Church planters: here’s something we learned in Converge Church Planting, and many of us learned it the hard way. A few years back we did research relative to the women of our church planting couples. A similar and disturbing pattern emerged, and I give this to you as an encouragement to fight back.
In our movement, we mostly have male pastors. Fine. But our new churches are mostly planted by couples, who go into the venture as co-ministry partners. Some would use the term “egalitarian” because of how co-equally they plant the church. Husband and wife together, doing the hard up-front work, building a launch team, getting the church up and running. Then something weird happens. As the new church grows and becomes a “formal” entity, the co-ministry pattern starts to drift. Why?
There can be a number of reasons (starting a family, career pursuits, etc.), but the predominant reason, we learned, was that the women were left aside when the official leadership structure came to be. Many (not all) of our churches have boards that are exclusively male (or “complementarian” in their structure). When the co-ministry wives (who were critically important in getting the church launched from the beginning) watched the transition to official leadership structure take place, they often felt abandoned. We saw that in the church we planted, and it was particularly hard on my wife.
You’ll have your own convictions on whether your church will be complementarian or egalitarian in its leadership structure. But you can’t get away from the fact that in most cases the launch team phase of your church will be egalitarian, with husband and wife working together as co-ministry partners. Make sure you have the discussion on what can happen—and what will happen—as you transition to formal leadership. God will be glorified as you love, honor, and respect one another in the planting of His church.