Expensive haircuts

 

We are just into Year Two of the church plant. It’s going OK. We’re hitting most of our targets. All of the things – easy and hard – that you’d expect to be happening are happening. I should be happy. But I’m tired and a bit grumpy. I find my internal narrative is often a bit anxious and whiny. “This church planting thing is so unique and so difficult. I feel lonely because no one who hasn’t ever church planted would understand just how hard it is…” Blah blah blah…

But then I talk to Andrew.

Andrew does my hair. He’s a bit expensive, (actually eye-wateringly expensive), and my hair looks fab at the end. But the main reason I’ll keep going to Andrew is that he helps me with my whiny internal narrative.

Andrew is about as different to me as you could get. I’m an anglo, straight, married church planter with great hair. He’s a Lebanese, gay, single hairdresser. And bald.

Yet every time I talk to Andrew I feel better about church planting, because building up a hairdressing salon and helping lead a church start-up are so similar. Here’s what we’ve agreed we’ve got in common about our start-ups:

  1. We are passionate about its growth – we’re not content with where it’s at
  2. We eat sleep and breathe it, ‘cos we aren’t just employees
  3. We feel the successes and failures keenly, and that’s emotionally destabilising
  4. We know that if it’s to grow, we have to trust others to do stuff – not be a ‘one man band’
  5. We get frustrated when others don’t do stuff as well as we do
  6. We make it hard for others ‘cos we micromanage them instead of training them
  7. So we’ve both got a coach we meet with regularly
  8. We are totally dependent week by week on who decides to walk in the door
  9. We know we need to take holidays to stay fresh but there’s never a perfect time in the year
  10. The whole thing exists on a shoestring budget and teeters on the edge of not being viable.
  11. But we love it and believe in our product and wouldn’t want to do anything else.

 

So, I’ve got my next hairdo booked for after Christmas, with Andrew’s church planting coaching session thrown in free!

– by Cathy Tucker

The joyful empty Bible study

A few weeks ago I turned up ready to lead the lunchtime Bible reading group. I was only just on time. Thankfully, I was also the first there.

Check phone. No messages. Hmmm. Sitting by myself.

‘Maybe they’re all just running late…?’

Obsessively check phone again. No messages. It became pretty obvious that no-one else was going to turn up.

I think I did most of the classic grief responses in about 90 seconds:

  • I’m hopeless – no one likes the way I lead groups.
  • They’re hopeless – they really should get their act together to turn up.
  • I’m more important than this – don’t they know I’ve given up a lot to do this church plant!
  • Maybe I shouldn’t have started the group in the first place?
  • I feel stupid – will hubby think I’m hopeless at this?
  • I’m angry that I rushed to get here, and prepared and did the stupid printing.
  • I’m embarrassed that I got so angry at hubby that the printer wasn’t working.
  • I’m relieved that I don’t have to lead the group – maybe I could go shopping instead?
  • I went shopping.

Half way around Myer (trying to get free samples at the cosmetic counters), it dawned on me that the one thing I hadn’t done was pray. I didn’t pause and pray about my response. I didn’t pray for my group. I was so focussed on myself.  I rode a very unnecessary roller coaster. I also realised my emotions and sense of competency are very closely linked to how many people turn up to things.

We’re learning from James:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”

It’s indeed a joyful (painful) gift from God when no one turns up to bible study, because my honest knee-jerk questions bubble to the surface. They give me clues as to who I really am – helpful questions I can ask myself:

‘Is my self worth tied to what people think of me?’

‘What does my angry response show about what’s really driving me?’

‘Why are the opinions of others so much more important to me than God’s?’

I hope that all six of my group turn up on Thursday – but if they don’t, I’ll consider it pure joy.

 

– by Cathy Tucker

The big block of butter

Early Sunday morning I had one of those weird dreams. I was in a town I didn’t recognise, but I knew everyone’s names and they seemed to have been waiting for me to arrive. In one house there was a family who all looked spookily similar. They were all smiley but there was definitely tension in the air. We went off to a planning meeting at church, where at one point I stood on a chair to dispense advice to approving nods and murmurs of assent. Then it all started to go super weird…

Suddenly I knew that this one family were all the product of incest – the dad was actually the brother kinda stuff. I should have known this earlier! The next scene was outside. I had a massive block of butter on the road in front of me. I was working hard buttering the road – all by myself – to stop the most violent member of the family getting back into the house.

When I woke up, I rolled over and regaled my long-suffering husband with all the details. To my surprise he didn’t remind me of the pizza I’d eaten late the night before, or suggest that we’d put the winter blanket on the bed a few weeks too early. Instead, it turns out that my crazy dream fits the stage our church plant is currently up to.

We are about to scale-up through the ‘70 regulars’ mark. We’re moving from me knowing everyone and being the doorway to everyone getting involved, to developing a volunteer team structure where I’m not so central. It’s leading to conversations like the one I had at Hub last Wednesday night:

“Hi. My name’s Cathy, you’ve been part of Scots for a while, but I don’t think we’ve met yet.”

I’m relieved but concerned all at the same time – and that explains the two halves of my dream. I’m relieved that I don’t need to know everyone. That as a 70+ body of Christ, we will all play our part in connecting people with church, caring for them, communicating the gospel and helping them to commit to following Jesus. It won’t be the Cathy show anymore. In short, that things are going well – woo! But on the other hand, I’m going to have to trust that people aren’t going to fall through the cracks, and I’m worried that people might think I’m not loving because I don’t know everyone.

So that’s the job for this week. Pray, and keep doing my part, but don’t panic. Trust that our plant is just as secure now with God, as it was when I was more hands on – and maybe put the big blanket away until it’s colder?

The one question I dread

We’re nine months into our church plant at Wynyard, in Sydney’s CBD. I’m developing a pretty good repertoire of answers to the type of questions our particular planting context asks. If I’ve had a decent amount of sleep and I’m on my game, I actually enjoy the back and forth of answering those questions.

But there’s one question that I really dread. In the past week my mum, my son-in-law, an old friend and one of the maths teachers at school have all asked it. My hairdresser even asked me yesterday while I was trapped under the plastic poncho, staring at myself in the mirror:

“How’s the church plant going?”

I don’t like talking to hairdressers at the best of times. I don’t like small-talk. I find it tiring. I don’t like looking at myself in the mirror. It makes me put off going to the hairdresser – it’s not a treat. I’m stressed out by listening to inane gossip and ill-formed social commentary in the salon. So, in the end, I answer that dreaded question by saying the first thing that pops into my head.

“Lots of people are sick ‘cause it’s the middle of winter. But I think it’s going ok.”
On the way home I think about all the other ways I could have answered him. I also think about why I dread that question.

Maybe I dread trying to answer it because, if I’m honest, my emotional response is to feel vaguely scared and worried. I think the answer I gave betrays my fear that our church plant is like a precariously balanced house of cards. Objectively I think it’s going OK, but it’s so raw and new, I don’t feel settled or confident yet that it’s got long-term legs.

Part of the problem is that it’s a huge question. “How’s the church plant going?” How do I measure it? According to what indicators? It’s as hard as answering, “How’s your marriage going?” Umm. Do you mean do I currently like him? Am I irritated by him? Am I being kind to him? Is the sex good? What do you mean?
Maybe the next time someone asks me how the church plant is going, I might try that. I might ask them what they mean. Get them to do some of the hard work of teasing out the question a bit. Open the door to a broader conversation that might even challenge them to think about what success means? At the very least, it’ll buy me some thinking time.

– By Cathy Tucker

Women from the Geneva Push network share their wisdom and experience in seeing churches planted across Australia.

Browse Past Months: