Tammy Melchien is a church planter, campus pastor and a pioneer. She spends her days as the campus pastor at the Lincoln Square Campus of Community Christian Church in Chicago–a NewThing church. Several years ago she started out with a team of approximately 20 who moved with her from the suburbs to the city to launch a new location. Tammy is passionate about the Jesus mission and helping people find God. Her journey is unique and she offers us lots of wisdom.
When did Jesus become real for you?
Honestly, as a small child. I had a pastor growing up who loved the children in our church. He would take time in every service to call us up and tell us a story. He would bring me a McDonald’s milkshake when I was home sick from school. Between him and my parent’s godly influence, I fell in love with Jesus at a young age because I was loved well by his followers. Then, when I went to Europe with a traveling basketball missions team after high school, I fell in love with ministry and using my gifts and talents to serve the Jesus mission.
Why are you a church planter?
I ask myself that often. I want to give my life to further Jesus’ mission. I believe planting this church in Chicago is how he is asking me to live that out.
What circumstances led you to believe God was calling you to plant a church?
4 years ago I sensed God calling me to take a next step in my ministry leadership journey. Being in a culture at Community that is all about reproducing churches, I began to get a vision for how God might be able to use me to plant a new church in the city. It felt like a better alignment of my gifts and passion than what I was doing at the time (children’s ministry) and also a better stewardship of my life as a single adult (who previously was serving in family-centric Naperville).
Where is your 3rd place?
The coffee shop 2 blocks away. Which I guess is also kind of my 2nd place since I office there a lot too.
At the end of the day, what does a win look like for you and your project?
My greatest desire is to see people find their way back to God and take next steps towards him and living out his mission every day after. The changed life is the win I’m after.
What difference does/will your church plant make in the community?
I hope we will become known as a church that invests deeply in loving and contributing to our neighborhood. I’m not sure we need to start a lot of programs or organizations, I’d love to see us continue to come alongside existing non-profits and initiatives and help provide the support and volunteers that can make their efforts flourish. We are focusing our efforts on 2 organizations: Gateway to Learning, a special education training center for adults with intellectual disabilities, and The Lincoln Square Friendship Center, a new food pantry in our neighborhood.
How are you developing people? Staff, volunteers, launch team?
At our 2 year mark, I had to make some staffing changes (mostly for financial reasons) and in some sense start over with a new group of very part-time, young staff members. Right now I am focusing on trying to develop them to be leaders of leaders. We use an apprenticeship model for leadership development at every level in our church.
What have your learned about raising funds for your project that can help the rest of us?
Not going to lie, this part is hard. But if there is one thing I look back on and regret is that I spend too much time over the past 3 years in fear over our finances. Cast a big vision. Make the big asks. But at the end of the day, you have to just leave it in God’s hands and trust. The path might not always go the way you had planned, but somehow things always seem to work out. And I’ve decided that if the worst thing that happens is I end up living in my parent’s guestroom, then the lives that were changed here in Lincoln Square make is still worth it.
What is unique about your context and what have you had to differently to reach people?
In comparing this experience in the city to my previous time in the suburbs, I feel like our attenders are younger, they have a lot of freedom to travel and be involved in lots of activities (of which church is just one), and there is a much faster pace of transition (mostly people moving for jobs). I’ve found that many times people are more committed to their Small Group than the weekend service. I think this may be because Mon-Fri they are locked into a job and schedule. Weekends they are all over the place. It’s a dynamic we are still trying to figure out.
How is your family part of your church planting adventure?
Single. But my mom and dad and sister cheer me on regularly.
What is/was the great challenge you faced planting your church and how did you overcome it?
Honestly, I think this question relates to the previous one for me. I knew planting a church as a woman would be different, but that has not actually seemed like a challenge. Planting as a single person has been challenging. I look at many of my peers and how much their spouse does to help make the church plant successful (and how much emotional support they have from that), and I feel like this job would be a breeze if I had a wife. J
Who inspires you and why?
People who are faithful, missional, and not after glory. I have a mentor/friend, Lora Hobbs, who I got to spend time with this summer who is one of the most gifted, loving people I know. Her impact on the lives around her is astounding, yet none of it ever goes to her head. She is humble, unassuming. Desires nothing more than loving Jesus and following the path that he lays out before her day by day. People like that inspire me.
How are you caring for yourself spiritually as a leader?
I’ve been a relentless journaler for over 20 years. It is my lifeline to God. Setting aside time to read his Word and journey most days of the week is essential to my spiritual health.
Do you have a plan for planting more churches/campuses etc. What is it?
I don’t know. I’m part of a church that has big plans. But for now, I feel like I am supposed to pastor Community Lincoln Square and I find great joy in that.
At the risk of stating the obvious, you’re a woman. There aren’t many female church planters. What’s the best part of that for you?
The best part is twofold 1) I think there have been people who have been drawn to our church because they feel like they’ve finally found a place where women are given a chance to lead. 2) It hasn’t seemed to matter. I’m sure there are probably people who didn’t come back because the pastor was a female, but I’ll never know. For the people who are a part of our community, I think it is a non-factor. I like that it really hasn’t been a big deal. What’s been the greatest challenge? Sometimes feeling left out of the circle of all my male peers…Sometimes wondering if I’m overlooked as a leader because of my gender…Being in pastor’s gatherings when you know many of the people there don’t think you should be there.
Why don’t more woman plant churches?
1) It hasn’t been modeled for them. 2) We aren’t mentoring enough of them for this type of leadership role. 3) This is a stereotype, but I think many women are waiting for someone to invite them to do something (they don’t push their way into opportunities). I know I was extremely uncomfortable during the season where I was pushing to get to plant in Chicago. Felt out of character for me. I think most church planters are a bit more testosterone driven. J 4) I think the schedule is demanding. If I was married and had kids, unless my husband played the role that most church planting wives play, it would be difficult.
What can we do to help more woman plant churches?
1) Take the few examples we have of women in these types of leadership roles and get them up front. Women need to see women leading. 2) Current church planters (men and women) need to include women in their mentoring circles. I think we tend to draw apprentices that are like us. Since most church planters are men, mostly men are being raised up to plant churches. It will take an intentional effort to apprentice women to change this. 3) Realize there are different temperaments and that women may need to be called out to church planting differently. 4) This is a tough one. Certainly a strong church planting team could help.
What coaching would you offer a young woman who wants to plant a church?
Get a significant amount of ministry leadership experience before you do. Then do a Leadership Residency and go for it!
Just for fun—do you have a favorite band/musician? If so who and why?
Not really a favorite. I’ll give you this…someone introduced me to an unknown singer/songwriter, Audrey Assad, and I’m really digging her stuff lately.
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Brad Brisco is the Church Planting Catalyst for a network of Baptist churches in Kansas City. His primary responsibilities involve recruiting, training, resourcing and coaching church planters in the city. Brad is also on the national leadership team of Forge Americaand co-leader of a Forge hub in Kansas City. He is also the co-founder (along with Lance Ford) of the Sentralized conference, an annual missional conference held in Kansas City each September. I recently talked to Brad about church planting in general and the missional conversation specifically.
How do you spend most of your days?
Most days I spend the majority of time meeting with church planters in person, or via Skype or phone. Some days are spent developing and implementing training. I do a far amount of training for church planters and existing churches through conferences and one-day seminars, as well as coordinate training opportunities that others do in the Kansas City area. I also write for a couple of blogs.
Tell us about your family. How are they part of what you do?
My wife Mischele and I have three children. Including the new addition of a four-year girl we adopted this month. We also do foster care for dozens of children each year through Police Protective Custody and Respite care.
When did Jesus become real for you?
I didn’t become a follower of Jesus until my late 20s. I hope that He is becoming more real to me on a daily basis.
What do you like best about what you do? Why?
Helping people reimagine the nature and essence of the church, as a people sent to participate with what God is already doing where they live, work and play. I love to challenge the church to see themselves as a missionary people. To understand how, in light of a rapidly changing culture, to think and act like a missionary. It is such a joy to have the opportunity to do what I do. Every day I thank God for allowing me to encourage and support missionary activity throughout our city.
What is the difference between a “church plant” and ‘missional community?
I think today more than ever, the two terms can be synonymous. In many settings planters need to focus less attention on planting the Sunday morning gathering (which too often is what planters mean by “planting a church”) and more on planting true biblical community in a local setting.
In most conversations surrounding the idea of missional communities, I usually have to make a distinction between that and a typical small group. Most small groups are centered about the need to develop relationships. In fact, I think it can be argued that small group ministries were popularized decades ago by the need to “close the backdoor” of churches that were experiencing significant growth through the Sunday gathering but were losing potential members just as quickly because they were not connecting with others in the church. Small groups became the primary way to assimilate people into the life of the church.
Secondly, traditional small groups attempt to focus on discipleship in the midst of group life. Most small groups engage in some type of Bible study or group curriculum. While you can certainly make the case that Bible study does not automatically equate to making disciples, for most small group ministries that is at least the intent.
Now with this brief description of small groups in mind, the primary difference between typical groups and missional communities is the issue of mission. For missional communities the starting point is the mission. Missional communities are catalyzed by and organized around mission. Relational community is still cultivated and discipleship remains a top priority, but both happen, I believe best in, through, and around missional engagement.
What do church planters need to know about being missional?
When it comes to understanding the concept of missional, I usually say that I have a short answer and a long answer. The short answer is that missional is simply the adjective form of the noun missionary. Therefore when we use the language of “missional church,” the word missional is used to describe the church as a missionary entity. The church doesn’t just send missionaries, the church is the missionary.
Now for the long answer. When considering a more theologically rooted definition of the word missional I believe we need to examine three chief distinctions. I like to refer to them as theological foundations. Each point deliberately confronts long-held assumptions most Christians have about God, the church and mission. While there is different language that could be used, I usually speak of them as 1.) The Missionary Nature of God and the Church; 2.) Incarnational Mission Rather Than Attractional Ministry; and 3.) Participation in the Missio Dei. Without serious attention to each of these three points the missional journey will inevitably end prematurely.
How are you reaching out to people far from God in your community? What advice would you give to planters trying to do the same.
I believe the very first step is to be a student of your setting. Listen carefully to your community. Take the posture of a learner, not a professional. Don’t front load mission. In other words, don’t assume you know the needs of your community. Spend significant time discovering what God is doing and discerning how He wants you to participate. Constantly ask how would a missionary in a foreign land go about connecting with those in my city. Church planters specifically, and the church as a whole must recognize that we live in a very different world than we did even ten years ago. I say all the time that more and more people are less and less interested in the programs and activities of the church. Therefore, we must learn to connect with people relationally in settings outside the confines of the church world.
What is the role of leadership in the missional world? How are you developing people for leadership?
There is much that could be said in the area of leadership, but the one thing that I would want to address here is the importance of leaders modeling missionary engagement in the community. I like to say to church leaders, that all of the stories that you tell about missional activity do not have to be your stories, but some of them have to be your stories. In other words, a leader must be able to articulate how they are engaging their neighborhood and public space in the community. Leaders must use the power of stories to capture the missional imagination of the people in the congregation. It is also the role of the leader to create an environment where people have the language and license to live out missionality.
What is/was the great challenge you faced and how did you overcome it?
In regards to church planting I believe the greatest challenge is to provoke more existing churches to engage in church planting. The percentage of churches that have played any role in the planting of another congregation is pathetically low.
In your work you often talk about collaboration and partnership. How do you build these?
I didn’t mention this earlier in regards to how I spend my day, but I work hard at networking with churches and other ministries in our city. Networking lays the foundation for collaboration and partnerships. I try to discovery what others are doing in our city. Identifying the assets and needs of active ministries throughout the city creates numerous opportunities for collaboration.
Who inspires you and why?
I am inspired every time I see someone living for the sake of others. There are so many wonderful examples of people sacrificing and giving away their lives for God’s mission. Very recent examples include several young people who have moved into the Mission House, an urban ministry in Kansas City, KS, to focus on neighborhood transformation. There are several new church planters who have moved, or are in the process of moving into very difficult places in the city to plant new communities.
How are you caring for yourself spiritually? What do your personal spiritual rhythms with God look like?
I start every morning with a couple of devotions. Sometimes I use Daily Prayer created by Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Hartgrove. Other days I engage a simple devotion call the Moravian Brethren Daily Text. I also enjoy writing my own personal prayer in the mornings to help articulate my thoughts and desires for the day. I often post those simple prayers on Facebook in hopes that they will be a blessing to others.
What is one thing you would tell church planters to STOP doing.
Planting a church service. Unfortunately in many cases when planters talk about their church “launch” it is really code word for starting the Sunday morning gathering. But church is not an event. It is not a place people go to. It is not something we do. Church is a people. I want to encourage planters to plant themselves, the lives of other followers of Jesus, and the good news of the Kingdom in their local setting.
What is ONE THING every church planter ought to do?
Model what it looks like to incarnate, or embed, their lives into a local context, and then lead others to do the same.
What is the one thing you would like to see happen in the church in your lifetime?
I would like to see the people of God move beyond understanding the church as a vendor of religious goods and services that exist for the consumption of church members, and instead see the church as an instrument created by God to be sent into His mission.
All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. –T.E. Lawrence
What are you planting?I think it’s an important questions.
Because you’ll get what you plant.
Are you planting a church? Great. We need new healthy churches.
Maybe you’re going to plant a couple of churches. Even better. In the economy of Kingdom, I suspect more is better.
But is that it?
I mean church planting is all well and good.
But what if you tried to plant a movements of churches?
Maybe we need to stop calling it church planting. Maybe we need to call it movement planting.
See, as Director of the NewThing Network I have the wonderful privilege of working side by side church planters who desire to plant big–real big. Their enthusiasm and audacity for the Kingdom is infectious. Talk to most of them and they’ll tell you they’re trying to plant movements of churches. I think it’s awesome.
You know why? Because big dreams are always infectious.
See, knowing what you want to plant makes all of the difference in the world. All I am suggesting is that you dream big Kingdom dreams and challenge yourself to plant big.
What you plant is what you get. If you plant a church, you’ll get a church. But if you plant a movement you might just get a movement. And that would be cool. Really cool.
So go ahead–I dare you. Don’t just plant a church–plant a movement.
What about you? I’d love to know what you’re planting?
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