In 2015, my Lead Pastor shared a dream to send out 5 new campuses or church plants over the next five years. As his Executive Pastor, I rolled up my sleeves and began to make plans to help him implement this initiative. What I didn’t realize at that time was that my wife Rose and I would be one of the five.
I had been on staff at the Vineyard Church of Mishawaka for 10 years and I really enjoyed my position. Recently though, I had noticed an unsettled feeling in my spirit and I began wondering if there was something more out there for me. As our church campuses and plants began to spring up around the region, one location seemed to be missing: the neighboring city of Elkhart.
After months of prayer and times of fasting with my wife, we finally concluded that God was calling us to plant a church in Elkhart, 20 minutes away from our sending church. In December of 2017, I shared the news with my pastor. Though shaken by the news, he was very supportive and encouraged us.
God has certainly blessed us, but because of the short distance between the churches, it has been sometimes difficult to navigate.
Here are a few things we have learned on our journey:
Love, Love, Love
Planting a church nearby your sending church means that more people can and will decide to plant with you, leaving some pretty big holes back at the sending church. There were days when I didn’t feel like the most popular guy walking into a staff meeting, but I knew it was the necessary pain of a new birth.
Over time those holes will get filled, and if you’re showing love throughout the process, you can maintain those relationships. One practical way that I did this was to ask other staff and volunteers if there was anything I could do to help them through the transition. That simple offer of help went a long way in showing that I cared.
As a church planter, the temptation can be to only communicate with those who have decided to go with you. When you are planting in the same community as the sending church, it’s important to talk and meet with people who are staying as well.
I had regular meetings with my sending pastor and we still talk on the phone or get together for coffee periodically to keep that relationship intact. I also regularly email, call, or text people from my sending church letting them know how I’m doing and asking how they are. Keeping up communication helps the sending church feel like they are still part of our church plant instead of feeling like I just left.
Thank God for the Privilege
Even though there were some tensions we had to navigate, I thank God regularly for the privilege of planting in our local community. We didn’t have to move. Many of our friends came with us. My children didn’t have to change schools. Our church has grown quicker and stronger than if we had planted far away because we were able to focus on the activity of building up the church right away instead of resettling.
Church planting nearby our sending church came with many challenges and blessings, but it has been so worth it all. In May of 2018, we had our first preview service of the Lighthouse Vineyard Church in an Elkhart mall. Around 65 people helped us launch and since then we have grown to around 140 people each week.
Every Sunday I get to participate in seeing a new Vineyard church shining the love of Jesus in the city of Elkhart. To God be the glory!
About the Author
Clint & Rose Schwartz have been married for 13 years and have 5 wonderful children. They love hiking, biking, canoeing and doing almost anything outdoors.
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