When my family and I moved to plant Garden City Church we had nothing. Literally. We had just 3 people committed to the church plant and 3,000 dollars in a church bank account. But we had a big vision and a strong sense that God would provide.
There are many stories I could tell about how God provided along the way: an amazing landlord, a surprisingly great turnout at an informational meeting about the plant, an invitation to take part in the Fellowship Associates Residency, a great church building to begin meeting in, the unusual generosity of Steve Fuller and Mercy Hill Church, and on and on I could go.
But right now I want to tell just one story. The story of Karen. And every church plant needs a Karen.
Shortly before Garden City launched (we launched 20 months ago), we were meeting as a very small but very determined core group. At one of our core group meetings a gal named Karen showed up. This got us excited. Another person showed up! We were growing!
At the end of our gathering Karen walked up to me and told me 2 things that every church planter loves to hear (but fears is too good to be true). Karen said: 1) I want to work for the church for free and 2) I want to give generously to the church. I thought this was nice, but I didn’t believe her. I figured she was on drugs, hadn’t slept in days, or was just a crazy person. That night she went out to dinner with a bunch of us from the church. By the end of the dinner I determined she wasn’t on drugs, but I still thought she hadn’t slept in days and was likely a little crazy. I mean, it’s not normal for a twentysomething college graduate to offer to work for you for free while generously supporting your church plant.
So, we proceeded with a few interviews. We determined that Karen was crazy, but crazy in a good way (kind of like the “crazy” every church planter must have). She believed God wanted her to leave her job and invest in Garden City, to help our church take off, thrive, and succeed.
So, I “hired” Karen. We paid her exactly zero dollars to be my assistant, take on a tremendous amount of administrative and leadership work, solve a ton of problems, and work a lot of hours. This continued for about 6 months. By that point the church had launched, we were starting to grow, and people were starting to give. So, we then started to pay Karen for her part time role in the church (which, many weeks, was more like full time). After more months passed we hired Karen on full time to be our Operations Director and to lead and manage more within the church.
Last month I officiated Karen’s wedding. She met her husband, Chad, at our church (the picture above is of them at their wedding). They are the first couple to meet and get married at our church. It was, I think, the most beautiful and moving wedding I’ve ever officiated or attended.
And now a new transition is happening for Karen. She feels called to work full-time alongside her husband who recently launched a coffeeshop, Avid Coffee, in San Jose. So, Karen works for Garden City/me for another week and then she begins her new employment adventure (while continuing as a member and deacon at Garden City). I’m very excited for her and her husband.
And so all of this transition has me thinking. I’m thinking back on the first 20 months of our church and re-realizing that there’s no way I could have done what we’ve done without Karen. She has served our church and served me in an unbelievable capacity. Our church and my life/workload would look very different if it wasn’t for this crazy gal named Karen who showed up on our church’s doorstep when we least expected it.
So, Karen, thank you. Thank you so much for all you’ve done for your church and for me.
And, future church planters, you need a Karen. Start praying now.
Justin Buzzard is founder and lead pastor of Garden City Church, a church plant in Silicon Valley, and author of the books The Big Story: How The Bible Makes Sense Out of Life and Date Your Wife.