Proverbs 27:17 says ‘Iron sharpens iron …’ In my early years as a church planter, the C3 roundtables were a place I felt connected to others who understood my world, enjoyed the freedom to share struggles and challenges. I always went away buzzing with fresh ideas and enthusiasm!

My experience of planting a church was like being on a roller coaster. I experienced emotions, adventures and situations that I could never have prepared for. One day I wanted to give up, and the next, I could take on the world!

When you are involved in planting a church, there are times of deep discouragement when people let you down and then incredible highs when you see God at work transforming lives. I can distinctly remember in the early days of Hope Church, in the same day being excited about a friend who said they would come to Alpha, and then being told at two day’ notice we couldn’t meet in our normal Sunday venue and the only person who knew how to use the PA equipment was going to be on holiday for the next month!

How do you keep going when you are continually emotionally swinging from one extreme to another? How do you stop yourself from spiralling into a dark place of despair and giving up and throwing in the towel? One hugely significant revelation for me was the discovery I wasn’t alone: there were other church planters and leaders out there going through the same struggles and facing the same issues as me – from having to build a team of volunteers on a Sunday to coming up with the next preaching series. Ministry is not meant to be done alone. Jesus throughout His earthly ministry had His 12 disciples around Him to walk through the ups and downs of everyday life, the challenges, criticisms and celebrations. it was only the agony of going to the cross that Jesus had to face alone.

C3 Roundtables were a place of great encouragement for me to come and know that I was not alone! The very real and sometimes brutal nature of ministry was not something unique to me while all other church leaders cruised serenely on around me. In these forums there was always excellent teaching around practical topics poignantly relevant to church leadership – creating a church culture, vision, dealing with conflict, preaching, growing volunteer teams. But more than anything, what made the time so invaluable for me was that it was a place of honest and real discussion – sharing successes and failures, struggles and triumphs. Discovering I was not the only one who struggled with the roller coaster of emotions in ministry was immensely significant for me.

C3 Roundtables are also a place full of creativity and good ideas, a unique opportunity to hear about how other churches celebrate their volunteers or reach to to the disadvantaged around them. We have also created and collaborated on different sermon series looking to reach out with the gospel in relevant ways – ‘What would Jesus say to …?’ or ‘I can’t believe Jesus said that!’ So often in ministry we keep our head down and don’t look up and learn from others around us. I have adotped and adapted so many great practical ideas from C3 rountables into the life of Hope Church.

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