This will be a combination of confessions and updates. So, I'm going to thank you in advance for reading. Your encouragement, support and prayers mean a lot to us.
I apologize for not sharing half of this stuff with y'all. I realize this is a HUGE part of my life that I haven't shared about on here. In March of 2015, I launched a blog titled Stories of Newlywed Church Planters. That blog then changed into where you find yourself now, www.crystalleewilliams.com.
I never planned to stop blogging about the fact that Calvin and I became church planters and leaders of a congregation 3 months after getting married. I just simply wanted a new space where I would blog about that AND write about many other things.
But now, almost a year later, and I in fact haven't blogged about how the church plant is doing or how Calvin and I are doing as the ones leading this congregation. So, it's about to get real.
I've acquired some new readers in the last two years. (Yay! Welcome! Insert group hug here.)
So, a quick order of events is listed below in bullet points to give everyone some context:
March 2014 - Calvin and I got engaged.
July 2014 - Calvin preached his first revival.
August 2014 - We got married!
October 2014 - A small church plant in search of a new pastor invited Calvin to preach on a Sunday.
November 2014 - We interviewed and accepted their offer for Calvin to be the new pastor and (re)launch the church.
December 2014 - Calvin graduated from East Texas Baptist University with a Bachelor’s in Biblical Studies.
January 1, 2015 - Calvin's first day as pastor of Christ's Mercy Church, a church plant of 10.
Easter 2015 - We officially re-launched Christ’s Mercy Church under new leadership and new vision.
We were pretty young and newly married when we jumped head first into church planting. Which, of course, then means we dove into full-time ministry as well while still learning what it looks like to be husband and wife. (We both weren’t paid full-time, but pastor a church and it sure does immediately become full-time, for both you and your spouse.)
Our excitement, our adrenaline, and our passion carried us through the first year or so. As did our vision. Calvin was certain and grounded in the vision God had given him for Christ’s Mercy Church and I stood behind it 100%:
Community - Discipleship - Transparency
But after two years of a strong, growing attendance (our highest recorded attendance being 96) and successful events, home groups and discipleship, we began to plateau.
Many and I mean many churches (established and new), non-profits, and ministries understand this completely. It’s more common than most realize.
After all it’s said, not many church plants make it past year 3.
Pastors experience burnout and become frustrated with the growth barriers they are experiencing and call it quits. Others start allowing distractions to cause them to lose focus of their vision and begin to look to other things.
We got burned out.
We got distracted.
We lost focus.
Yep. This is where it gets real. This is the truth.
In a newsletter we recently sent out to our members and family/friends that have supported us, Calvin shared how 2017 was the craziest and most difficult season we’ve experienced to date.
He took on school and was a double full-time graduate student. I was transitioning from one part time job to another while still doing all I could to help Calvin with all that church planting entails. Title wise, I am the Worship Leader and Overseer of Woman's Discipleship at CMC. Reality wise.... my hands are in pretty much everything. Calvin's? Everything and then some.
During this time I also launched a blog and became obsessed with it. Keeping it real, remember?
I began to notice more of my attention going towards that then things pertaining to the church. I'm not perfect, y'all. While I do feel that God has gifted me with writing and speaking talents, I had a come to Jesus meeting and came face to face with the reality that before me was already a calling and a resposibility I was starting to neglect.
Calvin, too, had his own moment of confession and repentance in regards to other things that took precedence.
We realized we had lost focus and burnout is REAL.
We were tired. We were navigating on auto pilot. We hadn't stepped away in so long. Mission trips don't count as vacations.
Our marriage felt the strain. Our schedules were crazy and we hardly spent time together. And when we did, all this just weighed heavy on us. It was almost always what we talked about.
We feared. We feared failing at this. We feared we didn't hear God right.
We questioned. Were we really the ones to lead this? Will any new families visit our church? Will God really provide?
Calvin and I, both individually and as a couple, had those encounters with God where we realized our selfishness, our fears, our insecurities and our short comings. We prayed and prayed for weeks. We confessed, we repented and we listened. And God spoke.
February 19, 2018 - I started my first day as an official employee at Christ's Mercy Church!!
A new season has commenced. My husband is my new boss!
I previously shared how I was a Social Media Coordinator for a larger church in the Houston area but after much prayer and consideration we felt God leading me to join Calvin at CMC. God faithfully provided the funding to make this possible, so I made the switch. It honestly was a total God thing!
In this, God made it clear to us that it's important for the both of us to be at CMC, for the both of us to continue seeking Him for vision and direction and for the both of us to shepherd the flock God has entrusted to us and reach the community around us.
I'm beginning to see more and more that when God called Calvin to lead this church plant, He called me, too. And I now have the opportunity to intentionally spend my days focused on that calling alongside my husband!
Things are changing, I can feel it. We carry the same vision, but with a renewed strength, dedication, and zeal!
Year 3 did not take us down.
God is so good and He has been incredibly faithful and patient with us.
We're learning, we're growing and we are realizing more each day the importance of abiding, trusting and having FAITH.
Friends, our own strength fails us. All the time.
Going your own way, doing your own thing, instead of what God has placed in front of you to do is working and laboring in vain.
Trust Him. He has something for you and it's far greater than anything you could create on your own terms.
Fear not. HAVE FAITH. Stay the course and lean not on your own understanding [Proverbs 3:5-7].
I'll end with this, if you have a pastor or spiritual leader... tell them thank you. Write them a note, send them a text, call them or straight up hug them next time you see them and tell them thank you. Appreciation and encouragement can go a long way.