A WORD OF CAUTION
If you are just tuning into this series, you may want to go read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 before reading through this post.
As I have been writing from my experience as a church planter about how I have and continue to provide for my family through while church planting, I felt compelled to offer some words of caution.
Throughout this series I have either stated directly or have eluded to the fact that church planting is hard. It is not just hard on the pastor, it is also hard on his wife, and his children. In addition to the increasing demands the church places on them, their increasing financial needs can cause added stress.
I stand by my encouragement for planters to be bi-vocational if they are able, but I also want to share a few things to be mindful of.
- Listen to your wife. I cannot emphasize this enough. It doesn’t matter how hard you are working, accomplishing, and how much money you’re bringing in. If your wife and kids don’t feel loved and cared for none of that matters. Also, if your family isn’t feeling cared for, then it is very likely that your church is feeling neglected as well. If your wife is supportive of you doing other things to make ends meet, then make sure to connect with her often to get her input on how she feels things are going. This is an invaluable thing to remember.
- Don’t allow your tentmaking to become your mistress. When discouragement comes in church planting, and trust me, it will come, you will have many times where you feel like you are ready to quit. You must be secure in your calling if you are also working another job, owning a business, or doing freelance work, because on the discouraging days you will be tempted to bail from your calling and go do your other job full-time. While I believe there is times that this is actually appropriate, i.e. a misunderstood calling or a missed calling, for the most part, I believe it’s just a temptation to leave your calling to do what is easier. I’m not saying this in a judgmental way. I have experienced this temptation to distract me at times from my primary calling.
- Keep your eye on the prize. If you are indeed called to be a pastor, then everything else you do should help you to do that to the best of your ability. As your church grows, you will have to make increasing sacrifices. An example of this in my current stage of life is that I have to be selective of the ministry events I accept to speak at because I have to ensure my family and my church are well cared for. Whenever possible, I ask to be able to be back by Sunday morning, but at times this is not possible.
- Build a team that compliments your gifts. Some of our extra work can actually be beneficial to the church, so the best move for the church is to hire a team around you to compliment your strengths and make up for your shortcomings. You must be mindful to hire someone who understands how you’re wired, what you are called to, and how that calling is lived out in view of the other things you are involved with. For instance, I will be traveling this weekend to speak at a youth event outside of Atlanta, GA and will have to miss on Sunday AM. Fortunately, I have several strong preachers in my church who are more than happy to have the opportunity to teach from time-to-time.
- Determine how much you need to live on. This point has two primary purposes. First, there may come a time that your church has grown to a place where your leadership team feels that it requires your full-time attention and that outside speaking, freelancing, working, etc. is detrimental to the church and the mission. You need to be able to articulate to your leadership how much you would need to be compensated in order for you to have your needs met. This should be communicated often so that your team isn’t caught off guard and a series of very awkward conversations begin. Second, you should begin asking the question, “How much should I keep?” Let’s say your company or outside ‘gigs’ are successful and you are raking in a lot of money, in order to keep your heart in check it is wise to ask this question and commit to giving the rest away. I know this is a radical statement, and to be honest, one I am still working through, but it will enable you to lead your church from a place of authentic authority and will be a way to safeguard your heart from one of the most tempting idols for the majority of folks, money. Okay, before I start preaching about this, I’ll move on.
As you work through this season of hard work, I’d encourage you to surround yourself with people who you trust and who trust you. Allow them to ask you difficult questions so that you are encouraged to stay focused on the things that really matter. There will come a time where you may need to make sacrifices for the good of your family and your church, and you need to be prepared to do so. As I articulated in Part 1, the Apostle Paul was for tentmaking, and as he utilized that opportunity to support himself as he proclaimed the Good News, we too should view it as a viable option.
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