By David Whitehead
I’ll never forget planting a church in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The experience was exhilarating, exhausting, terrifying and lonely. The challenges that accompany urban church planting can be crushing, and no one should face those hardships alone.
Helping leaders manage the constant pressures of church planting is what motivates me as the coaching catalyst for City to City. Every individual who is pioneering church work needs someone — a coach — who understands the dynamics of church planting, yet who is not in the details of that particular project. This outside voice provides perspective critical to the health of the church plant and the leader’s personal life. I have found that coaching is a key element in the health of any church or church-planting network.
I recently attended City to City Asia Pacific’s International Intensive training in Taipei, Taiwan. I went with an eye on how to encourage coaching in a greater capacity in that region. It is one thing to learn the valuable lessons taught in the classroom, but having a local coach who can help the church planter apply that material in their context takes the training experience to another level. I was keen to see what could be done.
God had already set the stage for our time. Roger Bray, the coaching catalyst for City to City Australia, met me at the Intensive. Roger and I have had the privilege of working together in Australia, and Roger has done a great job training coaches in that region of the world.
Roger and I listened to each session and crafted a parallel coaching experience that any trained coach could use to walk alongside the church planter. I spent two weeks getting to know the church planters and hearing their stories. I was inspired by God’s provision of these amazing young people willing to lay their lives down for the gospel in Asia. We heard vision plans that spanned from reaching the poorest areas of Southeast Asia to planting a church in the financial district of Tokyo. The challenges and complexities these leaders are about to face spurred Roger and me forward to make sure they had the help they needed to be sent well.
Because of the generosity of partners to City to City Asia Pacific, we were able to start the process of pairing each church planter at the Intensive with a trained coach. Having a coach will help protect the investment we have already put into these leaders. Now these church planters won’t face alone the struggles that will inevitably come as they pursue their vision.
David is a former atheist, business owner, corporate employee, professional musician, director of Campus Harvest, short-term missionary leader, pastor and church planter. He is an author and works with coaches of church planters around the world. He and his wife Kathleen have been in ministry for 35 years and live in Manhattan with their two daughters.