church planting leader randall tonini

As church-planters, no one will ever care about your church the way you do.

No one else will lie awake worrying about it or make some of the unreasonable sacrifices you’d make just to keep the ball rolling. We do this rationalizing that someday we won’t have to do it all anymore.  But, the truth is, if you never let the ball drop, no one else will ever pick it up.

It’s almost expected that, early on, the lead pastor might have to perform roles that aren’t exactly in his skill-set. However, it’s also easy as the spouse of a church planter to get roped into juggling too many balls.

When we decided to plant in 2009, my husband and I agreed that I would run our children’s ministry part-time. But, somehow, I also became responsible for organizing women’s ministry and outreach events, coordinating set-up teams, maintaining the website, printing bulletins, etc.

Most of those things were not in my job description and I would never have allowed them to get slapped on my plate…except that I was also the wife and I was desperate for our baby church to thrive and for other people to see how amazing it was.

Furthermore, I was overly concerned about burdening other people with these things. I eventually learned that burdening other people with responsibility is a good thing—we want people to have some skin in the game! And sometimes you have to let a ball drop in order for someone else to pick it up.

It’s so hard to stand by and watch things go undone, knowing that you could probably just do it. But, in my experience, letting some of those responsibilities fall by the wayside was the one thing that allowed my husband and I to finally become healthy church leaders.

What were some specific ways we did this? We clearly defined our roles and resisted the urge to pick stuff up that didn’t belong to us—even if that meant a ministry was no longer offered at that time. There was an entire year in which we did virtually no outreach/missions activities because there was no one willing to run them. God eventually provided, and now we have multiple well-maintained outreach ministries.

We also decided to protect our own spiritual life, our home, and our family above all else.  If I was short on teachers and hadn’t attended worship in over a month, we had a “family worship service,” and kids’ church wasn’t offered. After years of holding staff meetings (and several heated conversations) in our home, we decided we would no longer allow those meetings to take place there—our home needed to be a refuge for us.

We wanted our children to love the Church and to have fond memories of church-planting. Therefore, we were mindful of giving them “extra responsibility” because they were the preacher’s kids. This meant my husband and I cleaned the playroom after hoards of children trashed it during small groups, rather than making them do it. And, just because my kids could set up the nursery every time someone no-showed for set-up team, didn’t mean they should.

I’m sorry to say, given my stubborn and perfectionistic personality, most of these lessons were learned the hard way. But there’s no need to sacrifice yourself on the altar of your church. Clearly define the role you will play at the onset and let the other stuff fall. Most importantly, pray and believe that God will provide someone to scoop up the balls you’ve dropped and carry them better than you ever could.

Holly Haulter, Planter
Catalyst Church (High Point, NC)

Holly Haulter and her husband, Scott, planted Catalyst Church in High Point, NC in 2009. She serves as the Director of Children’s Ministry and coordinates the women’s discipleship program. She also works as a psychologist for children and teens. Scott and Holly have two middle school-aged daughters.

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