Memoirs of A Church Planter

Some people said we were crazy and it did feel crazy. I was about to have my second baby (17 months after my first), and we had decided to plant a church--stepping away from all security and our supportive community.

On paper, it didn’t seem like a good idea either. Leaving both our stable jobs to start a church from scratch wasn’t exactly a secure financial plan. We were told that 80% of church plants fail--not super encouraging numbers. And then, once we actually moved our family to the city in which we were planting the church, the organization supporting us dissolved, leaving us without funding.  But we had a dream, and we needed to go for it.

We didn’t want to look back at the end of our lives and wonder: “What if we had followed that dream?” We knew that if we never tried, we would never know.

After years of praying and discerning, we knew planting a church was something we had to do. It was time. So, we leapt.  

Has it been easy? It has been the hardest thing we have ever done. Simultaneously, it’s been the most beautiful, life-giving experience as we’ve had front seats to watching God move and radically transform people’s lives.

In the beginning, we made every mistake in the book (seriously…there is a book called 10 Most Common Mistakes Made by New Church Starts- and we did them all!) and the learning curve was so steep. But through the challenges and the many trials, God has been WITH US.  

One of the greatest lessons in it all has been that God doesn’t promise that this life will be easy, but He does promise to be with us. In this wild journey we’ve experienced the peace and joy that comes with God’s constant presence and we wouldn’t trade it for the world.

There was a lot of resistance along the way: spiritual, physical, systemic, neighbors who told us to leave the city, people who took our church signs and threw them in the grass and told us to leave. We had organizations tell us our money was no good when we wanted to rent their facilities, and felt the pressure of other churches who were threatened by our existence. But the biggest resistance of all was internal- Who am I to do this? What if we fail? What will people think?  

This internal resistance caused us to die many deaths in the process of planting the church. It’s been a journey of releasing everything we have to God again and again: our insecurities, our fears, our expectations of the way things “should” look, our finances, and, for me especially, my own need for control and safety.  And at the same time, it’s been an adventure of being blown away again and again as God has provided everything from big miracles to the small details.  

In everything, from another church giving us chairs to get started, to meeting spaces opening up unexpectedly at the last minute, to groceries or cash anonymously left on our doorstep when the money had run out, to the most incredible people leaving their careers to come on board as staff members at just the right time. All that to say, we've always had what we needed, when we needed it, to carry forward the vision God had given us.

We’ve come upon a fullness of life from stepping out and following God’s prompting. We’ve discovered a freedom that comes from surrendering outcomes and fears. We’ve found a stride and an unbreakable bond together, from working as a team, as difficult as that could be at times.

And my greatest fear of all- that our kids would be short-changed because we were giving our lives to following this dream- could not be any farther from the truth. We have watched our kids fall in love with Jesus, and with serving others as they have been included in the journey.

Planting a church has looked much different than I imagined, and it has far exceeded any expectation or desire. Now, there is a beautiful community of people following Jesus that exists because we chose to take a risk and leap and I am beyond grateful.

I’ve learned that taking a leap is always worth it because it means I am truly living.  The real risk is living a life, wondering what could be. The real risk comes in an attempt to stay in control and keep things safe, not living into the full version of who God made us to be.

Not all of us will be church planters or leaders in a church setting. But we are all called to the adventure of following God and experiencing abundant life. We are all invited to explore how we are uniquely designed and gifted and then lean into that.  

God wants to use brave, everyday women like you and me to be activated and make a real change in this world.

What cliff are you standing on? What is the thing that you don’t want to get to the end of your life and say, “What if I would have…?”  How has God uniquely made you? What gifting, path, or passion do you need to pursue?

Find that thing and leap.  

Jennifer Wood

Jen is the Co-Founder of Redemption Church in Costa Mesa, Ca.  She is married to Phil and they have 3 fun and wild boys.  She is an elder and teacher in her church as well as an educator.  Jen wholeheartedly believes in living life to it’s fullest and that following God is life’s greatest adventure. Connect with Jen on Facebook and Instagram.


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