Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Lessons on Church Planting Learned from our Backyard (I hope)

Last fall my family moved from the high-desert dirt of Albuquerque, NM to the humid, shocking-green climate of the mid-west. We had intended to move in the summer, but God eased us into this muggy climate gradually. We moved here to plant a church! We set to our task with excitement, ready to move ahead wherever we could!

This spring the kids and I planted a small garden--our first attempt at green thumbs. I had wanted to do this for years, but finally gained the courage to forge ahead. The previous owners had sustained two entire families with a garden encompassing most of the yard. Surely we could grow a few measly vegetable plants! Plus it was a good end-of-year school project! We used it as a springboard for researching the best plants for children's gardens, the last frost date for our area, and even budgeting for our supplies. We tracked the sun for a few days to find the best spot for our little plot of ground, did a couple do-at-home soil tests, and talked to the lady at Lowe's about what critters we needed to keep out. We picked a good parcel of land on the back edge of the yard, where the grass was flourishing, just in front of the shed where we could store our tools! We prepared the ground, put up a fence, brought out our seedlings. A very good learning experience!

Sar-y, Sar-y, quite contrary, how does your garden grow? you ask. Well..... not so good. Quite possibly.... not at all....

I can blame the tomato-eating squirrel in May. I can blame the torrents of rain that pelted our little plants in June. But really the blame lies with me. (Sigh.)

You see, I thought doing a few days or weeks of research would be good enough. But I didn't really know my yard.

A couple weeks in, we went out in the morning to weed. I commented, "What a blessing! Our garden is in the shade in the morning! We will be able to work without the sun making us too hot!"

A few weeks later, our tiny plants were struggling, at best. Our plot basked in the sun for only a few hours each day. I began to worry.

Yes, the sun continued to shift in the sky as the calendar headed toward summer soltice. Our garden got less and less sun each day until there was none. Shaded from dawn till dusk, it was a spot better planned for two posts and a hammock. We hadn't spent the time in this yard to see what was now obvious.

Which brings us back to our original task: planting a church. Yes, it seems that planting a church could be remarkably similar to planing a garden. (Yikes!) Could our little black-thumbed family do it? Fortunately, we have been able to learn a few of these lessons second-hand from a book called "Church in the Making" by Ben Arment. Ben, as a former church planter, has been coaching Ryan in 2010. His advice: slow down and quit trying to build a church. Rather begin to grow roots in the community. Spend some time getting to know people and letting them get to know you. You know the old saying, "They don't care how much you know... blah, blah, blah."

Our garden is not completely without life now. We have two little pole bean plants who are climbing their way to the sun, I'm sure. A garden remnant, if you will. And one other product of our gardening endeavor: a very rich compost pile. It seems as though God is good at making lush soil with our trash. We know that's true spiritually, too, so hopefully that will make for some fertile soil when the time comes to plant this church.

In the meantime, we sit, we watch, we talk, we plan, we pray, we wait for God, and we look to learn more from our backyard.