- Planting Seeds in Manhattan
“Why don’t we have a Wesleyan church in downtown Manhattan?” That question, asked casually on a birthday trip to New York, planted a seed in Jenn and Branden Petersen’s hearts for church multiplication.
At the time, Jenn and Branden had been pastoring for 17 years at Sent Church in Plano, Texas.
“We loved our life and our church and had no intention of leaving,” recalls Jenn. But the seed began to sprout, and every conversation, book and prayer pointed to New York.
“We were scared to death, but we knew God was asking us to do this,” Jenn shares.
After receiving affirmation from their district superintendent, Jenn and Branden began conversation with other ministry leaders in Manhattan. On Palm Sunday, April 9, 2015, the doors of the church plant opened.
Church multiplication has been a growing process for both the church and its pastors.
“Emotionally, you’re at a place of vulnerability, where you’re all in, and all of your feelings of inadequacy rise to the top,” admits Jenn.
“The beautiful thing about that is you get to live out of a place of faith and trust in God like never before. You say, ‘If you don’t show up, God, this isn’t going to work.’ It’s very humbling.”
- Seeking Resurrection Life in the City
Downtown Manhattan is a busy place to start a discipleship ministry.
“We’re trying to create a culture of discipleship in the city, where you’re constantly surrounded by people but feel very isolated,” Jenn explains. “Often you have a short window when people are here. We’re asking, what does it mean to disciple people who will disciple others?”
Jenn’s vision is to help make the church’s mission—“Following Jesus Changes Everything”—a part of daily life for both church members and herself.
“We want to be a church that lives that out that mission every day and sees lives transformed.”
The name of the church, Resurrection Life, has personal significance for Jenn’s journey.
“Anything you’re praying for your church, start with you. If I’m praying for breakthrough for the church, that starts with me. In my relationship with Christ, I have to continue growing and following.”
- Learning to Lead Together
At their previous church, Jenn and Branden led worship, taking on roles in outreach and executive pastoring as well. Now they’re learning how to be lead pastors.
“This new role as lead pastors is quite a shift mentally,” comments Jenn. She and Branden switch off preaching and leading worship, along with others on the leadership team.
As for co-pastoring, Jenn highly recommends it.
“The joy is you have a teammate,” Jenn shares. “I cannot imagine planting a church by myself. We share the workload, and we balance out our strengths and weaknesses.”
“I also love having both a male and female voice speaking into the congregation. That’s not as common as you might assume in New York City.”
Certainly, co-leading comes with challenges, and Jenn and Branden have experienced spiritual attacks. But their sense of calling to church multiplication in Manhattan has not waivered.
“God never promises us ‘success,’ however we define that,” Jenn points out. “All he’s asking for is our yes. Saying yes to him over and over has made the biggest difference.”
Gaby Garver is a 2016 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University. She currently lives in Istanbul, Turkey where she works as an editor for the Daily Sabah newspaper. Her favorite pastimes are cooking for friends, writing and camping.