How to plant a church without losing your family

By Jarrett Stephens

One of the great things about YouTube is the fact that anyone can post a video. And one of the terrible things about YouTube is the fact that anyone can post a video. My buddy Nathan and I posted a “10 steps to install brakes on your minivan” video on Youtube. Do we believe it’s accurate. Of course. Are we experts? Of course not. In a lot of ways, that’s how I feel about writing this post. I haven’t planted a ton of churches successfully without losing my family. I’m still early in my first church plant, growing as a husband and father, and have a long way to go. I haven’t lost my family, but I’m far from being an expert. So with that disclaimer, I would like to offer some humble suggestions that I’ve found helpful as I’ve tried to plant a church without losing my family.

Create a plan for your family, not just your church

Before you provide visionary leadership for your church, you should provide visionary leadership for your family. If you don’t, your family will end up continually bending around your vision for your church until they break. Your family, like your church, won’t be great or fun to be a part of, without a compelling plan. Have you spent the spiritual, intellectual, and emotional energy it takes to create a family plan like this?

Identify your family-killing tendencies

Every pastor is capable of sacrificing their family on the altar of their ministry. The way, with God’s help, we avoid this isn’t by ignoring this possibility—it’s by identifying it. “If” you were going to fail in this way, how do you think you would do it? Some pastors would be tempted to sacrifice their families on the altar of ministry when the numbers are low, others, when the numbers are high. Some tend to disengage from their families when their reputation is under attack, others when things feel out of control. Have you identified your family-killing tendencies?

Connect with your wife consistently and deeply

Whether it is a weekly…ish date night, quarterly…ish getaway, or annual vacation, make sure that you find consistent ways to be connect with your wife. “Connecting” with your wife isn’t a mere physical task; it’s spiritual, emotional, and intellectual too. How you do this will depend on your wife. When you do this will depend on your season of life (young kids, etc.).

Turn the T.V. off, if need be. Throw your computers away, if necessary. Do whatever it takes to connect deeply and consistently.

If we asked your wife how you are doing in this area, what would she say?

Confess your sins constantly

The question isn’t about whether or not you’ll sin. You will. The question is whether or not you will confess and repent of your sin. And this confession is about a lot more than your sins against your wife and kids. This also has to do with your sins in ministry. Confess when your motivations for ministry are idolatrous, and not Christ-honoring. Confess when you struggle with anger or bitterness. Confess when you aren’t serving out of love (1 Cor 13). And repent. And experience the freedom that comes, walking as a forgiven man (Rom. 8:1). Do you lead your home in confession?

Never waste a crisis – Life is full of crises.

And what you say about God in the good times pales in comparison to what you say about God in the bad times. Some of the most significant ways God got my attention when I was growing up was by seeing my parents respond in humble, hope-filled faith to tough circumstances. Some of the most significant times of growth with my wife and kids have been in the toughest of times.

Your response to tough times will make a big impact on your family, both now and the decades to come.

Are you a man of faith or a man of fear in tough times? Your family doesn’t need an expert. They don’t need an evangelical superstar. They don’t even need you to be a pastor. They need a loving husband and father. Hopefully, this list will help you as you seek to be all that God wants you to be in Christ. What would you add to this list?

Published May 19, 2015

Jarrett Stephens