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If I Could Go Back to the Beginning: 10 Lessons Learned from Church Planting

If I could go back to the beginning of our church plant journey—spring of 2014 when Matt and I first publicly committed to answer God’s call to plant a church—knowing what I know now, here are the ten things I would tell myself:

#1 – Every other pastor’s wife and Christian woman is on a journey, trying to figure it all out, just like you are. You so badly want a mentor, a confidant, an older woman who has been there, done that, and has all the answers. She does not exist because no one has it all figured out. You will end up finding some trustworthy older women of integrity who will listen and love you, but it will be years before you find them in your own congregation. Get on a plane, buy her an airline ticket, or set up a Zoom.

#2 – God called your husband to this shepherding role because he has equipped him for it. Matt has spiritual gifts that you don’t have—like heightened spiritual discernment when it comes to purity of hearts and intentions. His words are guided and given by the Holy Spirit. It’s hard to trust that right now because you think and speak differently than he does. Use your gifts for teaching and administration to complement his role, but always let him lead. God blesses order in his church, and Matt is God’s man for this job.


“Every other pastor’s wife and Christian woman is on a journey, trying to figure it all out, just like you are.”


#3 – It might seem validating when you’re in a small startup church to have someone come to church and bring critiques of larger, more influential churches. They’re not complimenting you but playing to your own envy and insecurity. Don’t listen to or participate in gossip about another local body of Christ. Guaranteed: Before long, those who bring that criticism to you will be moving on to another place, talking negatively about you and your church.

#4 – Do not be ashamed to seek Bible-based, professional counseling from someone who is a licensed, doctoral-level professional prepared to offer this service. You’re not as mentally astute as you think you are; and even when you’re committed to God’s Word, you can still be confused, wounded, and even temporarily sidelined by the enemy’s manipulation, gaslighting, and lies. Tend to your mental health along with your spiritual health.

#5 – Put your full trust in God. His work and your calling are not contingent on any person’s approval or support. Those in ministry whom you think you can’t do without will likely be those God removes so that you know with certainty that your reliance is on him and not them. And when this happens and you feel alone, open your eyes to the silent majority surrounding you and the unsolicited support and encouragement that come from the most unexpected people and places.


“When you feel alone, open your eyes to the silent majority surrounding you.”


#6 – Boundaries are appropriate and necessary. Sometimes people will sincerely need you—be sensitive to those situations and give of yourself generously. Others will hijack your heart and leave you with little to give to those you should be loving and discipling first—your husband and children. In those situations, set appropriate boundaries and say healthy goodbyes. Let the crucifix remind you that the position of Savior is already taken. Love people and pray for them. God owns the outcome of this effort, not you.

#7 – When you walk by faith, expect God’s favor, and be grateful for the appreciation of people, the opportunities and offers, the publicity and notoriety when they happen. But take it all with a grain of salt. It doesn’t change your calling, and believing your own hype isn’t what got you to the next level. It was long obedience in the same direction. Stay the course even when something else seems flashier or fancier.

#8 – When you walk by faith, also expect persecution to accompany the blessings. Jesus said so in Mark 10:29–30. Let go of your “all or nothing extremes.” Learn to balance the duality of ministry. Some people will love you, and some people will hate you. But neither one determines your standing with God. When you’re faced with heartbreaking opposition, set your face like flint, and let the Sovereign Lord help you. He sees all and knows all, and he will sort it out when he judges all things.


“When you walk by faith, also expect persecution to accompany the blessings.”


#9 – Never lose the sense of wonder at what God is doing. Keep recording every milestone, journaling every answered prayer, taking pictures of every precious moment. Every big thing you experience in years 1 to 5 will be dwarfed by the big things you experience in years 6 to 10. But worship God through the wonder of it all because he is doing far more than you could’ve ever asked, imagined, or deserved. When your church campus has four buildings and 23 acres, still don’t let the miracle of the overgrown 8-acre field cease to amaze you.

#10 – When your kids get older and they’re asked why they’re still committed to the Lord’s church as adults, they likely won’t mention the kids’ ministry, the student ministry, the summer camps, or the worship team. They’ll talk about the unwavering commitment to Christ’s bride that they saw in you and Matt and the authenticity of your walks with God. The programs, the production, and the perks of the church are fun and can draw a crowd, but those aren’t the things that keep people. So do the things well, but give most care and attention to walking in integrity with the Lord and his people.

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