I haven't written about church planting in awhile it's just so hard to even know where to start. Right now we're in the process of both fundraising in an effort to stay here and continue this work...and pursuing the possibility of jobs at another church. Bret explains it all here.
In my last post I described our decision to begin submitting resumes to congregations searching for a minister. The reason, simply stated, is that we’ve run out of money, and we’ve run out of time to hang on until a more sustainable situation becomes available.
The very day that I put my resume together (which was an interesting process...which jobs, experiences and skills from the past 4 years do I list? I certainly didn’t have room for all of them!) I ran into a young lady I haven’t seen for about two years. She was a waitress at Denny’s when we met. With a baby on the way and stuck in low paying job, her despair was barely concealed. Over time we became friends. I gathered some baby shower gifts from Christ Journey and Conner and I attended her baby shower...at Denny’s.
I learned that she was trying to get into a medical assistant training program. So Christ Journey gathered money to pay her entrance fees. And not long after that she was gone.
I asked about her often and for a while the other servers had updates - she was doing well, progressing through the schooling. But over time the people who knew her moved on to other jobs (not surprisingly, turnover is high). So, I was shocked - and initially saddened - when I saw her standing in the restaurant one evening a few weeks ago...until she came over and filled me in. She’d completed the school but had no luck finding work in her new field. However, after some time she approached her old boss at Denny’s who respected the initiative and effort she showed in getting more schooling. They not only hired her back, but did so - as a manager!
Now she’s working 4 nights a week making more money than she previously made working 6 nights a week (without the stress of depending on tips), and has hope for more advancement. It was so encouraging to see her change in demeanor - more confident, less beaten down - and I immediately began lamenting the thought of leaving Burleson all over again.
Not long after that experience I met with the Mission Alive crew for our monthly church planter’s forum. I listened as they discussed various lessons learned in their experience equipping church planters and leaders from established congregations. They described upcoming changes and a more intentional focus on discipleship and equipping folks to disciple others more intentionally as well. I left that conversation encouraged...and lamenting again.
Two days later, one of the other two directors in the Missional Wisdom Foundation and I met with an organization to discuss the potential for a major overhaul and redesign of our website and internet presence in The Academy and the other ministries of the foundation. In our conversation he said something which caught me off guard. He stated that one of his goals in this proposal was to simplify the IT details and upkeep to free me up for other matters which make more use of what I have to offer - apparently word hadn’t gotten to him yet that I was most likely moving on to something else altogether. And again, I lament.
To top it all off, several families that we and other folks in The Gathering have been cultivating friendships with have finally begun expressing interest in joining us for worship and other activities.
In the midst of all this I began to discern a still, small voice saying, “So...how will you respond to this?”
A lot has changed since we set about raising money for church planting in 2008. We’ve learned so much about what does and does not foster discipleship and cultivation of missional community in this area. During that time I’ve gotten to know this area, the people here, the deep need. I’ve started and finished a doctorate in missional church studies. I’ve developed processes for discipleship and leadership training - both for church planting and established church contexts. I’ve walked with skeptical, cynical, angry folks and seen many of them reclaim and rediscover a faith they thought was dead and gone. And I’ve come so close to a long-term sustainable bi-vocational situation through the Academy...its just that even the short distance from here to there is beyond us.
We’ve sent out several resumes in the past month, and we’re going to pursue those conversations if they call back. However, we’ve decided not to send out any more at this point. Instead, last week I put together a new packet of fundraising material.
We’re seeking congregations to financially partner with us in church planting for up to 2 years. Just two years. In that time I will be able to get established in a full-time position with The Academy and the ministry of The Gathering in Burleson (and beyond?) will continue. I’m not asking for support hoping that by then we’ll have a congregation large enough (and wealthy enough) to pay my salary - within two years I can be employed full-time in a position that not only allows me to continue in church planting, but encourages it and is itself an opportunity to train and equip missional disciples.
Again, I have learned a great deal over the last four years. I have been immersed in the practice as well as conversation, study and wrestling with the concept of cultivating sustainable approaches to church planting in the increasingly post-Christian context of North America - specifically as it relates to this area.
One other difference between this fundraising attempt and the previous one in 2008: I feel that I have something more to offer congregations in terms of a true partnership. I hope to be able to share what I’ve learned to strengthen and encourage other congregations. Perhaps I can serve as a ministry coach or even teach coaching principles to the leadership team to use in their various ministry contexts. Maybe we can use Communitas or the Missional Imagination as an equipping process in the congregation. Or I can come in for a series of guest sermons or classes, or lead a retreat. (Read more about these here)
Furthermore, we invite partnering congregations to view our context here in Burleson as a potential training ground for individuals from their own church - how could these principles be applied within your own context?
I believe strongly that we are on the verge of a long-term, healthy and fruitful ministry here in the Burleson area, which can have encouraging implications and collaborations with many other contexts. We just need time.
I’ve uploaded several fundraising resources to this site - If you are part of a church, or know of one, that may be interested in such a collaborative partnership, please pass this along and prayerfully consider a special gift or ongoing support for up to 24 months.