When God prompted the idea of church planting two years ago, it was during a wintery walk through my childhood neighborhood. While the snow fell quietly, I heard God say, “You should start a Vineyard church here.” After arguing with God about why it was the worst time and the wrong place, I stopped walking and started crying right there in the middle of the sidewalk. They were not joyful tears, not hallelujah, all for you, Jesus, tears. They were sad, surrendering tears.
I didn’t want to move back to my hometown of Cloquet. I was living in Duluth, MN, a modestly hip town, working in an established church with my friends. It was comfortable and sustainable. In that moment, God was asking me to leave all the comfort and security behind. He was prompting me to trust Him in what was next for my family and to know that he was going to build a new set of habits, skills, and muscles in me.
Over the next few years, we scouted locations for our home and a home for our church. We made action plans and lists and recruited a launch team. We had brilliant support from our friends, our family, and our home church. The dust settled shortly after our first service, and life got real—real fast.
We were tired. Our kids decided they hated our new town and would tell us regularly. We had to surrender our beloved dog. We all got sick and were exhausted. While I had made good plans for the big events, I had neglected the small daily habits that actually make life sustainable and beautiful. I realized it was time to do the things for myself that I kept telling everyone else to do.
I am learning that it is the practical, simple, and perhaps boring habits that make our lives good and beautiful to God. There are a few themes I reflect on regularly to help me refresh and find restoration.
There is a reason airlines ask you to put your own oxygen mask on first before helping someone else. You have to practice care for yourself before you can help others. I suggest shutting off your computer, turning off your phone, and sleeping. Seriously! Sleeping helps our systems reboot and heal. Eat more fruits and veggies. Exercise your body. Have sex with your spouse. Find something to do that makes you laugh. Spend time with the Father and receive from him.
Name the threats
With any transition, there are many unexpected hurdles and events. Ask God daily to help you identify them and find your courage. Being courageous is not the absence of fear, but seeing the fear and moving forward anyway. It helps me to get all the threats out on the table. I find they begin to lose their power as I speak them out.
As humans, we are designed to live in community with one another, sharing life together. During the church planting process, you can find yourself ungrounded with all the transition. This is the time to ask for and receive help. You’ll have to be honest about what you need. Who can help you create new habits? Call a friend and see them face to face. Visit a therapist. If it’s possible, connect with healthy former colleagues or find a coach to support your growth. Get prayer regularly from another pastor or spiritual advisor. You don’t have to do this on your own.
I pray that God gives you grace on your journey and that you have the courage to push through the uncomfortable. I hope that you can find the support you need to more than survive life, but to see and celebrate and enjoy the beauty all around you.
Nikki Sauter is lead pastor of the Cloquet Vineyard Church. She and her husband planted the Cloquet Vineyard and just celebrated their 2nd birthday as a church community. Her mission is to encourage, develop and empower those around her to live out a good and beautiful life. She lives in Esko, MN with her husband and 3 children.