In this episode of The Church Planting Podcast, Greg talks with two church planting couples, the Jones and the McMahons, about why prioritizing marriage is an integral part of the health of new churches.
Debbie founded and leads Stadia’s Bloom, which empowers women to maximize their role in starting churches. Church planting has always been a part of the DNA of the Jones family. She and her husband, Tom planted two churches and have 30+ years of ministry experience. Debbie serves as an advocate for women, encouraging and developing them as leaders within their homes, churches, careers, communities, and all spheres of influence. She has trained and coached children and women’s ministry leaders in dozens of churches and denominational organizations across the country. Before joining Stadia, Debbie served as Children’s Minister at Southbrook Christian Church (Miamisburg, OH), First Christian Church (Johnson City, TN), and at the church the Joneses planted in Princeton, NJ, where she was also ordained in 1992. Debbie designed and led the Spouse’s Track for Exponential Network and speaks regularly at their conferences. Debbie earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Milligan College. In 2017, Milligan honored Debbie and Tom with the College’s Distinguished Alumni Award.
Although the Joneses are avid tennis and pickle ball players, their greatest joy is found in spending time with their family: Daughter, Melanie, and her husband, Jade, are both attorneys in Washington, DC and they have two daughters, Cora and Celia. Son, Tom, a banker, and his wife, Stephanie, a physical therapist, are both Milligan alumni and live in Chicago, IL, with their daughter, Emilia.
Driven by his passion for the local church and people to know Christ, and decades of experience in the world of church planting, Tom has been a part of the Stadia team since 2003. Having planted churches with his wife, Debbie Jones, in Centerville, OH and Princeton, NJ, Tom is a visionary leader who understands the mission of Stadia in a unique way. His role as Executive Director involves direct oversight of the implementation of Stadia’s vision, strategic plan and operations. Outside of his Stadia role, Tom served as a tenured professor at Emmanuel School of Religion for 11 years and was the Russell F. and Marian Blowers Professor of Christian Ministries. He was the President of the National New Church Conference and is currently on the Board for the Exponential Conference. Tom edited and was primary author for the book Church Planting from the Ground Up. Tom received his Bachelor of Arts Degree from Milligan College in 1977, his Masters of Divinity Degree from Emmanuel School of Religion in 1982, and his Doctor of Ministry Degree from United Theological Seminary in 1992. In 2017, Milligan honored Tom and Debbie with the College’s Distinguished Alumni Award.
Although the Joneses are avid tennis and pickleball players, their greatest joy is found in spending time with their family: Daughter, Melanie, and her husband, Jade, are both attorneys in Washington, DC. They have two daughters, Cora and Celia. Son, Tom, a banker, and his wife, Stephanie, a physical therapist, are both Milligan alumni and live in Chicago, IL, with their daughter, Emilia.
Janet and her husband Troy are the founding pastors of Restore Community Church, a multi–site church in Kansas City. Through its focus on developing and sending leaders, Restore has been a part of planting over 40 churches and invested over a million dollars in church planting.
Troy McMahon is the lead pastor of Restore Community Church (www.restorecc.org), a reproducing multisite church in Kansas City, MO. Before planting Restore, Troy was on staff at Community Christian Church in Chicagoland for over 10 years. He had held numerous roles during that time as part of the management team, from business manager to facility design to launching a couple of new locations. Prior to coming on staff at Community Christian Church, Troy spent 10 years in the corporate world as an engineer and business unit manager. In 2007, Troy’s family and about 20 friends relocated to Kansas City, Missouri to start this new church in partnership with Stadia and the NewThing Network. Over the past eleven years Restore has launched additional locations and churches in Kansas City and helped launch 45 churches across the US and in Colombia, South America. It is the dream of Restore to partner with God in changing the spiritual landscape of Kansas City.
Troy has been married to the beautiful Janet McMahon for 32 years. Together they have three wonderful kids, Jake, Mitch and Judiann…and an amazing daughter in law Hannah(married to Jake)…and two beautiful granddaughters, Raelynn Sage and Londyn Addison.
Thriving in Marriage as a Success Factor
If you’re married, God calls you as a couple into church planting.
A church reflected through the cloudy, cracked, or warped mirror of its leader’s non-thriving marriage will appear flawed, even if it’s not.
Stress can turn small cracks into big chasms in a relationship.
Effective planters create and maintain a thriving marriage that is synergistic with starting and leading a new church.
What You Should Know
(TJ) One of the greatest gifts you bring to your church plant is a healthy marriage. People need models of healthy – not perfect, but healthy – marriages.
(DJ) Planting churches was one of the greatest blessings we had as a whole family. It gave our kids the chance to flourish in what God had created them to be. At an early age, they got a sense of what the church really is – not a building, but it’s about reaching people for Christ.
(TJ) Both of our children are involved in new churches, because they understood the mission of the church.
How Did Your Marriage Thrive with Young Kids and Church Planting?
(DJ) We put boundaries in place! Tom never had a problem saying that our family was first. We would take vacations where we unplugged completely.
(TJ) And within our family, our relationship came first. Of all our human relationships, our commitment to each other would come before our relationships with our children, extended family, or church.
(GN) The best gift we can give our kids and our church is a healthy marriage – which means we need to take time for us without those other people.
Blessings and Challenges of Planting as a Couple
(JM) The fact that Troy was my boss held some relational risk. We committed to seeing a counselor once a month, whether we ‘needed’ it or not. The commitment to having a third party hold us accountable about our relationship in our first year of church planting was a game changer.
(TM) Before launch, we built into a budget a year of counseling for our staff and new hires. A counselor is almost like a church planting coach. They tell you what you already know, but you hear it from a trusted source.
Sharing in Ministry With Your Spouse
(JM) Troy and I would meet together in a ministry setting in the office for a one-on-one. Also, there were other staff members who would give me direct feedback, not just Troy, because I wanted to make sure i was having additional voices speak into my life. I could hear it easier when the things Troy was saying were confirmed by others.
(TM) We ask permission before we have difficult conversations. We try to turn it around in 24 hours, but that’s not a hard and fast rule.
(TJ) Having a common mission really gives you something special to do that God is involved in. We have an identity as a married couple, but we also have our own identities and strengths as individuals, which makes our marriage stronger, because marriage cannot meet all of our needs.
How Can You Value Your Spouse in Ministry
(DJ) I’ve grown from watching and being affirmed in my own leadership by Tom. We’re both learners, we are both growing – but we all have natural bents. It’s helpful for him to process his vision with me, because it helps me catch the vision and grow as a leader – and it’s helped him to learn how to interact with other people in ministry who are more like me.
(TJ) You can’t microwave for someone else what God has called you to do. You have to leave your spouse time to catch up.
How To Deal With the Hard Times
(JM) Seeing Troy down or discouraged by the difficulty of what’s happening, or us being discouraged at the same time but knowing we needed to bring each other up makes setting aside time just for fun very important. Take the same day off every week.
(TM) When we had younger kids, we had a 51/1 rule — 51 weeks of the year, we were fully engaged parents, and 1 week a year we were away and on our own. That week has been life-giving to help us reflect, refresh, dream forward, and to be reminded what God’s already done in our ministry. It can be hard for vision casting people to pause and reflect and have it be life-giving – but if we can be disciplined to look back and see God’s provision instead of our failures, it can help us press forward.
Having Friendships in the Church
(TJ) I was taught you shouldn’t be close to people in the church. In our experience, in the hard times, it’s not enough to only have each other. You need others who can speak into you life, who know and love you and can say the hard things. Many of those people have come from the churches we’ve started.
(TM) Yes, we have staff members, church members, and old colleagues who have helped us through hard times. If we are not just creating church planters, but spiritual sons and daughters, there is a much higher relationship investment into the couples and individuals we are developing, and that makes it harder to send them out. And it’s supposed to be hard! You’ll have much more pain, but more joy and vitality, too.
(TJ) We also need close friends in different seasons of life – some ahead of you, some in the same place, some behind you.
(DJ) Relationship is one of the foundations of our family – with the Lord, with each other, with our family, and with our friends. That’s carried us lots of times.
Finances in Marriage
(JM) We’ve been having a generosity conversation for over 30 years now. Troy has gently led me towards generosity and tithing. God has never asked us to back off our generosity. Sharing that journey has brought us closer together because we’ve had to trust God in some really meaningful ways.
(DJ) Tom has also taught me so much about generosity. The more we’ve erred on the side of generosity, the more we’ve seen God bless us in ways we’ve never dreamed of being blessed.
(TJ) The lessons you learn during the lean times help remind you what your people or younger staff might be going through – they’re some of our fondest memories.
(GN) Take walks together for exercise, to clear your mind, and allow yourself to converse in a way you might not be able to otherwise!
(TJ) Husbands, every day, love your wife as Christ loves the church.
(DJ) Dream together. Love each other – remember back on the love you committed to together. When one dream is met, dream another dream together.
(JM) Be sexually generous with each other!
(TM) Find something you can do together that gives you life individually and collectively.