Over the next few days, I’m going to open up and share a little bit about my personal life and leadership mistakes. I hope these posts help you. Mistake #1 was not being real.
We moved to Northwest Atlanta in the spring of 2005 to launch a brand new church. With a 26′ UHaul, a four year old daughter, a three week old baby, and about $10,000 in the bank, we set out the biggest adventure we’d taken in our lives.
Our sponsoring church was about 30 miles away, but we quickly developed some relationships with some great people – people who would become a part of our core group and launch team. In August of 2006, sixteen months after our arrival in a brand new town, we held our grand opening services.
The year before the first year was tough, but we handled it as a team and as a family. Once the church launched, however, something happened in my heart and mind. Us became me.
We still had some great friendships, but the church unofficially became my job, while my wife stayed at home with our kids. The ministry that we had done together up to that point was pushed to the side.
I went to conferences, had lunch with leaders and started building a team. The core group of families who helped us launch would always be important, but if I wanted to go to the next level, I had to build a team of superstars. Or so I thought.
I dove head first into communicating the vision, creating a culture of generosity, and planning the details of the next outreach event.
In the name of protecting my wife from the hardships of church planting, I shut her out. I didn’t want her to overly worry about the finances or get caught in the middle of personnel disputes or be treated awkwardly because she was the pastors wife.
This was actually something I heard – or thought I heard – from some high level leaders and at some leadership conferences. Looking back, I think I mis-heard. I was intent on drawing a line of separation between marriage and church, between work and family, between leadership and my home life.
We’d be facing a tough time in the budget, so instead of talking and praying with my wife about it, in the name of protecting her from worrying about whether we’d have a paycheck, I’d go meet with a financial expert.
I’d get knee deep in dealing with people problems, an in the name of protecting my wife from thinking badly of people, I just wouldn’t tell her everything was happening.
The things that were the most important to me as the leader of the church, I kept (at least, in part) from the person closest to me in life.
All in the name of being a good leader and sheltering her from negativity.
Of course, the result of this was devastating. I dove deeper into solving problems at work, and she felt more alone being a mother of three children in elementary school.
It wasn’t the sole factor, but succeeding in ministry contributed to failure at home. I was warned by others, I saw it coming, and I knew it was happening – but still, I let it hurt me.
My lone ranger, renegade personality – ironically, the same spirit that church planters probably need to have to be successful – allowed me to leave my wife and kids behind. To blaze a trail and expect them to follow, instead of going down the new road together.
If I ever do something like this again, what starts out a team effort would stay a team effort. I’d rather stay small than succeed at something on my own.
I’d rather be a nobody than be a somebody without the somebody that is the most important somebody on earth to me.