Category Archives: Church Planting

How Do We Measure Success?

As guys, one of the first questions we will ask each other when we are just meeting is “what do you do for a living?” AKA- do you make more money than me and do you do something cooler than I do? All guys do it. It always cracks me up when someones demeanor totally changes when I tell them I am a pastor. Their voice goes up an octave, they start really being careful what they say. I always make fun of them for that.

But with being a pastor, how do we measure success? They same conversation happens between pastors. We don’t talk about what we make but want to subliminally leak how many people are members at our church. How many seats are in your sanctuary. We aren’t  businesses so we can talk about our profit in money, so we talk about or profit in people.

And thats dumb. Our main barometer should be disciple making. And not simply knowledge. Disciples that make disciples that make disciples. Knowledge and action together.

I was hanging out with some of our church the other night and I made a comment about something- I don’t even remember what it was. And one of our freshman in college called me on it. What I said was opposite of our vision and direction of the church.

And thats when it hit me! People are catching the vision! They understand that language matters because there is a heart behind that language. Its not just our leadership talking our heads off. Vision has leaked and soaked our people. And they are doing it.

This time last year, we had maybe 2-3 people that understood the vision of The Branch. Now, a year later, we have 10-12. That is a measure I am ok with. Because that means God is doing something. God is working. God is calling people to live in community and to live on mission! That makes me excited. So for me, I learned a huge lesson on the health of a church. Is the main core team in your church living on the churches vision? Is vision being pushed and modeled so people are actually doing it? I had never really seen or thought of this metric before. But I am grateful God is doing it in our midst.

And keep in mind…. this is because God is at work. God is doing this, not me. This is Gods church, not mine.

I am grateful God is working and leading our church to really follow him. I am glad I get to watch and play.


A New Journey

Here I sit, at the Starbucks on the campus of University of North Georgia, a church planter. Yea, I said it, my family is here to plant a church in Dahlonega, Ga. To some of you, this is no surprise. But for others, this is new news. To say we are excited is an understatement! To say that my wife and I are crazy is true. And to say that this church plant will never work with out the wisdom, grace and providence of God is what I cling to.

Just a little about the church… We are The Branch Church. “A gospel centered community living on mission.” We prayed and did some preliminary core team development in the fall, but officially launched in January. Currently we are meeting in my home on Thursday nights. We are still developing our core team and adding people to this team. We haven’t publicly launched and wont until the fall. We just moved up to Dahlonega in mid-January so we are still meeting people and learning what it means to be a ‘nugget’, even though we will never officially earn that title (they don’t pass out that label to just anybody. Only life-long Dahlonegians).

I am still working at Starbucks part time in Cumming because their insurance is awesome! Bre and I constantly talk about how full our hearts are being in this city. We literally told God we would plant a church anywhere in the US and we are so grateful he led us here, to Dahlonega.

Let me be honest though, there is a lot of work to be done. A constant prayer and plea from our core team to the Lord is for laborers. “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few…”

I will be blogging more and more about the church and what God is doing through us. How he has led us and guided us here is more than a miracle. And we know that he has big plans for this church and this city.

So will you join us in prayer. Just an hour ago, I sent Bre a text to pray for me, that I felt attacked, and within minutes, her prayers let to a spirit of peace over my soul. Prayer works, no lie. And I know we need tons of prayer from the saints.

Just two quick ways that you can pray for us…

  1. Laborers- we are trying to get the right people on the bus so that our launch and ministry will flourish. Will you pray that God will draw people to the work He is doing.
  2. Provision- we have had a few churches and organizations step up and support us both financially and partnering with us. As we launch this church, we will be raising support for the church for the next 3 years while we get it off the ground. I am in the process of getting the fundraising started, so pray that God will provide for the mission of The Branch Church through His people.  If you would like to support the church, please contact me and I would love to meet with you and explain the vision and the need.

Thank you for your prayers. And keep praying.

gabe, bre, aubryn, and grady

Dodd Family Update

Well, we are a little over a month into our church planting journey. We had no idea what we were walking into, the time line we would be working with, any details, we just knew God had called to step out and pursue church planting, no matter what.  So here is a snap shot of our last month.


**** Even before we had fully stepped down from Lanier Hills, God gave me the opportunity with Fox Home Services doing attic insulation. It is a great job and my boss loves the Lord and supports what God is doing in my families life. It is construction so it isn’t the most consistent work, but we are making enough to pay our bills are being paid.


**** As we continue to ask God for the next step in this journey, God continues to burden and excite our hearts about church planting in a college town. Because of that, we have narrowed our search down a little. Currently, we are praying through Dahlonega, Ga, (North Ga College and State University), Eugene, Or. (University of Oregon), and Corvallis, Or. (Oregon State). We are trying to line up trip to Oregon at the end of this month to be able to taste and experience Oregon culture.


**** We are trying to sharping out sword. One of my mentors, Scott Goetz, told me that in this limbo time, all I need to be doing is sharping my sword and getting ready for war. And that’s what we are doing. Trying to read, grow, learn, and prepare as much as we can for when God gives us the location and green light, we are ready.


So thats where we are. Trying to be present in this middle ground. I had one of my college students ask me the other day how we were doing over text. I responded back, “Good, just working.” He responded back with,

“I thought you were going to plant a church??”


It made me laugh but I could see his confusion. We are planting a church. But like I said earlier, we stepped out with no details, logistics, or location. So we knew we would be in a holding period for a while. We would love to be moving and getting ready for the plant by January but we are just going to love the season we are in and listen to the Lord for the “Go.”


Thanks for your prayers.

Motives are everything

As my family and I begin the journey of church planting, my mind is continually racing on every different aspect of our next step. Where we our landing, our name, our vision and mission statement, what we want our reputation to be. And it can be very overwhelming.
But I want to be so pure in our motives that drive every decision we make.

I was at a big leadership conference last week and every speaker is this great leader that has an incredible church or business…
And I have to check my motives for why I want to plant this church.

Do I want to plant so that I can one day stand on a stage infront of 13,000 people…

Or do I have something to prove?

Or do I want to be recognized or known for how great of a leader I am?

Or do I want our plant to go so well that I have instant success as an author?

Or… oR…. OR


I heard one guy compare ministry and church planting  to pornography. We all watch these few, rare guys have all this success in church planting and it gives us an unrealistic view of what can really happen in our lives. I fall guilty in this so often.
I want to make disciples and see God transform lives on a daily basis. I dont care about my name, I care about His glory. I want our family to live and breath obedience to God, whether we ever get recognized or not.

I know so many guys our in the trenches that our serving the Lord and their community so well and will never be asked to speak or write or share, at anything. And they dont care. I want that heart. I want to use whatever platform I have for the Glory of the Lord, not so people notice me.
So if you are on this journey with us, pray for a clean heart and pure motives- because motives are everything.



The Start of a Crazy Journey

My wife and I are taking a huge risk following the Lord. We have heard clearly that the time has come for us to plant a church. I will be posting a lot about our journey over the next few years. I wanted to share our resignation letter with Lanier Hills Church as well as everyone else as we begin this crazy adventure the Lord has us on.

We will be posting a lot more details soon.

Pray for us. Join us. Support us. Journey with us.


To Randall Popham, the Elders, and Lanier Hills Church,

Thank you guys so much for taking a chance on me three years ago. If it wasn’t for you listening to the Lord, I know I would have never been hired. But because you did, I was able to get my first full-time ministry position. Over the past 3 years, there have been some great times and some hard times, but I have grown as a leader, pastor, husband, father, and disciple. I am really appreciative of your investment into my life.

Over the past year, I knew God was preparing our hearts for something big. I wasn’t sure where, what, or how. My wife and I knew that things would be changing soon. In June, the Lord really put it on my heart to “remember what I have called you to.” That has always been church planting. Again, like I have so many times before, began to make excuses why God was mistaken for asking us to plant. We are too young, inexperienced, not smart enough, etc. But, God would not relent. We felt like he wanted us to begin declaring “We are starting a church.” Not “one day” or “we would like to” but “we are.”

As I gathered some Godly men around me to fast and pray, God began telling me and my wife to leave Lanier Hills. My number one problem with church planting is that I don’t trust God to provide. So, by God calling me to quit a great job with a consistent salary, benefits, and close to home, I really struggled. But, after prayer and affirmation from different avenues in my life, we conceded to the Lord’s plans. We are going to get a normal job as we begin this church-planting journey in efforts to get into the community, meet people of peace, and begin building a core team.

As we are praying about specific details, the Lord has allowed us to zero in on a few areas. One being the Avenue in Cumming, which we feel strongly God is leading us to. We are also praying about Dahlonega and Portland, Oregon. We are completely open to wherever God is leading us to go.

Because of our method of church planting- going in with no core team and starting from scratch- we ask that Lanier Hills would support us with much prayer. We desire a partnership that would last for years.

It is our desire that Lanier Hills would flourish, not fall in our departure. We care deeply for the church and are only leaving because of God’s call on our lives. Because of that, with your blessing, we will be here for six more weeks, making September 30th our last Sunday.

Thank you so much for allowing me to serve here for the past three years. I pray that we can partner together as we follow God in the journey he has for us.

With Love,

gabe dodd