My children are now in their twenties. I love the ways that our relationship has changed over the past 20+ years. And I love being their dad. My role has changed – but I will always be my kid’s dad. What a blessing!
When my children were younger, my role as parent required lots of energy and attention, training and disciplining, instructing, protecting, and telling them what to do. I still get to do some training – and they do require energy and attention. But it’s not the same. I haven’t stopped loving them, caring for them, praying for them, and occasionally providing financially for their needs – but my role as parent is much different now that they are adults. This relates to my thoughts on parenting new churches. The role of the parent church has to change as the daughter church grows, matures and begins to reproduce. In reality, this role must change at a much faster pace than it does with children. Within the first few years after a church is birthed, the daughter church may be in an adolescent phase that doesn’t acknowledge the parent church has anything to offer that’s of value (except money of course).
Steve Ogne has described this process as if you are leaving the hospital with your newborn baby and driving straight to the church for your daughter’s wedding where you immediately have to walk her down the aisle and give her away. While it may not be that extreme, this metaphor can serve as a powerful image of the need to “get out of the way” as quickly as possible while taking on a new role as a parent church pastor. When a father gives away the bride, he doesn’t stop being her dad – but it’s a different role now. Parent churches need to understand this role shift. I’ve seen parent churches that have controlled the daughter church for way too long by using money as a way of getting the new church to conform to their wishes (demands).
I’ve also seen parent churches neglect the daughter church altogether – as if to say, “I brought you into this world, but now you are on your own. I hope you make it.”
If your congregation takes on the role of birthing a new church, you don’t have to choose one of these extreme examples to define your relationship with the daughter church. However, you do have to define the relationship from the beginning. Consider what you expect from the daughter church and ask the church planter what is expected of you as the parent. This can help in avoiding major conflicts in the future from unspoken and unmet expectations. I remember when we birthed a church in Southern California several years ago and the church planter expressed his frustration that we had not sent more people with him. While I encouraged people to join our daughter church, I couldn’t force them to leave. I was also frustrated that more people had not joined the new church, but I realized that they were God’s people (and I was not going to manipulate them to go to the new church). This was an important learning opportunity for me as a parent church pastor. I expected that because I was excited about “having a baby” – everyone in our church would be just as excited. They weren’t. My passion for church planting was not enough to motivate people to leave our established church family to become part of a new church family. Parenting a new church is one of the greatest joys in the Christian life, in many ways similar to a parent’s joy of having a baby. But it also can be messy. And it requires growth in both the parent and the child to successfully navigate those growing up years.
5 Ideas for Parent Churches to Consider
1. Once you parent a church you are always the parent. You cannot abdicate that responsibility. This is something to consider before having a baby. Are you in it for the long haul? Will you not only be concerned enough for your daughter church’s survival that you stay nearby and involved in the infant phase, but will you stay connected for the life of the new church? Will you celebrate their victories? Will you pray with them through their struggles? Might you contribute financially when they are purchasing their first home?
2. Babies don’t always come when you expect them. Sometimes there are unplanned pregnancies. Would you abandon a baby you had not planned for? What support might you need if your church faced an unexpected pregnancy? Would you try to give the new church up for adoption, or would you assume the role of parent in spite of the challenges? Rise to the occasion. Trust God and His timing in the process.
3. Preparation for parenting is important. Don’t just prepare for after the baby is born – also pay attention to all that you can be doing to ensure a healthy birth weight (for both the mom and the baby). Nurture the growth of the baby before it’s born. Have regular check ups on the parent church to discern what would help ensure both a healthy mom and a healthy baby. I’ve seen too many churches focus on what’s going to happen with the baby, but they fail to even consider the impact of having a baby on the parent. Pay attention to both.
4. Having babies will cost you more than you expect. Often I’m asked, “How much does it cost to plant a church?” Typically my response is that it costs just a little more than you have budgeted. The reality is that you can set aside money for your daughter church, but it will cost more. And the cost is not just money – it costs time, people, energy, emotion. Plus prayers, resources, relationships, and more. Count the cost. It’s worth it – but it will cost more than you expect.
5. Teaching to love and obey is most important.Of all the things I’ve tried to teach my own kids, I believe that teaching them to love and obey Jesus is the most important thing that I can teach them. I’ve devoted my life to loving and obeying Jesus, and I want them to do the same. Jesus told his disciples to go and make disciples, “teaching them to obey.” As you disciple people to make disciples who make disciples, those new disciples will likely become a new church. We don’t start churches to make disciples, we start churches by making disciples. Make disciples and teach them to love and obey Jesus. This is the greatest thing you can do to help a daughter church. Which of these five ideas resonates with you? What would you add to the list?
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