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FLOURISH: A wife’s church planting journey

EDITOR’S NOTE: The North American Mission Board has introduced an online equipping community for ministers’ wives named www.Flourish.me. In this article, Shauna Pilgreen, wife of NAMB church planter missionary Ben Pilgreen, shares how God prepared her and her family to move to San Francisco to plant a new church.

SAN FRANCISCO (BP) — I could sense that something was stirring in my husband’s heart a few years ago. It was evident in his preaching. I could hear it in his voice. The pieces came together when Ben asked me to pray about church planting. With a deep breath and a wavering trust, I answered him, “I’ll do that. I’ll pray. Give me a few days.”

I began to think about how good we had it. We had a nice home in a safe neighborhood. Ben was in a good situation at the church where we served. The senior pastor was a mentor who poured daily into Ben. We loved our church. Our friends. Our sons were in a great school. We were within driving distance to family. And we even had season tickets to Silver Dollar City!

Was God calling us to give all that up? I began to pray.

We are not promised a comfortable life here on earth. But we are promised that God will never leave us and that He goes before us.

As a young girl, I had already told God that I’d go anywhere. But Africa was more on the radar than an urban setting in North America.

Ben and I began to talk about the “non-negotiables” — what we could sacrifice and what we wouldn’t. We could give up being a two-car family, owning a home, living somewhat close to family. We wouldn’t sacrifice our marriage, our children’s best interests or their education. This was it. Our journey was starting. As best I can describe it, we held hands, looked at each other and stepped off the cliff into the great unknown of this faith journey into church planting.

It became clear God was calling us to plant a church in San Francisco. We knew God had called us to the task and a peace began to fill our hearts. But when we made our initial trip to San Francisco, questions raced through my mind. Where will we live? Where are the playgrounds for our kids? Where will they go to school? What will our church look like? Am I prepared for this?

We had made moves to other churches and other ministries, but this was different. This had many more unknowns. I recall telling Ben how overwhelmed I was with the research, information and process. At times my eyes would hurt from looking at all the school data online. I recall praying, “God, in Your presence this morning, I have overwhelmingly been reminded that You are holy, in control, and desire to receive glory through this process.”

Ben and I wrote a weekly prayer guide and continued to do so up until the move. In addition, I knew I needed a personal prayer base, so I asked 10 women to commit to pray for our family and for me. (I had no idea that three years later, I’d still be emailing them with requests and they’d still be committed to praying for us.)

After much preparation, we finally made the move to the West Coast. With our feet on the ground in San Francisco, we had one mission: meet people. We invited people into our apartment. We began to share our story of why we were here. While Ben immersed himself in strategy for church planting in our target area, the boys and I immersed ourselves in the city.

Within one month of moving, we held the first launch team meeting in our apartment. Gratitude came over me when the last person left our home that night, so grateful we were doing this as a family. God was gracious to remind me that we aren’t out here alone. He had already gone before us.

In the church planting culture, I know my story might be similar or drastically different from other church planting wives. Yet, getting from the calling to the launch Sunday has common steps. We must listen to our husband’s heart and vision and dream. We must study the culture and city where we are planting. We must seek the God who sends us (Jeremiah 29:7,11-13). We must pray for anything and everything that seems to rest on our souls. And for me those prayers were the assurance that other kids did live in San Francisco, that God was with me crossing the sidewalks with three little boys, that He was protecting my husband’s heart and that somebody would show up our first Sunday.

If I could look into the eyes of a church planter’s wife, I would genuinely say, “It’s worth it! It’s so hard, but so worth it.” Build a prayer support around you. Ask some of your favorite women to pray for you as you keep them posted through emails, texts and phone calls. Insist that your friends and family come visit. Something changes in their hearts when they can see with their eyes and experience what your life as a church planter is really like. Network with others who are ahead of you in the process. Seek out other women in ministry nearby who understand the culture and are working alongside you to see God move.

Just recently, I looked back in my journal. Just a few years ago I wrote, “As best as I can describe it, we held hands, looked at each other, and stepped figuratively off the cliff into the great unknown of faith.” And it’s been one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.
Shauna Pilgreen is married to Ben Pilgreen, church planter and pastor of Epic Church San Francisco. She is a contributor to Flouish.me, an online community for ministers’ wives sponsored by the North American Mission Board. She is co-author of “The Same Page: Living Your Happily Ever After” with Courtney Bullard.

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  • Shauna Pilgreen