Co-Leading in church planting - and beyond PART 1

Kath Henry

Kath Henry is a pastor, team leader and mentor in the Vineyard movement in Australia. This is Part 1 of Kath's insights from 25 years of co-leading with her husband.

My husband and I have never questioned the concept of women having leadership roles in faith communities. We have always seen leadership as a gift that is not restricted to those of the male gender.

We didn’t need to make the idea of co leading a central issue in church life when we church planted. In fact it was the most natural next step in our faith journey, we had been youth pastors together and we had already done a lot of life together, so we co-planted and lead the church together.

We church planted when we had a young family and remained co-senior pastors for 25 years until we handed over to a new leadership couple.

Now looking back I am still grateful for the amazing experiences we shared working together as church planters and pastors. This doesn’t mean it is a model that everyone should follow. However, I can give you lots of reasons why it worked for us and why others may like to explore the possibility.

Co–leading allowed us to share the joys and the sorrows of ministry. Pastoring allows the unique privilege of being invited into the best days of peoples’ lives and the worst. Being able to perform weddings as well as funerals together and everything in between definitely blessed our relationship as husband and wife. It also allowed us the opportunity to process both the best and worst days together while holding appropriate confidentiality for the congregation.

Leading from your own areas of gifting. My husband is an engineer and builder. He can have a vision and see the stages and process needed to complete a job. He is resilient and kind. He is a great preacher of the bible and enjoys seeing people flourish in life and faith. Along with these gifts he is also a gifted administrator. I am practical and pretty down to earth while still be willing to take risks and adventure in life and faith. I enjoy preaching and teaching. For me there is no greater privilege than being with people as they discover God truly loves them. We both enjoy helping people start something and finding resources to help people grow in faith and life. We both like serving and we both like praying with people. We both enjoy the company of people of all ages and as extraverts we both enjoy hosting people. We enjoy being collaborative and working in teams.

This broader gift mix, as we lead together and shared preaching and serving, was one of the advantages of co-leading that the congregation experienced. I think seeing a collaborative working relationship where both people clearly respect and affirm each other’s skills and gifts is a blessing in any setting and especially in the church.

Co-leading allowed us to both stay bi-vocational. My husband and I both felt called to train as pastors and to church plant. However, we also both felt called to continue with the professions we were working in. Neither of us considered there to be a divide between secular and sacred, whatever work or service we undertook, we did it with God and to bless others. We were fortunate that the type of work we were already doing was able to be flexible in hours and so we could continue both being bi-vocational way beyond the church planting years. This also released finances to employ others on staff at church much earlier than we might have been able to if we were both full time.

Co leading allowed us to share parenting. We church planted when our children were 4 and 7 years old. We were determined that our children would not feel that church work came before them. I think co-leading helped because we could share the key leadership responsibilities at church and also share parenting.

It allowed us to create flexible mid-week working hours that allowed me to be class mum. We shared canteen duties and shared being present for sporting events. We were able to run a prayer group in the school, do scripture classes and help with special events for families which our children loved us doing.

Saturday was our family day and that meant we were free to help coach sports teams for our children and have family time at home or outdoors.