Monday, December 22, 2008

The Importance of the Pastor's Wife in Church Planting

By Joel Comiskey

Church planters are like those who start their own business. The buck stops with them. There's always more work to do. And unless the wife is supportive AND INVOLVED it's very hard to make happen. My wife, for example, usually organizes the food in our church. She normally sets up the table clothes before our celebration service (we have a potluck after the celebration service). Often she and my kids have come back from a service exhausted, wondering when others would take the load. Unless my wife was called to serve in this capacity, she would have thrown in the towel along time ago.

Many church plants fail because the spouse is not in agreement. It's essential that both husband and wife are in agreement regarding each partner's respective role and involvement in ministry.

I recently talked with one church planter who admitted that the reason he closed his church plant was because his wife wasn't on board.

This particular pastor wrote a series of email, outlining his new church plant. The went like this: A friend of mine decided to launch a church by starting the Sunday celebration service immediately. I followed his email prayer requests over several months. They went like this:

Pray for people who attend the Weekend service to want to come back because they enjoyed the service and encountered God. Pray for 50,000 pieces of mail to get people to come to an event. "We have been putting out door hangers in nearby neighborhoods and have sent out a 50,000 piece mail out to let folks know about services. Pray that these invitations would get into the right hands and would draw in a mighty harvest." All systems in place: Please pray for the installation of the sound and lighting systems for the church. We need to have basic systems in place this week. There is also a team building the stage for the auditorium that we will use, pray that they will get this competed in time. Praise God we had 12 families visit from the mailout and doorhangers we sent out. Several of these were exactly the type of person we hoped to reach and have continued to attend. Pray for clarity on how to get the word out in the area about the church. We are working to increase our exposure through signs and are looking for other methods just to let our neighbors know we are in the community I heard God saying that the church was not "viable" and that He had somewhere else for me to serve. Obviously this was shocking and difficult to hear, but I felt I should evaluate this with the organization that has primarily been funding this new work.

When I inquired later why this church planter quit so early, I discovered that his spouse wasn't in agreement. His spouse was not in agreement and the church planter discovered when the pressure was on, when he wasn't spending sufficient time with his wife, he chose to save his marriage rather than his church plant.

In our church plant in Moreno Valley, most of the activity flowed through our home. having explicit rules regarding the use of home as an office.

Are both in agreement with regard to the place of children? Remember that the children will be nurtured in the church plant. They will participate in the activities of the new church plant. Are all in agreement with this?

Will you allow new people to come into your home? How are you going to model the life of Christ before the church and community.

It's essential to model this lifestyle before people. Having said this, it's essential to deliberately plan a day off. The children are before ministry, not an afterthought.

The issue is one of support and agreement. We know that with the exceptional challenges of "front line," new-church ministry, it is essential that the planter's spouse is solidly with him/her in his/her call. They must share the vision and dream as a team. The spouse must be committed to new-church development. The church planting couple must also have agreement on whatever role/position/relationship the spouse chooses to have regarding the new ministry. It is vitally important that there be a healthy process of communication of ideas, differences and a way to come to consensus in the relationship. The issue is more about attitude than it is about position. Nevertheless, it is important to consider the characteristics and commitments of both the planter and the spouse.

Joel Comiskey (Ph.D. Fuller Seminary) is an internationally recognized church consultant and speaker. He has served as a missionary with the C&MA in Quito, Ecuador and is now founding pastor of a cell-based church in Southern California. Joel's books have sold 132,000 copies in English and 332,000 copies worldwide. His titles include: Home Cell Group Explosion (Touch Publications, 1998), How to Lead a Great Cell Group Meeting (Touch Publications, 2001), and An Appointment with the King(Chosen Books, 2002) and Planting Churches that Reproduce (2008). Joel teaches as an adjunct professor at several theological seminaries. Joel and his wife, Celyce, have three daughters and live in Moreno Valley, California.

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