We’re having a baby!
Our first baby was great! He was sleeping through the night after just a few weeks. (He’s almost 20 now and he still loves to sleep)! He was happy, a good eater, and took two naps every day. Not to mention he was cuter than cute. (So cute, in fact, that he had a [very] brief career as a baby model).
As he entered his toddler years, people marveled at his articulate vocabulary and good behavior. Others praised our parenting style.
“Yeah, we are really good parents,” we thought. I mean, just look at this wonderful 2-year-old we’ve successfully reared! We should write parenting books, teach classes, maybe even have our own TV show. Seriously.
We’re having a (another) baby!
Then we had our second child. He was ornery from the moment he took his first breath. He didn’t sleep. Ever! His first word was, “No!” His first steps were a run. His favorite game was “catch-me-if-you-can-but-I-know-you-can’t-because-it’s-3a.m.-and-your-exhausted.” He was wild from the start.
Every parenting book we wrote in our heads was thrown into the fire. Every parenting class we constructed in our minds was deconstructed by a 2-year-old menace. Everything that worked with the first child was kryptonite for the second. We went from being “parents-of-the-year” to “parents-constantly-in-tears.” I’m sure anyone who has more than one child can relate.
No two children are the same. They have different personalities, temperaments, likes, and dislikes. What works for one child won’t necessarily work for another.
Any lingering doubts we had about this truth were put to rest when we adopted three children. Suddenly, instead of writing parenting books, we were scrambling to get our hands on every book, resource, conference, and training we could find. We were (are) completely lost! We didn’t have a clue. If the differences between our biological children were a river, the differences between our biological children and our adopted children are an ocean. There’s no correlation. They are so different in every way, shape, and form. We had to learn to parent differently.
We’re having a baby (church)!
Planting a church is often compared to having a baby. There’s the conception of the vision, a gestation period of planning and gathering, followed by the birth of the new baby church. The baby church is typically dependent on its parent(s) for several years as it learns to walk, talk, and take care of itself. Like any baby and toddler, new churches make lots of messes. They often have no clue what they’re doing. Every day is a new adventure in learning!
Like a parent with one good child, successful church planters and parent churches can easily fall into thinking they’ve got this whole church planting thing figured out. “Look at our beautiful baby!” they proudly exclaim. “We should write books, speak at conferences, and start our own podcast to share with others our successful parenting techniques.” Yep, we’re pretty awesome.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned after planting three churches and being around hundreds of others, it’s this:
EVERY CHURCH PLANT IS DIFFERENT.
To think that you’ve got it figured out because you planted one successful church is like the parents with one child boasting about their amazing parenting abilities. You may think you have it figured out, but here comes that second kid with a vengeance to dismantle every last vestige of parental know-how you’ve espoused. Just because something worked with one new church in one place at one time doesn’t mean it will work with another new church in a different place at a different time.
Every child is different.
Every church is different.
Every community is different.
Every context is different.
Every. Single. One.
Every baby church is unique.
In the same way you have to parent each child differently, you have to treat each church plant uniquely. Sure, you can read books, listen to podcasts, and attend conferences to learn good parenting principles and practices, but nobody knows your child like you do. You must consider their unique personality, temperament, strengths, and weaknesses. You need to be a good student of your children, community, context, and culture to be a good parent.
If you’re planting a church, learn from those who have gone before you, but don’t just copy what they did. Take the parenting principles and prayerfully discern if and how they apply to your unique child.
Planting, like parenting, is more art then science. We take risks, make mistakes, and try again. Our primary hope is that amid the misses and mistakes, our children can at least say, we loved them well.
Are you a church planter?
Would you benefit from peer-to-peer mentoring with other like-minded pastors?