new resources to assist church planters in these areas.
So, today we begin with critical issue #5–Stress on the Family (Yes, I’m counting down, so you will have to stay tuned for the other issues.).
The fifth-most common response that I heard from the field was the amount of pressure placed on the church planting family. Here are a few of responses from the field:
“Relational stress on families is great. Church planters often move into areas where they have no relational support networks. Mother churches often do not embrace the church planter’s family. Couples with young children are especially vulnerable, since they depend on support networks to cope with the daily challenges of parenting.”
“Young parents often miss out on opportunities to refresh themselves as a couple because they have no one with whom to leave their children. Many of our young church planters arrive on the scene as ‘double income, no kids’ couples. Yet the kids come; the wife has to quit her job; the family is left with one income. And you’d be amazed how often this happens just as the church plant’s outside support is coming to an end.”
“Burning out for Jesus stinks, especially when it is not just the church planters who burn out but their wife and kids, too. . . . My wife and kids come before my ministry and always will. After God, they are my highest priority. The people who plant with me need to see this demonstrated.”
“The planter must at all costs take care of his/her family. Church planting can be the worst thing that could ever happen to a family. A planter must have as much of a plan for nurturing his family as he does for growing a church. It’s a shame that planters can be the very ones who turn those closest to themselves away from God.”
Two resources I believe will be of some assistance, particularly to those of you who are going to be planting and pastoring churches, are from the North American Mission Board. The Board did a very insightful and helpful study on church planting wives (the best research on this topic to date). You should read the report HERE. I find that it compliments and provides insight to critical issue #5. Out of their research, they published the outstanding book My Husband Wants to be a Church Planter. . . So What will that Make Me? You can download it for FREE HERE.
Another helpful resource, found HERE, is a video from my great friend and pastor, Dustin Neeley. A portion of it addresses pastoring the family (begins at 2:40). Check it out.
These resources will provide assistance to you and your family as you begin to talk about and plan for critical issue #5.
Practical Matters to Keep in Mind:
1) Don’t neglect your daily time with the Father.
2) Home life does not have to be perfect. . . just next to perfect. (remember, the world and new believers are watching us in our good times and bad times)
3) If your family falls, the missionary work falls even harder. (remember, the ripple effect on the lives of new believers, new churches, and unbelievers in the community)
4) Take days of rest to be with your family.
5) Develop a family strategy for nurturing your family and bringing them along in the journey.