A few weeks ago in our Family Portrait series, I mentioned that River City Church is partnered with a national church planting network, called Sojourn, and I wanted to tell you a little bit about them and why we’re partnered with them.
About Sojourn Network
The roots of the Sojourn Network go back to the early 2000s, where Sojourn Community Church (Louisville, KY) was invited to join Acts 29, a diverse global family of church-planting churches. Several members of Sojourn participated in boot camps and events, using this experience of brotherhood and curiosity to influence the development of the Sojourn Network. Because of various growing pains within Acts 29, these men were inspired to go out and start something new. It was an exciting time for everyone to see new networks growing and moving forward in new directions.
With several leadership transitions redefining the network’s mission, the Sojourn board of directors wanted to focus on crafting lasting values and a vision for the future. Many church planters believe a network can only be a head or hands network, meaning the focus is either to take time to ensure beliefs are lined up or to just get it done. The Sojourn Network questioned this status quo and wanted to bring both soul and a healthy posture back to ministry. With this value, Sojourn became known as the place where church planters came to be healthy, quickly shifting the network’s grand visions of planting thousands of churches to simply helping church planters recover from spiritual warfare, disillusionment and burn out, from working as both a pastor and a planter. Sojourn realized this was not a sustainable or healthy path. Knowing Sojourn would take a few years to take off, the members focused on holistic renewal to prepare church planters for multiplication, growth and outward energy, driving passion for church planting. Sojourn has continued to grow and evolve, bring many exciting changes to look forward to.
River City’s Partnership
In 2017, as a few of us started putting plans together for how we would reach the city of Riverside, one thing that was kept coming to the front of my mind were church planting networks. I knew several networks existed, each with their own unique strengths and focuses. I wondered if being part of a network would be helpful, since I had no idea what the next steps were in planting.
October 2017, Sojourn was having their annual Leaders Summit, and it was titled, “Why Partnerships Matter”, which was deeply uninteresting to me at the time. :) I wanted to partner with other local churches, and possibly a network, but I didn’t think I needed an entire conference dedicated to whether or not partnerships mattered. But what caught my eye was a breakout session called, “10 Benefits of Planting In A Small Town” and I signed us up.
I can’t even really put into words how much that Summit impacted us. We were blown away by the care and hospitality, never mind the incredible content, of the entire event. Sojourn was small enough to give the new guy like me attention, and they were genuinely interested in what we were wanting to do. They were open to hearing my story, giving input on the journey, and walking me through how they could help with next steps.
Four months later, I attended a weekend event to see if aligning with Sojourn would be a good idea or not, and 4 months after that, Jodi and I drove to Louisville for a weekend of assessment, where they sought to get to know Jodi and I on a personal level to see if we would be a good fit for the Network. We passed their “test” and were invited to join the Network in July, 2018.
Attending the 2018 Annual Summit that Fall was a little surreal, as we were welcomed into the Network as new members, only one year after first being introduced to Sojourn! Around that same time, we were invited to be part of a Church Planters Cohort, joining six other new pastors who were planting or looking to plant. With monthly video chats, and two additional conferences, that Cohort was priceless. We had the listening ear of experience planters, and pastors, who could walk me through what steps to take, what things to be aware of, and what things to pursue as we went along. It also surrounded me with some godly counsel and friendships I will cherish for a long time.
The benefits of being part of the Network are ongoing:
Between August 2018 and April 2019, I was automatically enrolled in a Church Planter Cohort, consisting of 6 other pastors around the country that were also in the planting stages. That camaraderie and closeness was hugely instrumental in helping River City get off the ground. We met in person a couple times for in-depth training, and a few times online for accountability and progress reporting.
We also celebrate a financial relationship with Sojourn, where they support us monthly for the first two years. We then contribute 4% of our budget to the Network to help other churches like ours in their first two years.
Regional Connections with other pastors near us
50% discount on future cohorts for our leadership team, and free Network resources (books or papers written by Network guys). This allows our pastors to grow in the area God has gifted them, and work toward being a healthy church that lasts.
Annual Leaders Summit (Fall) — This is a short conference featuring breakout sessions, main speakers, and worship. It’s also a great opportunity to network with other pastors, and pick up resources. Anyone from River City is welcome to join us at this event in Louisville!
Annual Pastors & Wives Retreat (Spring) — Pastoring is hard work, and SN wants to make sure pastors are resting well. Every year, the retreat happens in South Florida where pastors and their wives have access to pastoral/marriage/financial counseling, daily worship, and rest. This was Jodi and I’s first year being invited to this retreat, and it was such a gift. We had just come off of 18 months of working both at Grace and planting River City, so we were exhausted.
There’s a lot more I could say about it, but we’ve enjoyed some rich relationships, counsel, and experience from Sojourn Network in the short two years we’ve known them, and look forward to many years of growth with them!