Church planting lessons from planting a lawn

Wikipedia calls what I did last Friday “eccentric exercising.” Another term is delayed onset muscle soreness and it hurts! I’m not sure if my 101-degree fever was related to such eccentricity, but I had one of those too. And I don’t think it was cutting loose and dancing all night at Dave and Yvette’s wedding that did me in! It was yard work! It reminded me of when Jesus was telling the story about the sower, and when I thought about it more I learned more about church planting. Lesson? You might get tired doing it, so be prepared to rest.

I got help from my two friends, Brett and Janine, on Friday to redo my backyard (not to mention a great consultant at Lowes). I couldn’t have done it without them! Lesson? Get some friends to help lighten the load and increase the effectiveness.

The task at hand seemed daunting, but no one said planting a lawn would be easy (and they also say to do it in April or May, I was late to the game to boot), but I wanted to give some life to the actual lot and maybe add pots or raised beds elsewhere later on.

The prep work for the planting was most exhausting of all. It didn’t take all that long but it was laborious. If you don’t get to the roots when you weed, what’s the point? The weeding alone filled up about 12 contractors bags. I knew if I didn’t pay attention to this part, the rest of the work might be in vein. Lesson? Before it looks pretty, there will be some dirty work.

Once I had the tools out and was sweating, I decided to also do my part in cleaning up our back alley. Westmont St. is unknown and most of the people traversing it like to keep it that way. I appreciated it because it gave me a way to unload bags of top soil into my backyard, without going through my house, but while doing that task I noticed how filthy it was. Broken glass covers the street and behind each house seems to be a pile of garbage. I cleared ours out and tried to make it a little more navigable. Lesson? Your mission is likely to help more people than you think. Planting the church changes neighborhoods for the better.

Once I finally cleared out all of the weeds, I did my part in leveling the ground. That just meant raking until I was done raking. Taking the advice from my landscaping friend Greg Bolles, I laid down weed block. The product said it had a “lifetime warranty.” I’m not sure whose life that measures, but the idea is that no weeds could pierce ever pierce its skin. I felt weird about putting down something that would never go away (like a permanent piece of litter), but I saw the jungle that was there before and wanted to simplify my life a bit more. We pinned them down and then bordered the area with the bricks and cinder blocks that were just there for whatever reason before. Lesson? Competing influences or bad habits might strangle your new seedlings. Keep their space safe.

We then unloaded twenty bags of top soil all over the ground. More leveling after that. I wanted to make sure I had enough ground on which to plant the seeds, especially since I just blocked out some (to be honest, I really just blocked out a bunch of old clay—not very good stuff). When I felt like I had leveled the ground enough and was satisfied. I filled up my newly-bought seven-liter watering can to wet the new earth. It took lots of refills but eventually it was wet enough—on this hot day—to receive some new seeds. Lesson? You only get to lay the ground once, so be sure your foundation is solid.

So we sowed the seeds. I’m learning a lot about church planting while I’m doing this, but this part was easy enough. I had to sow a generous amount of seed just to make sure that enough were planted. Though it is conceivable to sow too many because they might crowd each other, the general rule is to sow plenty. Lesson? Sow as many seeds as you can to increase the chances that some grow.

IMG_1828Of course, seeds are delicious—to birds. So we had to protect our recently seeded lawn with a non-competing substance. What better than old, dead grass? This biodegradable substance keeps the birds nesting next door from eating up all of our hard work. Lesson? Chances are there are lots of other interests that might attack your sown seeds. Protect them.

After a final rinse, we were done for the day. But I wasn’t satisfied with the watering can fills, plus it was causing unnecessary traffic on my carefully planted seeds. So what then? A hose-to-faucet adapter and a 100-foot hose! Perfect, until I get a real hose connection outside! It’s been twice a day watering since then and I just checked under the straw and guess what? Little tiny blades of grass, less than a week later. Thank God. Lesson? Know your limitations and adapt to them.

It’s satisfying to be able to lay the ground work, fake the rain when there isn’t a drop for a week, and get some results. The sower has a big job. But still I can’t make the grass grow. I can only create an environment and a culture where it is likely to grow. I’ll do my best and work my hardest—even if it gets me a little sore—but I can’t control the weather. Lesson? The Spirit does the heavy lifting.

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