CNLP 044: The Ups and Downs (And Everything in Between) of Starting a Church: An Interview with Jeanne Stevens

The life of a church planter has so many ups and downs.

Jeanne Stevens and her husband Jarrett learned that the hard way, when after over a decade on the staff of some well known mega-churches, they found the courage to leave the comfort of what they knew to plant a church in downtown Chicago. Jeanne tells the story.

Welcome to Episode 44 of the Podcast.


Guest Links: Jeanne Stevens


Soul City Church

Jeanne Stevens on Twitter

Jeanne Stevens on Instagram

Links Mentioned in this Episode

The Orange Tour

North Point

Willow Creek

Andy Stanley

Bill Hybles


3 Things You Can Do Right Away

Starting a church isn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision. With patience and an eagerness to hear from God, Jeanne followed her faith to plant a church in downtown Chicago. Here’s what she learned from her journey:

  1. Surrender obedience to God. For Jeanne, it really wasn’t the right time to start a church. The economy tanked, she was raising two small children, and she didn’t have a facility to hold services. But that didn’t change her faith in God. She recognized several prompts, she received confirmation and she referred to scripture. Jeanne realized the day she started a church was the day she really started following Jesus. She learned that she couldn’t solve problems with money, so she had to get creative by reaching out to others. Jeanne knew someone who had a friend with warehouse space, and she inquired about renting part of it for their church. When they were initially rejected, she continued to pray about it, and six months later, the owners of the warehouse had a change of heart. In addition to letting Jeanne use their 22,000 sq. ft. space, she would be allowed to rent the facility two years for free! Sometimes you have to trade in comfort for courage. It may fatigue you, but it’s worth the risk.
  2. Learn how to love people well, even if they leave. Logically, Jeanne could understand why people leave churches, but nothing prepared her for it emotionally. There are several reasons why people leave churches, but it all plays into the season God has for them at that time in their life. Look at the bigger picture. When people leave, it can be disguised as a gift. Know that you planted something in them at that moment in their life, and they’re able to take your influence with them. “The gift is about building the kingdom of God … You were part of the transition of the broader, more beautiful Church.”
  3. Say “yes” to the best and “no” to the rest. Leaders start things because they’re passionate. They see things that are broken, and they want to fix it. When you go at a pace that you can’t sustain, you’re going to burn people out. Recognize your limits are. Don’t start with 17 different ministries if you don’t have the staff for it. Know what you can handle. It’s the pacing and rhythm of the organization that maintains the momentum. Don’t be afraid to use your “no” muscle.

Quotes from Jeanne

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Next Episode: Bryan Miles

What makes for a great relationship between a leader and their assistant? Why do so many leaders have affairs with their assistants? What are some best practices every leader and their assistant can adopt that will move your vision forward? Bryan Miles, CEO of EA Helps, shares his best practices.

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  1. holly pankratz on July 20, 2015 at 9:22 pm

    Thank you for interviewing an amazing woman 🙂 Good to hear a woman’s voice. Love your podcast.

  2. Brent Dumler on July 19, 2015 at 6:49 am

    Wow, Cailey and I listened to this episode together while traveling back home from Orlando. We were there for our denomination’s General Conference. God moved in a powerful way in both of us that week, and he continued to work through this interview. My wife and I are a team and have always done ministry together, so we really related to Jeanne’s story. And with the launch of our campus last September, we resonated with Jeanne’s reflections on senior leadership. This was so encouraging for where we currently are, as a couple and as church leaders. Very timely!

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