Monthly Archives: May 2014

Church Planting: It’s Not Going as We Planned

Our church plant is 1½ years old since our first service. Add 6 months to that prior to our first service and that is how long my husband has been working as a church planting pastor. That is how long he has embedded himself into our community to talk to the people, survey them, and try to start a church. A lot has happened in that time.

*The church started and people came!

*We have a permanent worship leader.

*We have a great place that we rent for worship.

*Small groups have formed and people are getting to know and care about each other.

*People are coming to know Jesus and be saved!

This is all good, exciting stuff that has been happening thanks to God’s blessing. But, as is human nature (yes, pastors are human too), it’s not going as we planned. Our biggest question is: Where are all the people?

 

Where are all the people? A normal Sunday has attendance from 30-55 people and that is exciting. But, we were hoping for about 80 steady people by this point. In a community of 16,000 there have to be people looking for a church, wondering what the whole Jesus thing is about, or thinking they should probably take their kids to church. So, where are they? How do we reach them? How do we get the people who say, “I think I’ll come check you out next week” to actually come?

 

So, here is what we do. We pray. We try to be faithful to the church planting calling. We try to meet people and get to know them before saying anything about the church. We pray some more. Of course, nothing will happen without God’s blessing. But it sure is hard to not be disappointed some weeks.

 

How can we overcome that disappointment? Well, as my husband said,

“I’m tired of feeling beat down by those not coming. I need to be honored to lead those who are.”

 

That’s right. We need a change of perspective. If you are planting a church and the numbers are low, rest assured you are not alone! Change your thinking and praise God for those that come each week, those that come every once and while, and those that say they will think about it. It is hard for people who are new to Jesus to make going to church a priority when it hasn’t ever been a priority before. It will take time. It will happen in God’s time.

 

So, I guess I am trying to say, don’t be discouraged. Hang in there and look at the joys that are happening in your church, no matter the size, and to God be the glory.

A Gentle Answer

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A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1

One day I yelled at my son over something that must have irked me, I don’t remember. But, he started to cry. He looks at me, crying, and says, “Why do you yell at me, you know that hurts my feelings. It should be a rule not to yell at me”. Ouch. Ironically I wanted to yell back, “I yell at you because you don’t listen to me when I talk”! But, I didn’t. I wrapped him in my arms and explained about the situation and why I yelled. I kissed his tears and held him tight. I reminded myself that parenting is not easy. It is full of split second reactions to a multitude of encounters throughout the day. And I was crushed that I had hurt my son’s feelings. I’ve been trying to do better and not yell at him, but of course I fail. And, he reminds me of the “rule” I have broken.

That situation makes me think of this Proverb. A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Who hasn’t said something in the heat of the moment only to regret it later? Who knowingly says something mean just to hurt someone in order to make yourself feel like a bigger person. Remember Proverbs 21:23 where we are told to guard our mouths? This one tells us to answer gently to diffuse a situation. And it reminds us that saying mean things will only escalate the situation. The two Proverbs go hand in hand.

In a sue happy society, where wording and language can make or break a case, it can be forgotten that just being nice and saying kind things can really turn things around. Simple things like, “I’m sorry”, “You’re right”, “Let’s agree to disagree”, or “I love you anyways” have the power to stop someone in their tracks. Perhaps even stop them midsentence and turn their hateful words into words of compassion or silence.

There is nothing wrong with standing up for yourself and your beliefs, but don’t shoot down someone else in order to make yourself seem bigger. I said earlier, you might feel like the bigger person as you outwit somebody with words. However, I think you just end up smaller. And, that is exactly how I felt as I yelled at my son. I just get frustrated sometimes and my yelling is my problem that I need to work on. It makes me feel lousy. So, I’m going to continue to try to answer gently because I love my children. I don’t want their memories of growing up and me to be just of when I yelled at them. Is that how you would want to be remembered by someone?

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1

A Normal Person’s Front Porch

So, my front porch has been lacking. It doesn’t look very inviting for people who stop by or from the road as you drive by. Last summer, the extent of decorating was a basket of fake greenery I think. Over the winter, we became super classy folk by storing our garbage cans on the front porch. We had so much snow and ice, it just became easier and safer than trying to get to the back yard. You can even see our snow shovels, yikes! This just was a not a welcoming vision when I came home from wherever.

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I needed some inspiration. I love Southern Living magazine, but as I flip through it I always think to myself, “Who lives in houses that look like this?”. Well, not me. Our house is a family house with comfort and possible destruction occurring. I decided to look at Pinterest and set up an account. I know, way behind the times. I’ve yet to pin anything, but it was fun looking around. However, like Southern Living magazine, I again thought, “Where are normal peoples front porches?”. Don’t get me wrong, some people (or people for those people) have done some beautiful things. So rather than looking at whole porches, I found I had to look at single things. I found I liked chairs, small tables, some things of varying height, and rugs. I was on a mission.

I already had a rug that I had bought several years ago that fit perfectly on a previous front porch. The only thing is, is that it blows away easily. Well I thought, if I put chairs and a table on it, it should stay put. It is blue.

I found a table, slightly broken in the neighbor’s trash up the street. Yup, I’m not above turning someone else’s trash into my treasure.

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Chairs were harder. The kids and I visited a Habitat Restore store. Here, I picked up two chairs that I thought I could recover, some leftover paint, a saw, and a free wooden plaque. I wasn’t sure of what color scheme I wanted, so I picked up several containers, and ended up getting lucky!

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Now, to get started! I wanted to dress up the table and decided to use those jewel stones from the dollar tree. I was inspired by this table here, but I just used clear caulk to glue them down. I also had gotten a piece of trim from the restore store and have a handy cutter to get the angles. Remember: measure twice, cut once! After painting the table the color of “blah”, I decided to use the light green. I think it turned out nice.

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Next up, the chairs. Oh my, what was I thinking? The cushions didn’t come off the way I thought they would so I guess I’ll try to resell them. Fortunately, on my way to work one day, I saw some chairs being thrown out in the neighbor’s garbage. I called my husband and he went and picked them up for me 🙂 There were 1,000 staples to pull out of the fabric, but these were easy to cover. And, just so you know, I cut any corners I can and the material is just safety pinned on for easy replacement!

A few extra things added small touches to the porch. The wooden plaque got painted and an H for our name. Then, in a free box at a yard sale I found the silver thingy and the butterflies. With a paint job on each, good as new.

So, what does it look like? What can treasures from the trash and about $15 get you for your front porch? Wa-la!

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Just a note, my chair is the one with the ‘O’ on it. Yes, I got the arm rest chair since I did all the work! So, if magazines and pinned pictures have you disappointed with what you have and are able to do, just use your imagination and do what you can. This porch makes me smile each time I see it. It welcomes me home.

P.S. We’ve been getting a lot of wrong mail lately, so I decided to redo the mailbox too. Goodbye cardinals, hello numbers. An easy fix!

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Church Planting: An Unexpected $400

Dollar Sign

I never realized what a comfy life my family had when I taught full time. It included summers off, weekends off, the same paycheck every two weeks, and that was plenty of money to live comfortably. I quit my job for various reasons and since then, we’ve become an hourly wage family. Now, my husband and I look at each other when something breaks and go, “Well, that will be two days’ worth of work”. Well, mostly I do that just to put it in perspective for my husband.

Being a church planter has us relying on a few supporting churches. We are just not quite there to autonomous, meaning on our own financially. So, when my husband said, do you realize we made an extra $400 this week, I was all ears. What happened probably won’t happen for you in this manner, but if you take a moment and look at things, you will find similar blessings.

1. We had a yard sale. In the past we’ve sold everything for .25 cents. Yup, we’re crazy, but my motto is, “Once we take it out of the house, we don’t want to bring it back in”. And this has worked for us and we usually make enough to go out for pizza or something. Well, this year, we decided to everything $5 or less. We ended up making a little over $100! (Which we thought was decent until our neighbor told us her daughter made over $1,000. How?) We haven’t gotten pizza yet, but we are saving that for a couple nights of camping this summer.

2. My husband got on some church planters list and they sent us each $50 gift debit cards. Wow! That went into the summer food shopping jar. Besides being a pastor, my husband drives a bus and I teach part time and sub. All of those are part time school time jobs, so we’ve been saving money for the summer. This $100 bucks is a bonus to help pay for food.

3. The computer we use for church is my husband’s which is about 4 years old, but it keeps dying out. It actually did that during a service towards the end, thank goodness. But still, kind of embarrassing. Fortunately, I don’t think we had any visitors. Well, a lady in our church offered to take the computer to her friend who cleans them up. It was done super quick and seems to be running better. Apparently there were like 500 demons on it or something. When my husband picked it up from the lady and went to give her money for her friend, she said don’t worry about it, she took care of it. Wow! Knowing it cost $90 to get my computer cleaned up a few weeks ago, this was a bonus savings for us.

4. On Friday evening, my family got back from a night out, and UPS had visited. There was an envelope for me. It was from the same group that had sent us the $50 debit cards earlier in the week. It felt like a book. However, when I opened it up, besides the book there was an envelope with a $100 debit card in it. Wow! You know that is going in the summer food fund too. There was also a nice pen in there, which is cool since mine ran out of ink.

So, here it is a week of being blessed with $400 that we were in no way expecting. But these little things really made us feel special. And looking back, other stuff like this has happened before. I just pray that we can be more aware and thankful. And, rather than counting things by the hours we work, we begin to count our blessings of unexpected treasures.

I also want you to know that this $400 bonus can’t beat the friendship that is extended by the people around us. There is the mom calling me and the kids for a playdate. Then, there is the guy who opened up his house for an impromptu church together in the middle of the week, just to hang out. Plus, my husband and I went on our first double date (we’ve been married for almost 14 years). The husbands took us to see Moms’ Night Out. If you haven’t seen it, get thee to the movies or rent it when it comes out on dvd. It is laugh out loud funny. There were also the kids I got to see a couple of times while subbing who actually remembered my name! And, the ladies at the church got together and put together a small treat for the teachers at the elementary school. I mean, it was a good week. It was a God week. He’s all around us, taking care of us and making sure we are okay.  Be sure to take a moment this week, even in the midst of church planting chaos, to notice the blessings you have been given.

Be prepared to let God “wow” you!

Wish You Had Eyes on the Back of Your Head?

Proverbs PictureThe eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good. Proverbs 15:3

How many of you are moms and dads out there? How many teachers are out there? What do these three groups of people have in common? Well, I’ve heard they all have eyes on the back of their heads! Come on, I’m sure you’ve mentioned it to some little kid at some point. Wouldn’t another set of eyes be useful at times? Your current pair can be stirring soup, while the other pair is checking to make sure homework is done. Your current pair is relaxing, watching tv while the other pair is checking in on your teenager at a party. I’m envisioning removable eyes that will just transmit back to your brain. Think about it, how much more peace would you have in your life?

Well, the above is not likely going to happen. Sure there are great little techie devices, but it’s just not the same. And so, fortunately for us, there is someone who can see everything everywhere, all at once! Having God’s eyes on us all the time is better than any “big brother” we can create here on earth. It is His job, His desire, His passion to watch you! I mean sometimes I need an aleve after trying to keep track of four kids at the playground! He gets to watch everyone on earth. How does He do it? Well, He’s God and He can. It’s all part of the amazingness of God that is hard for us to fathom.

“…keeping watch on the wicked and the good”. Unsure of whether the choice you are going to make is a good one? Remember God is there watching. I don’t say this so that you live in fear every second. I’m just saying that sometimes we get ourselves into situations where we are just not sure what is best. Argue with a co-worker or set aside your differences and compromise on a project? Well, if you think that God is there watching, He’ll remind you that He wants you to show God’s love. So, finding a way to compromise is a great choice. See, you just need to listen for Him. Some people will choose not to and they do those wicked things. They aren’t listening to that voice that is whispering in their mind that something is wrong. At the same time, He is going to see someone who makes a good choice and that is going to please Him.

God gave us the responsibility of choice. Choose to serve Him, have faith in Him, and love Him. Or not.

So remember that God is watching. And remember you are the earthly eyes to help teach and keep an eye on people here. Go ahead and amaze your children sometime. Simply look for reflections in a window, mirror, or glasses so you can see what they are doing behind your back. They’ll wonder how you knew what was going on. And you’ll be reminded that He can see your choices too.

The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good. Proverbs 15:3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Church Planting: More Storms as We Plant

dandelion picture

So, here are a few more storms that we have weathered in our church planting experience so far. I know, I promised them a few weeks ago, but the computer went out and couldn’t do anything online. I’m sure that for the two people that read this, my husband being one and myself the other, it’s not a big deal! Computers sure are quirky things sometimes but a lot of fun.

Sunday morning exercise                                                                                                                       Who doesn’t like to start their day with some good old fashioned exercise? Sure, you could go to the gym and pay to climb on a stepper to nowhere, but why when you can do it at home? The house we are renting has three floors. Four, if you are my kids and count the basement! We got this house because it was the only one in the area at the time that we could find that was big enough for our family. It’s a duplex, yuck, but the neighbors moved out and it’s been empty for a while since it is for sale, yeah for us. But, I digress.

Well, with a church plant we have to keep the church stuff somewhere. We are a low budget operation and started our church in the elementary school. That meant we had to load up our cars and bring everything with us. Our cars were packed, no trucks in this family. And everything is stored in our house…on the third floor. Do you know how heavy speakers are? Or, how awkward it is to carry bins down a narrow stairway? Have any idea how much yelling my husband and I did at each other as we are rushing to get things together because we just didn’t feel like bringing it down the day before?

We survived though, getting it all down each Sunday and miraculously packed into the cars. We could then go to the school and unload it. More fun! But, everyone there jumped in to help unload, set up, and then pack up so it wasn’t a big deal. However, back at our house, guess what? What came down must go back up. So, after lunch, my husband would tote everything back up to the third floor and settle it in until next week.

This morning exercise regimen has lessened. We were blessed with a trailer to store everything. Then, we moved locations because the schools close over the summer and decided to stay in the new spot. We can even store all our stuff there in a closet. Thank goodness!

Small, small groups                                                                                                                                            I just want to encourage church planters and let you know that people aren’t necessarily going to just show up in great multitudes. It is hard, worthwhile work. Sometimes, our small groups were really small. Meaning no one showed up. Sometimes it might just be one or two people. It’s okay. These are great times to really talk with people and some people even share more because it is a smaller group and they feel less vulnerable. So if your small group is just yourself and the rest of your family one time, take heart, you are not the first to have this happen. It is going to take time for new believers to make their relationship with Jesus a priority. It is going to take time for new believers to put church stuff on their calendars. Hang in there!

Britney Spears microphone                                                                                                                     Let’s face it, the pastor wants to pastor. My husband doesn’t have much experience with sound equipment and stuff and so every once in a while God gives you a good laugh. This happened when my husband ended up getting one of those head mics that turned out to look like something from the 80’s. We had to laugh as my husband tried it on, sang a little Britney, and then we found a better one. Things happen. You get the wrong stuff. So move on, regroup, sell it to someone else and try to make the best of the situation. Everyone will survive and who doesn’t need a good laugh?

Remember there is no formula for church planting. Things are not going to go the way you planned it. That is not how things work. Be patient and try to enjoy the treasures and experiences God sends your way even when it isn’t what you thought it should be.

Teach Discipline and Discipline Too

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Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul. Proverbs 29:17

When I hear the word discipline, it brings up two meanings. Back in Proverbs 1:7, I defined it as sticking with something or reprimanding someone for doing wrong. The dictionary defined it as a behavior which follows rules. Now, no one really likes rules, especially those which infringe on me, myself, and I needs. But as a parent, it is my job and my responsibility, to teach my children discipline and to discipline my children.

Discipline is no easy task for any parent. Admit it, those baby blue or brown eyes and quivering lip make the drill sergeant in you break down a little bit. The thought of, “should I let it slide this time?” runs through your head and a nagging voice replies, “no”. Then, you sigh and try to figure out the best way to handle things, because really your child didn’t come with a book about how to raise him or her. While disciplining your child might not be your favorite task, please make sure you do it.

Teaching your children discipline requires you giving them age appropriate responsibilities. It requires time and commitment from you. For example, taking the time to teach your children how to brush their teeth will give them pearly whites for years to come and save you some money at the dentist. I always tell my children about the sign that hung in my dentist’s office growing up. It said, “Be true to your teeth or they will be false to you”. After all, who doesn’t have a child who just chews on the brush? If you don’t take the time to instill this important habit while they are young, then when?

Disciplining your child to follow rules and learn right from wrong is hard. It will crush your heart as you punish them. I know in our house, if a child has been mean to a sibling, taking away weekend computer time is the worst punishment ever. They always survive because kids are so good at getting into something else, but sometimes it will even seem like a punishment for you. Children need to learn boundaries and that there are consequences for their actions. If you don’t take the time to instill right and wrongs in your child, then who will?

Your children should be a “delight to your soul”. This doesn’t mean every day is going to be rosy and you won’t get stubborn responses and have cringeworthy moments in public. It does mean that at the end of the day and as you watch them play with friends and you kiss them goodnight, that they bring you joy and you are happy with the job you are doing of raising them. After all, aren’t our kids a reflection of ourselves to a certain degree? Love your kids and be strong and discipline them.

Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul. Proverbs 29:17