By: Rev. Ed Schneider
Hosea 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being a priest for Me; Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.
So, you think God is calling you to start something new? Here are some important things to remember as you are contemplating whether to proceed, or not. Let’s begin at the beginning.
- Church is not a building!
- Church is experienced through “people” not through an institution.
- When any church is authentic and healthy, its people-of-faith should reflect the “grace” and “power” of God’s inclusive and affirming nature.
- By the very definition of being called, “Christian,” we are called to belong to, believe in, behave as, and boldly represent Christ NOT OURSELVES!
- There are two major proclamations all maturing Christians and their church fellowships should be concerned with each day of their existence;
- Telling and showing anyone and everyone that “God Loves You!” and
- How can we help you come to understand that proclamation as truth?
Here are just a few mistakes to avoid. People believe “their belief” is enough. Unfortunately, that simply is not true. There are plenty of strong Christians who have great faith and fail to launch a successful ministry of any size because they forget or do not realize how foundationally important the following items of emphasis are. Please read them carefully. There must be an openly demonstrated and authentically experienced sense of….
- Connecting people within a Christian context requires the intentional and on-going building of authentic relationships
- A Transformational Culture (providing an obvious and sustainable environment prompting positive growth within each person’s Christian journey)
- God’s Grace, Empowerment, and Sovereignty
- Open and shared prayer experiences at multiple levels of their church experience
- Safe Environment for those who are seeking answers, direction, and spiritual growth.
- Commitment to Excellence in all ministry applications
- Leadership that facilitates and inspires others to share in leadership, collaborate in kingdom building opportunities, and grow in their personal walk with God.
- Continuous Improvement & Purposeful Work
- Distinct Identity that can be easily seen and described by both those inside and outside of the fellowship
Practical Determining Factors of Where…Why…and How.
Defining a Target Demographic and Potential Locations:….
An important step in laying the plans for a new ministry of any kind is to understand the demographics of the population. Specifically, what does the average person or family look like, where they live, what they do, their education, how much they earn, what their needs are, etc.
What Will Your New Ministry Actually Look Like on Opening Day?….
We start our planning by defining a picture of what we sense God is calling the new group to look like at launch. By first painting a picture of what we are to become, your planning becomes the road map for getting there.
Defining Areas Critical to Our Success…. After defining what you are going to look like, we now have to identify the elements/factors critical to achieving this goal. For something like a Church Plant (or for a major new ministry) these elements include;
- a prayer team,
- core group development,
- vision casting and communications,
- small groups,
- business and community partnering,
- ministry teams (e.g. setup/breakdown, worship, hospitality) and
- post-launch assimilation.
Actions are identified for each of these areas. For smaller areas of focus the categories would be less but the process of identifying and processing areas of gifts, responsibilities, goals, and accountability are just as crucial.
Developing an Integrated Timeline of Activities….
After developing written strategies for each of the areas that are critical to achieving your desired goals at launch, then proceed to a single integrated planning timeline. This timeline is a compilation of the actions identified above. The timeline is essentially a checklist of
(1) what needs to be done,
(2) when it is to be done, and
(3) who will do it.
Find Out How to Play to Your Strengths and Avoid Your Weaknesses
Take a test that assess yours and others associated with the new ministry leadership strengths and preferred styles of communication and also weaknesses. This will foster not only growth but also clarity of strengths to better place the individuals in an opportunity to succeed. Get a COACH or MENTOR to guide and support you through the process.
Where do you find the LEADERS to help you launch and grow?
Associate pastors/Lay Leadership – Search out those who already have a proven track record, who want to start something new
Church staff – Depending upon your budget (assuming you have one) don’t be shy about looking at larger church staff, or growing churches with staff; volunteer or paid. They may be ready to try something new.
Entrepreneurs – NON-clergy Christian men and women who’ have shown the capacity to start a business successfully
Second career people – laypeople in their late 30’s, early to mid 40’s, who want to make an investment for eternity
Sunday School teachers – growing churches often attract lay people who are potential planters of something new.
Frustrated lay leaders in “no-growth” or declining churches – you will sometimes find within other churches people who want to do something for God. All they require is the opportunity
Ordained or lay people in parachurch groups – Campus Crusade, City Social Missions, Food Pantries, childcare, domestic violence groups, disaster relief organizations, Ecumenical Men’s or Women groups, etc.
Religion/philosophy majors in liberal arts colleges – students looking for a place to make a difference with their life, who have a passion to minister
People who fail in their first attempt at starting something new – The problem may have been “misplacement” not willingness, passion, or commitment. These people deserve a second look.
Event Seminars – This will draw a pool of people. Consider sponsoring, “Evangelism Conferences,” “How To Parent A New Church” or “The Pitfalls of Starting a New Outreach Ministry.”
Returning Missionaries – Many of these people either have church planting experience or have been so moved by their experiences that they are primed for starting something that reflects the passion and urgency of their missionary journey.
Some Ideas to Help Bring Visitors, Friends, and a Steady Stream of New People into the New Ministry
The purpose of a successful marketing plan for a new ministry is to start and foster relationships with unconnected people. The basic strategy for building relationships with unconnected people starts with building a positive reputation and sense of trust throughout the core group so that people will be more likely to respond to a specific invitation to an event or on-going activity.
During the few months prior to the new ministry’s launch, as well as 8-10 months afterwards, it is essential to establish broad name recognition. This can be greatly enhanced through the intentional connection your target group so that unconnected people will positively respond to an invitation to visit, participate and finally enthusiastically join the group. To that end, here are just a few standardized techniques to use on a monthly basis:
- Website/Social Media. Start with something basic but attractive then build and expand to other platforms regularly as you progress. The antiquated way most local congregations approach communicating with each other and the outside world is similar to a man sending a carrier pigeon to tell the livery to get his horse ready so that he can ride into town to borrow a friend’s car to drive to the airport and board a plane that will take him to talk with another person about a space exploration journey that will finally end with an interview with the inventor of a time machine. The fact is 85% of all 20-40 year olds (aka Millennials) use Social Media and the web every day. Have people specifically assigned to this foundational communication tool.
- look for Ads in community newsletters, professional association publications, and on community based web-sites.
- Member mailing lists (e.g. letters, group emails, special invitations, newsletters, etc.
- Testimonials Website and “hard copies” to hand out when circumstance presents itself. (maintain a journal of personal testimonies of people from the new ministry)
- Word-of-Mouth advertising is still a very effective method. I just can’t be the only thing used!!!!
- Personal Invitation cards; “Come Sit Next to Me” these cards will include “why I decided to join” branding language.
- ALL FREE PR outlets should be used; community TV announcements on cable and local broadcasts, etc.
- Door Hangers (if you can afford the expense) placed one week prior to launch date. Four blocks directly around launch locations. Deliver to business and residential
- Outdoor Moveable signage.