When my daughter was an infant, my role as a parent was to protect her and provide for her. As my daughter grew in age and maturity, my role as a parent changed. I realized how much time I was now spending preparing her for experiences she would have without me at school, with friends, at her first job and (gulp) dating.
I confess that, as a parent, there is a constant wrestling within me. On the one hand, I want my daughter to stay safe with me at home. On the other hand, I know as she matures there are certain joys and accomplishments she will only experience for herself apart from the direct supervision of her dad.
As her dad, I love every moment I spend with her. But, as her dad, I also acknowledge that if I spend every moment with her she will never experience the joy of college, a career, marriage and having a family of her own. My desire to keep her close to me can become a selfish desire. At that point, I must concede the greatest expression of my love for her is to let her leave and become the person God is calling her to be.
Letting her become that person does not mean the end of our relationship. As her dad, I will still talk with her, pray for her and celebrate any time she wants to come home for a visit. But letting her go does mean that there is no longer one home we share. Instead, she will establish her own home, her own family and her own reasons to celebrate.
The heartache of letting her go is overcome only by the joy of seeing her become who she was always called to be…not by her earthly dad, but by her Heavenly Father.
If you have navigated these emotions as a parent, then you already understand many of the emotions we experience while planting churches. There will always be a part of us who wants everyone to safely stay right where they are. However, the Great Commission is not an invitation to stay, but a commandment to “Go.” And when we bless others to go and be the people that our Heavenly Father has called them to be, their joy becomes our joy.
As a parent, I celebrate my daughter for who she is. As a Christian, I joyfully anticipate who the Lord is making my daughter to be. The Apostle Paul wrote, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart…” (Philippians 1:6-7a).
Those words from Paul not only reflect my love, joy and hope for my daughter. Those words also capture the love, joy and hope we have for new church plants. We are naturally good at protecting and providing for our children. However, preparing our children takes more effort and intentionality. Likewise, many of us are naturally good at protecting and providing care for those in our churches. However, preparing others to go out and lead new churches takes intentionality.
If you or your church are interested in planting new churches, know that we are here to support you. Through prayer, discernment and coaching, we believe the Lord is calling our diocese to plant several new churches in the coming years. I would love the opportunity to speak with you (or your church) about taking the next step toward planting. In the meantime, may the joy of parenting become our joy for church planting. To Him be the glory!
By The Rev. Canon Todd Simonis, Diocesan Canon for Church Planting, The Parish Church of St. Helena, Beaufort