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John Aureli

John Aureli

Church Planter, Mission Vineyard
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Dad holding baby boy

My church planting journey began as I rocked my daughter to sleep. I had been considering leaving vocational ministry in order to pay off our family’s debt, but someone in our church had felt God tell them that we were supposed to stay in ministry and plant a church. That week they had given us a check for $3,000. I was thinking about this, and I was overwhelmed and crying as I rocked her to sleep. Our 8-month-old son was already asleep in his crib.

As I held my daughter she asked me, “Daddy, why are you crying?” I answered, “because I think Jesus is taking care of us.” At that moment she sat up, raised her hands up in the air, and shouted “Yes! God is a great big God and He takes care of us!” Overwhelmed by God’s grace, I cried harder, trying to process this prophetic statement out of the mouth of my 3-year-old.

This began our church planting journey. In 6 months, we moved through the discernment process and were sent to plant 3 hours away from our home church.

The Holy Spirit in them was not any smaller than the Holy Spirit in us.

From the beginning, we felt that God made it clear to us that our children would be an intricate part of our church plant. The Holy Spirit in them was not any smaller than the Holy Spirit in us and God had already used them to speak powerfully into the journey.

We worked to create a lifestyle that included our children in the church plant by cultivating some specific habits and making some purposeful paradigm shifts.

Call yourselves a church planting family
It’s easy, and appropriate, for the leader in the church plant to be called the “church planter.” This can often make a spouse or children feel like their sacrifice isn’t deserving of an official role.

We recognized that the costs that we were accepting in order to do this kind of ministry were being shared by our kids. As a family, we gave honor to our kids by intentionally changing the verbiage used in our home in order to be inclusive. We, as a family, were church planters. We, as a family, were sent. By calling us a church planting family, the kids share in the ownership of our mission.

Hold a weekly family fun day
We decided that one day a week would be dedicated to having fun as a family. We wouldn’t answer our phones, read emails, or schedule meetings. Through this, we communicated that our family was more important than anything else. Family fun day has been the most life giving decision that we have ever made. Sometimes we hit the pool or hang out at a local park. It can be any sort of activity as long as your family has your attention.

Include your kids
The people you attract to your church plant are often a lot like you. We realized that if we were going to parent well and church plant successfully most things we did needed to have kids included. If our kids couldn’t be there, if ministry wasn’t as equally planned for them as it was for the adults, then it wouldn’t be a good fit for our family.

Of course, kids don’t always fit within all ministry scenarios. I didn’t bring them to visit refugees for the first time, but I would the second time. I wouldn’t bring them to visit someone in the hospital the first time, but we would when we brought a meal.

Protect safe relationships that our kids had
The community that we left continued to support us as we planted with phone calls, emails, and even letters. Though we were receiving support from old, safe relationships, our kids were not. They were forced to finding new support relationships which, even for a 1 and 4 year old, can be stressful.

We began intentionally planning overnight trips back to our old community to support the safe relationships that our kids had. While they have made great relationships over the past 6 years, they are still able to connect with their old friends on a pretty regular basis.

Protect your kids from being evangelism tools
School connections, play-dates, park outings, and parenting groups are gold as a church planter. They provide connection with people in your community that can’t be found in other places. While this is all a part of being a parent, we intentionally defend our children from being tools for evangelism.

As our kids grow in understanding we invite them into their own missional roles, not because it’s good for the church plant, but because God is authentically inviting them into their own missional stories.

What do I mean by that? We don’t want our actions to show that we value our children more for what they could do for us, than for who they are. We focus first on their identity as our kids rather than their missional roles. For example, instead of putting our kids in public school in order to meet other families we thought first about what was best for our kids. If we have to miss an event because our kids didn’t sleep well, we don’t feel guilty about not connecting with other parents.

As our kids grow in understanding we invite them into their own missional roles, not because it’s good for the church plant, but because God is authentically inviting them into their own missional stories.

What we continue to realize is that the more we take the time to be authentically present in the planting journey of our kids, the more we are present to the work of the Holy Spirit ourselves. It is all interconnected. I know if we don’t take the time to proactively address these areas, we will miss out on a whole dimension of how God is working in our family and our church.

Interested in learning more? Join us for our next webinar Parenting & Planting: How to Raise Kids, Start a Church, and Stay Healthy on Wednesday, February 21 at 1pm CT. Learn more here.


John Aureli was on staff at the Sugar Land Vineyard for 3 years as an associate pastor leading compassion ministries. John and his wife Arleta planted the Mission Vineyard in 2011.  Their desire is to send out 17 churches by 2035. John is also involved in Vineyard church planting in Argentina. John and Arleta love spending time with their two kids and do their best to adventure to Maine or Padre Island National Seashore for vacation.

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