Church Planting: Sustainable Planting (part two)

This is the thirteenth installment in a series based on my adventures in planting a church.  For more information on the series, or to see what else we have walked through, check out the original post.  My hope is to use this series to develop a resource for planters as they are thinking about diving in, or need to process their current situation… this resource is incomplete without your contribution (that is a subtle way of saying leave a comment).

The email I sent out looked like this:

Hey Fellas!

Would you mind briefly (yes, briefly) sharing how YOU intentionally protect YOUR family and keep them relatively healthy through the church planting journey?

I have some ideas, but I am looking for some others that I can share on an upcoming blog post.

The truth is that I have plenty of ideas about how to sustainably plant a church, and how to balance family life with church planting (or ministry in general), but I also know the truth: I have never done this very well.  With that in mind, I reached out to a bunch of my friends who are planting, or have planted, a church… and asked them for a little help.

The responses I got in return were plentiful (which is why there will be a part three on Thursday), and very similar: all starting with some variation of “I really have not done a good job of this… I can probably tell you what not to do.”  While it was good to see that I am in good company, I am convinced that church leaders, whether church planting or not, need to do a far better job of learning how to do ministry sustainably (myself included).  Burning out in ministry is not a sign of devotion, it is poor stewardship… and our families and congregations pay as steep a price (if not steeper) as we do for our poor stewardship.

What does it look like to plant well, and keep your family healthy at the same time?  Here is what my planter friends and I have come up with:

Limit Shop Talk.

This is hard to do.  After a hard day at the church, or after a team member fails to follow through on a commitment we need to vent.  Our need to blow off steam and process stuff is healthy for us… but not so healthy for our wives and kids.  Constant negativity and critique of what is going on in the church you are leading will limit the ability of your wife and kids to fully engage in what is going on at the church.  While this is true in all ministry situations, an established church pastor should find it easier to find a safe place to vent and process outside their family.  In the church planting world, it often feels as though the only people you can talk to is your family.  Resist the urge: find someone who you trust who you can regularly download with, and allow your family to do the same.

Exception: The only exception to this is to regularly share encouraging stories of what is going on in the church… Don’t go all rose colored glasses (everything is great!), but honestly share what you are encouraged by.

Set Clear Boundaries.

While serving in the Atlanta area I had the great privilege to learn from Kevin Myers.  PK, as we called him, was very clear about our families being our first ministry.  Our ability to do this will ultimately determine the success (or lack there of) of our ministry.  This was a recurring theme from the guys I contacted, and one that we are all struggling to do better.  This is what it looks like:

  • Focus on your family when you are home.
  • Spend more evenings at home than you do at church events.
  • Date your wife, regularly and with enthusiasm.
  • Develop the discipline of disengaging from what is going on in the office and invest fully when you are at home.

How have YOU kept YOUR family healthy in ministry?


About the Author: Matt Steen

I love Jesus, Theresa (my wife), the Redskins & Capitals, and am currently living in Waco, Texas where I am studying the finer points of BBQ (while working on my MDiv and MBA at Baylor University). When not studying, I serve church leaders through and am the Director of Connections for Harris Creek Baptist Church's Downtown Campus.