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7 Top Issues Church Planters Face | #7: Planter's Health

Spiritual, Physical and Mental Health of the Planter and Family

Planting a church places a heavy burden on planters and their families. Most planters indicate that planting is one of the hardest things they’ve ever done. Those who survive are quick to highlight how discouraging and lonely it can be. The result is a fragile foundation for dealing with the discouragement and loneliness of church planting.

Unresolved relationships and weaknesses in the marriage will often surface in the church-planting season. Simmering problems in marriage and family began to boil with the added pressure and stress of planting a church. A planter’s faith and commitment is challenged. God often uses the challenges for good to grow the planter and his family or Satan can use to bring them down.

A Possible Sketch of What the Church-Planting Journey May Look Like

  • Planter is called and a dream emerges. Excitement builds and plans formulate.
  • Fulfillment and pursuit of the dream requires an expanding team of people to join the planter in the journey. Team members are harder to recruit than anticipated, and the team formulates much slower than intended. Often, the new church births with a smaller team than planned.
  • A smaller team means more responsibilities for the planter and spouse. The burden can be intense, especially when a planter discovers that not everyone has as high a commitment as the planter does.
  • Financial shortfalls limit ministry opportunities. The average planter wakes up wondering if funds will be available for his salary and expenses. At the same time, guilt emerges that the ministry appears “stuck” and not growing. Fundraising can take significant time and compete with the other ministry demands necessary for growth.
  • The “tyranny of the urgent” makes it difficult to invest measurable time in building a solid infrastructure. As a result, systems, processes and cultures tend to reactively define themselves, rather than the planter proactively shaping them.
  • A crisis of belief and calling emerges. The planter’s dream seems so distant from reality. Comparison with other leaders, discouragement and loneliness set in.
  • The planter continually questions the new church’s effectiveness at reaching unchurched people if the discipleship process is really resulting in transformed lives.
  • Spiritual warfare kicks into full swing, including comparisons with other successful planters.
  • The planter often has no one with whom to share burdens or challenges. In many cases, planters avoid sharing with their spouse in an attempt to protect them.
  • Many families find themselves asking, “Should we quit or should we persevere?”

Conclusion (by Acts 29)

  1. Find a church-planting network in which to learn, discover, fellowship, interact, be challenged, trained.
  2. Get a coach! Every church leader needs a coach, especially in the first few years of a church plant. Read 30 Reasons Every Church Leader Needs a Coach by Scott Thomas. 
  3. Read Leading on Empty: Refilling Your Tank and Renewing Your Passion by Wayne Cordeiro.
  4. Let your sending church or organization specifically know about your imminent needs. A fully engaged partner church that cares for the entire family unit is essential.
  5. Take the Distressed Pastor Test.

Top 7 Issues Church Planters Face Series:

  1. Leadership
  2. Finances
  3. Teams
  4. Systems
  5. Mission Drift
  6. Evangelism
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Over the last ten years, Acts 29 has emerged from a small band of brothers to almost 300 churches in the United States and networks of churches in multiple countries. Scott Thomas serves as president and director of the network, which focuses on the gospel and advancing the mission of Jesus through obediently planting church-planting churches. Founders and contributors to the Acts 29 movement include Mars Hill teaching pastor Mark Driscoll and lead pastor of The Village Church Matt Chandler.