“We can dream bigger. My vision was too small.” Those were Gunter’s words after what we just experienced.
This milestone in our journey was our first church planting conference. We hesitate to call it a “conference,” because that sounds so grey and boring. This conference was anything but!
The leadership called it the world’s biggest family reunion (and even sent us home with family reunion t-shirts).
We call it amazing! And we want to thank you for the part you’ve played in getting us there.
So to help us boil down what we learned, come sit in on an interview with Gunter and Bethany! Just pretend you’re asking the questions instead of reading the ones we made up.
What is an ARC conference?
Gunter: A gathering of veteran church planters, potential church planters, and people who just love church planting. ARC’s mission is to provide resources for church planters to fulfill the dream God has placed on their hearts. It was a time full of fun and hanging out with thousands of others who share the same heart. Lots of food and learning and fun. Did I mention it was FUN?
Bethany: ARC is the organization helping us prepare to plant churches. Just from what I knew before getting involved, they seemed like a great Kingdom-minded organization, but now that I’ve had a taste of what they’re all about, I’m ready to jump in with both feet.
Overall, what did you take away?
Gunter: We can dream bigger. My vision was too small. As i heard stories and testimonies of people who had done it, it caused my faith to grow.
Bethany: Momentum. I saw with my own eyes that we were part of something much, much bigger than I knew. We were progressing before, but now, it’s like we’ve stepped from the shore into a moving stream.
What was the most significant thing you learned?
Gunter: Between the two of us, I think more in terms of the vision, the “big picture.” I learned about defining our vision and how to communicate that vision well. A vision without a plan is just fantasy.
Bethany: I’m more of a details person, so I was like a kid in a candy store when a bunch of wise people started talking details about how to make it happen! Even more significant, though, to me, were the thought processes behind the scenes. I learned that to get the end result we want — people connecting with God — we have to be thoughtful and thorough on the front end. And that it’s not necessarily the fancy bells and whistles that make a church work well.
What was God saying?
Gunter: “You can trust Me.” Sometimes we can’t see the outcome of what we know is in our hearts when we literally leave everything to pursue the dream God has given us. It’s good to hear from people and meet people who have already done it. We’re seeing it from this side, not knowing what may be ahead, and they're looking back from the other side, saying, “God is faithful.”
Bethany: “See? This is possible.” We heard from people in various stages of life. Whether their churches were just a couple years old or 30+ years old, they were all willing to share about their own small beginnings and bungles made along the way. Several of the speakers quoted Zechariah 4:10: “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin…” It encourages me that all these successful church planters started from the same place as we are starting — small beginnings — and not as experts.
What was something that surprised you?
Gunter: The variety of people — different backgrounds, personalities, and styles. And yet, that a group so diverse could be so engaged together, unified, and encouraging to each other. It was on a scale unlike anything I had experienced.
Bethany: The integrity and biblical soundness of the ARC organization. I knew they had some good, practical ideas about how to keep a church plant from going bankrupt within the first year, but I had no clue that they were so committed to doing things the right way, in the right spirit. ARC is no shallow, fluffy organization. The kind of spiritual strength I witnessed among them blew me away.
How is your direction as a church planter more refined?
Gunter: Hearing people share their stories and hearing wisdom from other people gave language to the dream in our hearts. I feel like i’m able to communicate it better, now that I’m seeing how the vision plays out in real life.
Bethany: I think my own role became more refined, in my own mind. Hearing from some of the women involved in church planting — many of them wives and mothers — encouraged me to serve according to my giftings and stage of life, without feeling the pressure to take on everything single-handedly. I realized it’s okay if I’m not directly involved in every area. I have the freedom to be who God is calling me to be and do what He’s calling me to do in the season.
How are you more prepared?
Gunter: Confidence. I have more confidence than ever. I’ve seen God do amazing things through ordinary people. If He can do it through them, He can use me.
Bethany: Awareness. Planting a church is no small task, and it comes with its share of potential pitfalls, even in personal areas. People who have gone through it shared with us about the strains planting a church put on their families, their finances, and their faith. Their honesty and wisdom is helping us to be proactive in strengthening those areas of our lives before we get to the hard situations ahead. We’ll head into this better prepared to weather the storms and come out in one piece on the other side.
Gunter: Our next training event and assessment interviews will be in September. Until then, we’ll be working on getting details squared away and praying about confirmation of a location. We also have to get information together and submitted before our assessment at ARC. And of course, getting lots of hands-on experience at Church With U, where we’re interning.
So that’s where we are in the process — excited, better equipped, and moving forward! We appreciate your continued prayers, encouragement, and support!