One thing struck me, though. As I looked at one of the earliest launch team photos we have on the web I noticed that of the 10 people in the picture, only six of us remain in Watermark... my family and Tabea (one of our staff members).
One went to become a teacher in North Rhine-Westfalen. A young couple is back in the USA. Another is serving at her home church back in the Netherlands. The last one is still in Freiburg and we see her from time to time, but she just isn't involved anymore.
I remember one of my mentors telling me that very few of those that start with you will complete the journey with you. I knew this going into the church planting process... but today reminded me of just how true this is.
God brings some people into our lives for just a season. Our job is to encourage them to follow the God's path for their individual lives. We need to help them get where they're supposed to be... even if that isn't with us or our church.
Although not pictured here, one couple that helped us for the first year told us that their kids had made friendships with kids in another church through an after-school program, and they wanted to start attending that church. I know that pastor - he's a good guy. They'll be involved in a good church where their kids are happy. I was happy to give them our blessing. Actually, this couple expected us to tell them they were missing God's will, but we instead encouraged them to get involved in their new church
Another couple was "on loan" from their church for a year. They were an immense help, but felt that when their year was up they needed to get involved again with their home church. Others have moved for jobs or school, etc.
Some won't complete the journey because it's too tough, or because of disappointment or disillusionment, and that's okay too. As individuals from our launch team told us they weren't happy at Watermark anymore, or that "things just don't feel the same as they used to," we weren't surprised. Of course not... our church is growing! It's supposed to change, just like a baby is expected to grow.
As my mentor says, "People will view the church in light of the size it was when they first came." If they joined the church or the team when we started (42 was our first month's average), they expected to have the same amount of access to us and to the other team members. We were one big happy family. We met at the church and at my office (Starbucks) on a regular basis. But as the church started to grow and more people got involved, this became more difficult.
With this in mind, it's easy to see why people become frustrated. It's harder and harder to have the close knit relationships we used to have... especially when our mission is to continually expand our relational circles. We have to be prepared for the fact that most of the people we start with won't complete the journey with us.
God asks us, though, to develop each person He sends to us, and to have them develop others. We have to trust that when good people leave - especially those we've invested heavily in - He will send us others that are even better.
Remember... whatever we sow (plant) we will reap (harvest). (Galatians 6:7) If we want the right people to come to us, we need to be willing to release people to fulfill their destiny. In other words, we need to pastor with open hands... hands that welcome people when they come. And hands that release people (with a blessing) when they go.