Celebrations, Success and Challenges in Two Years of Planting with Derek Sheahan

In this interview, we hear from Derek Sheahan (Pastor of Advance Church, Calgary) about some of the challenges and learning that has come in the first two years of church planting.

We interviewed Derek Sheahan, Pastor of Advance Church, as they celebrated the two year anniversary of this Calgary, AB church plant.

What has been the most rewarding part of planting this church? 

It’s hard to pick just one thing as you learn to celebrate everything from small to big, but for me it is seeing people receive freedom. It is one thing to see someone raise their hand in church to accept Jesus or rededicate their life to God, but it is when you see them actually leaning into who Christ is for them and they begin to allow God to change them, heal them and bring them into a place of joy and peace. When the proverbial shackles really start falling from their lives, that’s what brings me the most reward.

What have been some of your more successful outreach events or ideas? 

Volunteering for and having a popcorn giveaway at a community stampede breakfast was well received, and our September Back to School Bash always brings a crowd—bouncy castles, live music, bbq, face painting and balloon artists, and more - We go all out!!

What has most challenged your leadership and how have you grown? 

We have tackled a lot of crisis within our congregation in the first two years—relational, theological — and it has challenged us as leaders to stay the course, to put God first and pursue His ethics in every situation. We have loved and lost some people through those challenges, but we have seen others respond to Jesus in life-changing ways. We have grown because it strengthened our own faith on some issues and built a solid foundation of culture to our congregation. We love God and people and speaking truth in love is the ultimate way of Christ.

What is your process for developing leaders in your church? 

We have a few ways of developing leaders in our church: The first of which is our NextSteps classes. These classes are how we integrate people into our church volunteer team, and we have about 70-80% of our congregation on the A-Team (as we call it). Every month we host a First Thursday evening with the intent to train and lead people. Our motto for the night is LEAP-Leadership, Encouragement And Prayer. It might be a video, a guest speaker, or a Bible study, but we always encourage and have some prayer time and end with communion. This is also a good place to give others a chance to lead in a smaller context. And, of course, we have small groups which is a discipleship avenue.

What have you done to find healthy rhythms and balance between life and ministry? 

Church planting has been a taxing adventure, and Shawndra and I have really had to protect our Sabbath times and prioritize our family. Time management is huge!! There will always be something else you need to do…but unless you prioritize things, more important things will be lost. Church and home life blur together…a lot! (especially when your office is in your home). We had to set good boundaries like not talking about church stuff after a certain hour, carving time to put down the computer to do family activities or help with homework, or just setting a space aside that is designated as a non-work space so everybody knows that you are ‘home’ and not at work. 

Why is planting churches so important to you and Shawndra? 

First and foremost, what we do as planters is a direct result of being obedient to what God asked us to do. Whether it’s parenting or pastoring or being a good neighbour, our obedience is important, regardless of the act or sacrifice. We are responding to God’s heart for our city. When it comes to church planting, the biggest thing we see is God refocusing people (us included) back to the basics of ‘why we do church’. We are here to advance the gospel of Jesus and disciple/love. Church planting reminds you of that. And all the other ‘stuff’ takes a back seat to the bare bones of the ‘why’.