When my wife, Heather, and I felt God leading us to plant a church, questions flooded our minds. The most pressing was, “Can we do this as a family of seven?” And if so, “How do we prepare our little ones for church planting?”
To be honest, being a church planter was not a path I would have chosen for myself or my family. Even though I had educational training and thirteen years of ministry experience, the leap of faith required to plant a church with five daughters aged two to nine seemed insurmountable. If we were going to answer God’s call, we had to prepare.
The following questions helped prepare our family for planting. And if you find yourself in a situation similar to ours, I pray they will help you too.
Identity: What Callings Will You Need to Manage?
Church planting is all-consuming. It requires the skill set, experience, and effort of an evangelist, leader, teacher, shepherd, entrepreneur, counselor, missionary, and friend. Once things get rolling, a planter often feels like he is on-call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
Yet being a church planter wasn’t my only calling. As a husband, I have been entrusted with a wife to cherish. As a father, I have five daughters to raise. And as the pastor of the church I’m planting, I am called to create and maintain a culture of truth and grace where people can mature in faith. Above all these, I am called to walk worthy of the gospel (Phil. 1:27) as a son of the King (Rom. 8:17; Eph. 2:19).
If you are considering planting a church, you need to recognize that some callings will naturally motivate you, while others may feel burdensome in seasons when life is challenging. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to managing your callings, it’s foolish to attempt juggling them alone (Eph. 4:25). So, invite people from each sphere to speak into your life. Let their feedback help you manage all that God has called you to do.
Time: What Rhythms Will Help Your Family and Church Thrive?
Paul said, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15–16 ESV).
It is easy for calendars to fill and chaos to ensue when we fail to establish priorities or set boundaries. Nights and weekends are primetime opportunities to connect with people, of course. Yet those times are also ideal to engage one another as a family. As a result, it was crucial for us to set predictable rhythms for the good of everyone.
For example, I schedule elder meetings and one-on-one discipleship between 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 am on weekdays whenever possible. I keep training meetings and discipleship classes to one Saturday morning per month.
At the personal level, I try to spend one day each month fasting from technology, using simply a Bible and a notebook to explore what’s going on in my soul. As a family, we eat lunch out once a week and aim to eat one meal together every day without phones or similar distractions.
Other rhythms include at least one day a week without work to make space for personal rest and spiritual renewal. We schedule a monthly date and quarterly night away for the sake of our marriage. And we take two consecutive weeks of vacation each year as a family.
Simple rhythms like these not only communicate what God values to those around us but also reinforce these values in our own lives. These rhythms will also go a long way toward helping you avoid sacrificing your family on the altar of ministry.
Gospel: How Will Your Children Hear and See the Good News?
We wanted our girls to see the gospel at work, not just hear it taught. That’s why we have always looked for ways to include them in what we do. For example, our oldest three have had the opportunity to visit two churches we helped plant, one in Romania and one in the Dominican Republic.
Upon returning from one of these visits, our eleven-year-old decided to help purchase land for one of those planters. She painted several canvases and sold them for a fair price to people in our extended family, our church, and our community. In the end, she was able to donate over $500 toward this goal. I took her back several months later to attend the first worship service in that neighborhood, which previously had no church or gospel witness.
When we view our children as active partners on mission for Christ, church planting presents invaluable opportunities to help them see the gospel at work.
Integration: Why You Will Need All Three
Looking back, it is clear that no one of these areas, by themselves, would have been sufficient to sustain the health of both my family and our church. As you prepare to plant, you will also need all three.
You will need a clear sense of identity to guard you from imbalance and from idleness. You will need wise rhythms to make sure your callings are abstractly assented to but are actually fulfilled. And you will need continual opportunities to see the gospel in action to avoid feeling spiritually dry or burned out.
Taken together, these three areas will serve your family well and help set the course for beautiful gospel legacy, both at home and in the church.
Scott serves as the pastor of Advance Community Church in Gibsonia, Pennsylvania, where he lives with his wife, Heather, and their five daughters.