The Challenges of Church Planting
Church planting seems to come with a multitude of responsibilities. The many challenges of church planting impact more than just planters themselves. In the world of church planting, there’s little staff and a lot of work. So much time and effort are devoted to raising your church up off the ground, and much is required of the church planter’s family, too.
Sometimes, planters will lean too heavily on their loved ones to fill in the gaps where there are no staff members, volunteers, or other leaders to assist. Ministry responsibilities can even take planters away from their family responsibilities. There are many challenges, so it’s important to consider where to place your time and energy as a planter.
1. Counting the Cost
It has been said before that if you want to test your marriage, plant a church. If you want to plant a church, you must first and foremost consider your calling as you count the cost. Be sure that you are serious about this new ministry venture on the front end. Because when you become a church planter, people who enter your church building are walking in with expectations. Do you fully believe that you can raise up the next gospel outpost in your community, in your city, on that street corner? If so, count the cost before stepping into this role.
Church planting networks and sending churches don’t want to raise up or send out any church planters who haven’t fully counted the cost seeing this new church through. As these networks and churches begin their church planter assessments, they’re not just evaluating the readiness of the planter, but of the spouse and family, too. Is your spouse on board for what’s next? Is your family engaged, involved, and willing?
2. Blending over Balancing
It’s nearly impossible to balance life and ministry; there’s always one unbalanced element in the equation. You’ll always seem to put more time and effort into one area of your life than the other. So, instead of balance, try to blend. Consider the ways you can normalize doing ministry alongside your family. Figure out how you can better incorporate your family into ministry by blending them into it. It’s not always a choice between family or ministry—it’s the question of how you can do both by blending them together rather than having to choose one over the other.
Apart from vocational ministry, you have a financial responsibility for your household, a marital responsibility for the health of your marriage, a parental responsibility for the raising of your kids, and a mental and emotional responsibility to care for your own health and wellness. You don’t have to have personal time in the Word that’s separate from time with your spouse or kids. That same passage of Scripture that blesses you can be used to bless your wife as well as your kids. You’re responsible for so many things and can easily crumble underneath the weight of your responsibilities by trying too hard to compartmentalize them. Instead, consider where these things naturally intersect and go from there.
3. Setting Healthy Boundaries
The reality is that your spouse—and children—will have their own giftings to be used in the church. Your spouse should not bear the same weight of expectations as you do. It’s always incredible to see a husband and wife equally engage in the work of the church plant, but you cannot be the one to place that call upon your spouse. You don’t want your wife to always be your women’s ministry director and your children’s ministry director. Don’t impose these expectations upon your spouse—or your kids—that you saw in somebody else’s family at some other church plant. You have to be emotionally healthy enough to be honest with your spouse about the expectations you have for ministry. Yet you must allow your family to step into what the Lord is leading them into. Study their spiritual giftings and how the Lord has wired them for His ministry purposes.
One step further, establish healthy rhythms for date nights, regular check-ins, personal sabbath, and family time. Be able to have these needed conversations with the ones you love and be intentional about not letting this time get deleted from your calendar. We all thrive with structure. Do what you can to book reservations for dinner. Sign up to volunteer where your kids are involved so you can pull away from work and be with your family. Create more opportunities that draw you away from work and pull you toward your family so you can truly be present in their lives.
4. Lean into Wise Counsel
Cultivate accountability with trusted people in your life. Just as you must be able to recognize the signs of withdrawal in others’ lives, they, too, must be aware of the same signs in your life and ministry. Don’t allow the difficulties of church planting to fester. Be proactive in having others communicate where you need help and vice versa. Allow others to see what you need in real time. Finding wise counsel always means looking to biblical community, but sometimes it means looking to a counselor as well.
Church planting may bring to light some problems hidden under the surface as well as new stressors in your life. Counseling can help you get to the root of those stressors. Whether through a mentor or a faith-based therapist, we could all benefit from this kind of mental and emotional support. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
5. Casting the Vision
At the end of the day, you may have a great vision statement for your church. But consider this: what’s the vision statement for your family? You may have a plan for the next ten years in the life of your church, but what’s the plan for the next ten years in the lives of your kids? Your marriage? What would it profit a man to plant an amazing church, yet miss out on raising up your family in the ways of the Lord?
Don’t sacrifice your family—or marriage—on the altar of ministry. Seek the Lord as you count the cost, blend responsibilities, set healthy boundaries, lean into wise counsel, and work toward the overall health and flourishing of your family, as they are your primary ministry. May you seek His will in the life of your family as you seek His will in the life of your church.
Adapted from Episode 651: Loving Your Family While Planting a Church of the New Churches Podcast. Listen here for more!
Published October 16, 2023