Church planting in Virginia, USA
By Bobby Alger
Church plants begin by either default or by design. Ours was a little of both. Wanda and I had grown up in the same denomination. Before we met and married, she had helped plant a church that grew to 1,500 in attendance and spread into four locations within the county where we resided in Virginia. After Wanda and I had married, we sensed God calling us out of that church.
Now, the default: Having settled the fact that God was calling us out, the next question was “to where?” On the Sunday we resigned, a seasoned intercessor approached us and said that the word “crossroads,” applied to us. For the next few months, we sought the Lord as to where this might be by visiting towns and cities, but with no confirmation. One Sunday afternoon, Wanda’s father called us. He said that he had just read Jeremiah 6:16 and thought it might be for us. This verse states, “Stand at the crossroads, ask for the godly ways, walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” I remembered that a year earlier because we had received a Christmas picture from friend with that verse on it!
Maybe the default was being designed by the Holy Spirit? We decided to revisit a nearby town (one hour away) for the second time. This time we stopped by the Chamber of Commerce. In reading the history of the town, half way down the page the paragraph started with the words: “Winchester is known today as a strategic crossroads area of the civil war and commerce.” We immediately sensed the affirmation of the Holy Spirit and, soon after, relocated with our family to Winchester where we purchased property and planted Crossroads Community Church.
As confirmation of His word, God provided our financial needs without us having to seek additional work. Our housing came through several friends, financial blessings came from a church planting grant, and generous monthly donations from former congregational members came in without my wife and I ever asking for any! For a number of years, a businessman tithed from one of his multiple businesses to our church plant, so we started out being fully supported! In addition to our family of five, two single adults moved with us, and a family from a neighboring town joined the church planting venture.
It was a home church in every sense of the word! Church was in our home, my office was in the home and my wife home-schooled our children. For the first six months it was stir-crazy in the home. Despite that, God was drawing people and lives were being changed. After becoming friends with a local pastor, we moved our small fellowship to his church building on Sunday nights, then to Saturday nights for a larger space. After one year from launch, we began Sunday morning services and doubled our attendance. Finally, after seven different locations in seven years, we transformed a warehouse space in a local plaza, which now anchors Crossroads Community Church.
These are some of the lessons we learned along the way:
- Those you think will help you plant, won’t.
- Those you don’t expect to help, will.
- You won’t attract who you want, but you will attract who you are.
- It’s not what you start that’s important, it is what you can sustain that makes the difference.
- Having a written plan is a must. God can always change it, but if it’s not written down, it has no credibility to others.
- Small groups are vital for a quality start. They become more difficult to maintain as Sunday morning services require lots of energy to manage.
- Once something is working—don’t change it until you have a clear track to switch to.
These are some of the mistakes we made along the way:
- We stopped a monthly leadership gathering because a few people thought it was unproductive. Due to this, we lost traction and communication with those who truly valued it.
- We did not give as much attention to the small groups as we did to the large group. Though our culture looks at the large meeting as priority, it is in the small groups where people truly feel at home.
- Discipleship got crowded out by the busyness of people’s schedules. Many who start well don’t finish well, because they do not have the tools for the long haul.
Some things we did right:
- We stayed relational in all things! Even if vision and methodologies differ, friendships can endure changes and differences.
- We offered appointments to help people find personal freedom from past hurts. This is a critical ministry to a healthy church family.
- We focused on maintaining a healthy leadership core. We gave leaders opportunities to grow in areas of their interests and to train and equip them to follow their call. Healthy leaders produce healthy churches.
- We connected with other like-minded churches and community organizations. To be a kingdom-minded ministry means to see the church beyond our own congregation.
After two years, we became a partner with DOVE. When we first planted Crossroads, we were aligned with the denomination and the church movement with which we had been involved formerly. We soon realized it was not working. We needed mentorship in a new direction. Before we planted Crossroads, Wanda and I had attended several cell-based conferences where Larry Kreider was a featured speaker. We connected with his heart and view of ministry. So, when our advisory team decided it was time to realign, our first choice was DOVE. Wanda and I met with Ron Myer and our hearts attached. We found friends, family and home.
Crossroads Community Church may have been planted by both default and by design, but its focus remains the same: “Stand at the crossroads, ask for the godly ways, walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”
About Bobby Alger
Bobby Alger is founding and lead pastor of Crossroads Community Church in Winchester, Virginia (planted in 1998). He has written several books on practical discipleship and equips leaders in the spiritual gifts and community engagement. He has led numerous prayer initiatives with pastors and churches in his own community and provides apostolic oversight to several leaders and ministries within their region.