Giving Birth And Giving Away The Bride

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Many years ago I was asked to lead a retreat with leaders of a parent church and leaders of a soon-to-be-formed daughter church.  They wanted to address “the emotional dimensions of church planting,” specifically between a mother church and a daughter church. I thought that was an interesting topic, so I agreed.  Then after giving some thought to the topic and praying about it, I realized I wasn’t sure what to say about this topic and couldn’t find any resources on it. I kept mentioning my concern to Joan, my executive assistant at the time.

Then one evening, Joan called me at home– which she never did– and said, “Bob, I’ve got it! Here’s what you can do for the retreat!” I scribbled down notes as quickly as I could while she talked.  (Afterwards, I invited her to lead the retreat instead but she declined.) Here’s Joan’s metaphor for the relationship between a mother church and its daughter church:

For the parent church, the process feels like a couple getting ready to have their first child. There’s the anticipation, the preparation, the expectation.  But by the time you’re into the third trimester, you’re just exhausted, hot, and ready to give birth. Then comes the labor:  long, painful, and difficult.  But it all feels worth it when you hear the piercing cry of a healthy baby girl.  Then over the next 25 minutes, that baby girls grows to be a 25-year-old woman… and you’re supposed to go straight to the church and give away your daughter at her wedding.  You have all of the expenses and energy drain associated with the wedding, and the giving of your daughter in marriage brings a sense of emotional depletion. For the parent church, there’s the joy and exhaustion of a birth and a wedding all rolled into one.

For the new church, the experience is quite different. They feel like the young couple getting married. They’re excited and full of energy and life. They may not have much, but they have each other and they have love, and they’re going to make it work.  Even if Mom and Dad didn’t do it right, they’re going to have a great marriage and a great family. They’re looking forward to being free, starting their new lives, and doing it their way.  That’s how it feels for the daughter church.

The daughter church has got energy, while the mother church is exhausted.  From the mother church’s perspective, your child will always be your baby, no matter how big she gets. From the daughter church’s perspective, they’re full grown now and ready to be seen as a sister church– an equal partner.

So here’s your assignment: come up with a list of rules of how to have a good relationship with your now-married children. Create a list of do’s and don’ts, for example:  parents shouldn’t give advice unless asked, grown children should come back and visit once in a while.  What rules can you generate?

When you’re giving birth, you really need to let go. The most control you have is the selection of the planter and the approval of the plan. Then you need to release them just as you’d release your grown kids once they get married.