Stadia didn’t exist in 1994, but I wish it did.
1994 is the year our family moved to Kent, Ohio and planted a church there. Our new church plant was exciting, but also full of challenges.
Church planting was different in 1994. Today, Stadia is able to offer a world class portfolio of support and services to new church plants. But, in 1994, church planting was different. The model many church planters used then has been nicknamed the “parachute drop” model. Most plants that we were familiar with weren’t multi-staff. There was no management team, at least not in the same way there is now. There was no outside support for bookkeeping or project management or a rigorous assessment process. There was no “post-launch support,” no formal coaching services, just “grab the parachute and jump out of the plane.”
In spite of this, the first four years for our church plant were really pretty good. At least, everything seemed to be going in the right direction and gaining momentum. But then our fledgling plant had to move locations, and one of my dad’s close friends and fellow leaders walked away from the plant due to personal issues we were unaware of at the time. It was shocking and disappointing and confusing, especially for my dad. It “knocked the wind out of his sails.” Our church plant ultimately failed to be self-sustaining.
Later in life, when the subject turned to our church in Kent, I tried to encourage my dad by reminding him of the many lives that were changed over the course of those seven years, even if the church itself was no longer in existence. Nothing could change the real and transformative work God did in people’s lives.
Dad passed away about six years ago. I can’t encourage my dad anymore, but I can continue his legacy.
Sometimes I ask myself the question, what if an organization like Stadia existed when we planted a church in 1994? It would have been, quite literally, life-changing for my dad and for our family. Church planting can take a heavy toll on a family’s health and well-being, and our experience was no different.
At the same time, our experience taught us the best of what church can be. Church planting taught me that church can be fun. Church planting taught me that faith is an adventure; it’s exciting, but also full of necessary challenges through which we grow. Church planting invigorated a passion for ministry, for the real difference the local church and its pastors and people can make in a community, and in the lives of individuals. Church planting allowed me to explore and experiment with how God gifted me for service in ways an established church might not have been able to afford.
And a lot has changed for the better in the church planting world since 1994 (25 years ago! How can it be that long?)
Stadia came onto the scene in 2003 and, since that time, we’ve learned a lot about helping new churches to succeed and thrive. I am proud to support and be a part of a church planting organization that can say 90% of our church plants are not only still in existence, but still thriving and on mission by their fifth year.
This stat is meaningful to me. It’s not a “corporate” stat drummed up to sound good or tossed around to puff ourselves up. The fact that 90% of Stadia church plants are still on mission by year 5 means we are engaging daily in a battle with the statistic my family became.
Nationally, 40% percent of church plants fail by year three. When you partner with Stadia, you enter the fray and engage in a great battle that’s taking place for the health of families, against the burnout of pastors, and most importantly, for the thriving of more and better churches, large and small, who will make a difference and have a lasting impact in each one of the communities in which they are planted.
Stadia’s new open-handed model has ushered in a new era of church planting. Not only does Stadia offer support and services that our church plant and family desperately needed in 1994 (services like assessment, bookkeeping, project management, training, coaching, post-launch support, Bloom, residency, etc.), but now Stadia gives our core services away with no strings attached. These services are invaluable. To give them away for free is transformative.
When I stop to imagine what might have been for families like mine, for churches like the one our family planted… well, to be honest, I can’t dwell there. But I can choose to make a difference moving forward by partnering with Stadia to plant more and better churches.
Join me in partnering with Stadia through our More and Better Day of Giving on September 25. I’ll be giving for our boys, so they can grow up knowing and experiencing what God is doing through church planting all around the world. For our adopted daughter, who was abandoned at birth, so she can come to faith in a place in which she knows without a doubt that she is loved and cared for. And for my dad, who’s legacy didn’t end in church planting failure, but continues on until every child has a church.
Alex is passionate about helping people engage with God by creating experiences and environments which challenge them to see Jesus in a fresh way. You’ve heard of the most interesting man in the world, but Alex describes himself as the most boring man in the world (1 Thess. 4:11-12). He likes spending time with his family, watching documentaries, movies, and the latest Netflix Originals, reading theological books, and is curious about the art and science of coffee and beer brewing.