This past week I went back to school. Monday morning I flew to Grand Rapids, MI for a week-long Christian Reformed/Reformed Church of America church planting conference called Thrive! It used to be called Bootcamp. It probably should still be called Bootcamp. I am writing this blog on Friday slightly overwhelmed by all the information we learned this past week. We were questioning whether or not I should attend this conference now, or wait until the next one in January. I am so incredibly thankful that God opened the doors for me to go this week. Yes, it was hard being away from family for the past 5 days, but the flip side was that I was able to visit family in Grand Rapids. I spent most evenings hanging out with Judy, and Phil and their family, Brad and his little guy, Isaiah (sorry I missed you, Christy!). My parents even picked me up from the airport Monday morning as they were visiting last weekend. Finally, my sister Shawna and her three girls even made the trip from Chicago to visit me. All the while Heather and the boys were able to spend the week at Mom and Dad Immanuel’s. So although being away from family was hard, and though Thrive! took tons of mental energy, hanging out with my parents and most of my brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews filled me back up.
One major take home from attending Thrive! was how impressed I am of the caliber and quality of trainers we have in the CRC and RCA in the area of church planting. It’s no wonder 70% of church plants in these two denominations are successful. I feel so much more equipped now then I did a week ago to go and begin this adventure of church planting. No book can provide a more thorough overview of church planting essentials. From the nuts and bolts to the big picture, from discipleship to self-care; they provided tool after tool to help us go. We learned that this year will be the most aggressive year of church planting in CRC history. God willing, 35-40 church plants will get started in 2013. It was mentioned that there needs to be 30 new churches/year in the CRC to maintain status quo. So we are on the right track for 2013.
On top of it all, I made new friends who are part of this difficult journey. Remember to pray for church planters. In hearing some of the stories of my new friends, it became much clearer to me how difficult this work is. It was a sobering week hearing about sacrifice and uncertainty. So please keep praying for church planters. Pray that God will provide security, hope, health, and finances. Because Satan does not want these new ministries to succeed, please pray that God will strengthen us, empower us, embolden us, and mould us so that all these new plants won't only sprout, but thrive!
Here’s a ‘work map’ our trainers asked us to put together throughout the week. I’m sad to say that I don’t have any other pictures of Thrive! other than this. Each note on this map has pretty much everything I have to do for the next several months.