Nine-year-old Emma Radcliff spends her days like most kids. She gets up in the morning, eats breakfast, then does school at home with her younger brother, Sam. They watch some television (Bluey is her current favorite show) and play together the rest of the day. Sometimes she goes on hikes or spends time with her grandparents. She also likes to write and is working on a mystery story although, she admits, it’s hard to figure out what happens next!

Emma’s Sunday schedule betrays the fact that she is a church planter’s kid. On a typical Sunday she goes to church early with her family. They are the first ones there and the last ones to leave. They turn on the microphones and the screens and the computers. Emma says, “I know the password to the computer, so sometimes I help and turn it on. When my friends get there, we play until the service starts.”

“Did you always have friends at CROSSroads?” I asked.

“No, not always. At first there weren’t any kids at CROSSroads. It was kind of boring without any kids. But now there is Kaitlyn and Lucy and her brother and the Landes kids. I have fun with my friends.”

Transition in Church Planting Life

I recently interviewed Emma to find out what it is like to be a church planter’s kid. When Emma was seven years old, she was attending Grace Bible Fellowship Church in Quakertown, PA where her father, Tim Radcliff, was associate pastor. Grace BFC was a lot bigger than CROSSroads and she had lots of friends there. Then her father felt called to church planting. After speaking with Director David Gundrum and spending time in prayer for wisdom, Tim Radcliff accepted the position of Church Planter at CROSSroads: a BFC in Elverson, PA. There was a small congregation already meeting at the Mission Church with Church Planter Mark Morrison who was due to retire. Tim gladly took the challenge to revitalize this existing Mission Church with the goal to reach the community with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Tim had already completed a church planting internship with Church Extension Ministries years before. He knew firsthand what church planting would be like, but church planting was new for his wife and children.

Transitions in life aren’t easy for anyone and a kid in a church planter family is no different. I asked Emma what she remembered about life before moving to CROSSroads: a BFC in Elverson, PA and how life is different now. Emma said, “I had a lot of friends that I don’t get to see much anymore.” Then she listed the people she misses including Pastor Ron Kohl and his wife, Kendra. Her mother, Kaylena, told me that Emma still has moments of sadness about leaving Grace BFC. Kaylena is teaching her daughter that it is okay to be sad that things have changed. You can be both happy about new friends and sad about the friends you’ve left behind.

Emma Radcliff and her family just before they moved to church plant in Elverson, PA

The Perks of a Planter Family

Emma happily told me about some of the good things about being part of CROSSroads. She takes turns once or twice a month advancing the slides during musical worship and the sermon time. Emma said, “It’s hard to do. You have to read the slide and listen at the same time. I also have to record the sermon. Sometimes I forget.” Not every nine-year-old would be able to do the job, but Emma is smart and responsible and does it well!

Another perk of being a church planter’s kid is having a say on shaping the culture of the church. Emma proudly told me about weighing in on the question of whether to have Sunday School or Children’s Church for kids at CROSSroads. Once there were enough children to have a class, her dad asked her, “Should we have Sunday School before Morning Worship? Or should we have Children’s Church during the sermon time?” Emma recommended having Sunday School because she didn’t want to miss the sermon. She likes hearing her dad preach from God’s word!

Emma is looking forward to something exciting. She will be baptized soon—once nearby French Creek is warm enough! I asked Emma why she wanted to be baptized. She got a solemn look on her face and said, “It all started with communion. Every time we did communion I was reminded that I wasn’t baptized yet. I didn’t care about it when I was younger but now I do. So I asked my dad and he had me talk with Pastor Kohl and he thought I was ready.” Emma trusted in Jesus Christ as her Savior when she was very young and has been growing in her faith in Jesus Christ ever since. Her church family at CROSSroads is looking forward to celebrating her baptism, too.

Church Planting Challenges

Church planter kids like Emma experience more transition, do more work behind the scenes, and spend more hours waiting for their mom and dad to finish talking with people before they can go home from church than the average church-going kid. Church planter kids also attend and host many visitation playdates with families who are visiting the church plant. If the playdates are at their house, the kids share their toys and their play spaces, not because they are spending time with trusted friends, but because their parents are spending time with visitors and new attenders to the church plant. All these aspects of church planting life can be a challenge.

The church planters of Church Extension Ministries have done a wonderful job with their children discipling them through the difficulties of church planting life and including them in the joy of serving the Lord. Continue to pray for the church planters’ kids to know the Lord, to serve Him, and to have grace from the Lord to life through ministry challenges.