Comment from across the partnerships

How to survive three years as a church plant

25 September, 2014 Gerry Straker

How to survive three years as a church plant

Church by the Bay in Morecambe has recently turned three and it has been great to reflect on all that God has given us. It’s also been a good chance to look back and think about the tough times over the past three years. What means has God, by His grace, used to keep us going?

Well, we’ve had some help from our sending church, Moorlands in Lancaster. My wife and I have both got supportive parents who’ve helped us practically (looking after the kids so my wife can run events) and have taught us wisdom about people. We’ve been helped by listening ears and wise words from older pastors and their wives. Lots of people outside Morecambe have supported us both in prayer and financially. A massive help has been a good number of the church family hungry for Bible teaching, and committing their lives to our church family.  

But for all that help for which we are so thankful, the thing that has been most vital in the tough times has been a fellow elder and his wife. A couple who are 100% on board, who believe in the project we are doing together, and have been personally supportive, even when it has cost them. I once asked a senior church leader how we could protect ourselves as a church and keep going and his answer was: ‘supportive elders’. When our church has had wobbles – things that every church goes through, but are really hard first time round (like the first Christians leaving, and the first church members resigning), we’ve wondered what the impact will be on the wider church family. To have an elder and his wife back you, even when a situation has hurt them too, has been essential to our survival and our growth. I’m not sure I can overstate how critical that has been.

Not that we agree on everything, I should say! In fact there are things we regularly disagree on, where I wish he would just agree with me.  We have some theological differences of opinion that we enjoy discussing (yes, really). He also brings his own ideas to the table. Most importantly, he has challenged me when my response to a situation has been ungodly. That is all very much needed too.

But, my focus here is the support that he has been. One time I rang him and he picked up and I was asking something relatively mundane – but it turns out he was in the cinema and had come out to take the call in case it was important. Now, that is commitment to the cause! I’ve popped round when something painful has happened, and we’ve thrashed it out and prayed together. They offer help all the time; they can be asked to help at the last minute; his wife has even taken time off work to be there to help set up an event. In short, they share ownership of the project that is Church by the Bay.

Of course there are things we could do better but, in God’s kindness, having another elder to share the load, the pain, the disappointments (along with the many, many brilliant joys) has been absolutely crucial to our survival.

Easier said than done, of course, but my three-year reflection that may be of use to others who want to survive is this: build and invest in your leadership team – Gospel worker friends who will give their lives with you for the cause of Christ where you are.

Gerry Straker Gerry is Pastor and Elder at Church by the Bay in Morecambe. Gerry worked for Moorlands, Lancaster and St John’s Lindow in Cheshire and prior to that he worked in university administration.

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