Grocery Store Anonymity: The Relationship Between Loneliness and Church Planting
You are never alone in church planting. I have said this dozens of times this year as I have met with women interested in church planting and heard their stories at Church Planting Assessment Centers across the country. However, I’m not sure that everyone believes me. I’m not sure that I would have believed me five years ago.
In 2013, we moved to the city where we were planting when our church was just three people: my husband, my son, and me. Our families and friends cheered us on from afar, but every trip to the grocery store reminded me that I knew absolutely no one (although this was slightly beneficial when my squirmy, loud toddler frequently caused a scene in the produce aisle).
That August, I received an invitation to be part of a Google Hangout with some other women in Bloom. Bloom is a ministry of Stadia that helps women maximize their roles in church planting—I know this now—but at the time, I was simply looking for someone, anyone, to tell me I wasn’t alone, that the adjustment would get easier, and that maybe, just maybe, our church would consist of other people who didn’t share my last name.
I knew no one on the hangout. No one. I am not even sure if I said much of anything, nor do I remember the discussion topic. While I can play the extrovert in most leadership environments, initially I often sit back and listen, processing what everyone else is saying before I share.
But the best thing I could do at that point was show up. While I don’t really remember the content of the call, I do remember that I was energized and encouraged.
After this hangout, I was able to place faces with names, and I began to sign up for more Bloom events, including my first Bloom Retreat in Asheville, North Carolina. I remember vividly walking into the lodge where the retreat was held, feeling incredibly nervous. Will I know anyone? Will I relate with anyone? I am a church planting rookie—will I feel a part of this incredible community?
These insecurities could have caused me to miss out, but I’m so glad that they didn’t. I could have drawn inward, closing myself off to these women. Yet, a couple days later, I left with a strong network of support—even though I still really had no idea what I was getting myself into back home.
Each planter’s story is unique. Our churches each look different, with varied demographics and communities and callings. But here is what I have found through my involvement with Bloom: I really am never alone.
Kara prayed for me the week before launch when it seemed like everything that could go wrong did go wrong (including an unexpected surgery on our dog, Judy!).
Shaina encouraged me when life with a toddler, a newborn, and a baby church plant made me feel like I was drowning.
Vanessa mentored me (and still does!) when I was craving wisdom from someone further along in the journey than me.
Debbie answered all of my questions about work/life balance when I was thinking about applying for a local part-time job.
Anne gave me a model of the kind of enthusiastic and fun leader that I wanted to be on stage.
Bloom has provided me with a network of support that has shown me that I am truly never alone in this world of church planting. These relationships have fueled me to have a healthier, long-term mindset on ministry and church planting and are one of the most unexpected blessings on this journey so far. I recommend a couple steps to as you look for authentic and transparent relationships in church planting:
Be open to the wisdom of others. As church planters, our entrepreneurial bent can cause us to feel as if only we have the right answers or solutions to our problems. We can also isolate ourselves, thinking no one “gets it. Seek wisdom from others who are in seasons ahead of you in church planting, even if your stories don’t look the same.
Put yourself out there, even when it’s uncomfortable. We’re pretty good at this for the benefit of our church, but what about for the benefit of our own souls and our own wellbeing? You may feel as if there’s no time or energy to form relationships with others outside of your own church, but those relationships could be the fuel you need to be your best self for your own community.
You are never alone. And of course I recommend Bloom to any woman interested in church planting! Check out our website to learn more about how we can help you THRIVE in church planting!
Heidy Tandy and her husband, Josh, planted Movement Church in Newport, Kentucky in March of 2014. She loves to help encourage and empower leaders on as they find their unique purpose and calling. She is passionate about relational and community investment, learning and storytelling, advocacy for children with special needs, and finding ways to connect all of these things in real life. Heidy joined the Stadia Team in February 2018 as the Associate Director for Bloom.
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