Two years ago my husband, Dustin, and I planted Refuge Church in Cookeville, Tennessee. At first I fought this idea for a long time. I knew that if we committed to this dream, I would need to be all in along with my husband. I would need to help carry this vision into reality, and this responsibility scared me. Now, two years into the journey, I am leading and loving it. Along the way, I have learned some valuable lessons in life and leadership.
First, you and your spouse have to be on the same team. When you decide to live for Jesus and lead in your church, Satan will attack. Dustin and I are a team! We are there for each other. When he is down, it is my job to be there to lift him up. When I am down, he fights for me. We carry the weight of the vision God has for our church together. We problem solve together, dream together and cry together. We don’t always agree, but once a decision is made, we are united. Come what may, we are going to fight for it together.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”
To maintain being on the same team, you have to talk about things that bother you. You and your spouse have to be open with each other. If you harbor hard feelings about anything with your spouse, it will grow and divide you.
Second, finding balance in life is unobtainable, but living with rhythm is what you should strive for. Every church I have been apart of has talked about finding balance. You have to balance being a wife, mother, employee, pastor’s wife, children’s director and the list goes on and on. You begin to feel like a circus clown trying to keep spinning plates on a stick. One plate starts to wobble, so you focus on that plate. By the time you get it going again, another plate wobbles. This keeps going until eventually plates start crashing to the floor. We cannot feasibly be excellent in all areas at all times.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” Then Solomon goes on to describe a rhythm. The same applies for church. There is a season of high intensity with outreaches, groups and big weekends. You also have seasons of lower intensity where you can focus on family. Finding this rhythm is essential. You cannot burn the candle at both ends for very long. You will burn out! Once this rhythm is established, you can be intentional in each season. When it is go time for the church, you are all in and ready to give all you have because you have taken time to rest. But when it is a season of low intensity, you can be intentional with your family. You can do this by planning ahead.
My husband is great at establishing a calendar. He will plan ahead for the next year. He will find the pockets of low intensity and plan little trips to look forward to. So in those moments when it is hard at church, you feel spent and have nothing left, you have something to look forward to. And in a season of rest, you can focus on family time and pray and dream for the future.
Last, God has equipped each of us specifically to make a difference. Sometimes, I struggle in the “shadow” of my husband. I know this sounds crazy, but it’s true. Satan will use this to disregard the plan that God has for me. It is so easy to lose sight of your purpose. You can get caught up in all the drama and forget that God needs you. God has equipped me to reach people for Christ just like my husband.
The Great Commission is just as much for me as it is for anyone in our church. I have to be intentional about keeping my focus on Christ. This may be me serving in the kids’ ministry, praying for someone after service, or even just making sure the bathrooms are stocked and ready. God has equipped us all with the ability to grow God’s Kingdom. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
These are three lessons I have learned so far in church planting. I still have so much to learn! What are some of the lessons you have learned?
Melissa Thompson is a small town Tennessee girl with a big heart for God’s people. She has led in the secular workplace in the restaurant and banking industries and has served as a Children’s Director and Business Administrator in churches in both Tennessee and Missouri. Currently she serves in both of those roles at Refuge Church in Cookeville TN. Melissa is married to Dustin, has two kids, Avail and Archer, and enjoys quilting and knitting. For more information or to connect, you can find her on Facebook.