Church planting has been in my bones for over thirty years, but I have been female for twice that amount of time. It is therefore quite natural that my analogies, metaphors and observations arise from my ascribed role as a woman—that they are things that are more frequently assigned to a woman’s daily life than a man’s. Sometimes these things are part of how God wired women, while other things have more to do with our social settings. It doesn’t really matter, for God can use either. For example, I use the word beautiful more often than most men when I think about vision. I want church planters to think about God’s vision for their ministry as something completely lovely, both to them and to their communities. It is like the story of the man who knows that a particular field holds a treasure so exquisitely beautiful that is worth giving up everything to attain (Mt 13:44). That’s vision, and to me it is beautiful.
I have always compared my work as a strategist to that of a midwife. Church planters are the mothers and it is my job to care for them during the pregnancy and to help them birth healthy babies. There are high and low risk pregnancies, babies that are born kicking and screaming, and low birthrate babies that need a little time in a neonatal intensive care. Partnering churches are extended family members who care about the new babies as well as the parents. They host showers that help meet the needs of the new baby church (such as bibles, coffee makers, and nursery toys) and they pray for a healthy birth and a productive life for the newborn. It is a highly personal perspective.
Yesterday, during a mentoring session with a church planter, I suggested that he play up his strengths rather than spend so much time bemoaning his weaknesses. I explained to him that it was a little like putting on makeup. If my eyes are my best feature and my nose is my worst, I will spend more time emphasizing my eyes than disguising the size or shape of my nose. Every woman knows that! In this case I simply suggested that the planter find someone else to help with his weakness, and spend more time concentrating on his great strengths.
Because in our household I am the primary chef, and because I love that role, I sometimes think about cooking or baking when I strategize to start new churches. This church needs to be stirred up a little; perhaps it needs a little salt or more complexity of flavor. That church needs to wait a while before it launches; it just needs to cook a while longer, or maybe the ingredients are not fresh enough. As a strategist, I often think about people groups and geographies where new churches are needed. I live and work in a region of 7 million people, so I need to prioritize my work. Sometimes something surfaces that was not on my immediate radar, but is definitely on God’s. It reminds me of making bread. Something rises, and I press it down. It rises again, and when I attempt to push it down a second time, its texture tells me that it is time to bake bread.
I also think like a mother. My children are individuals with real but separate identities. They will always be my children, no matter how old they are. I think about this when I think about Jesus weeping over the city of Jerusalem. Yes, Jesus weeps for cities like we cry out for the children of the world, but in that moment, I believe He was weeping for His city—the city of his childhood, the city where he taught and healed, the city where he would be arrested and then crucified on its outskirts. This was the city that Jesus loved and for which he held a familiar/ familial, even a motherly concern.
So what’s the point? God created us male and female, and we bring different perspectives to the church planting journey. God uses both.