Archive for November, 2006|Monthly archive page

Startup Costs

We launched on August 20, 2006.  From January 1 to August 20, we basically spent about $50,000.  I asked our fantastic financial person to give me a rough breakdown.

  • Computers and trailers  $15,000
  • Advertising (mostly mailouts and road signs done right before preview services) $11,000
  • Children’s Ministry  Stuff (portable supplies, Kidmo curriculum) $3,000
  • Communications (web design, handouts, etc.) $1,500
  • Hospitality (lots of coffee supplies for Sunday, and food for some special events) $2,000
  • Insurance $1,400 (general liability insurance and some other stuff)
  • Bands and Equipment (mainly lights) $4,200
  • Postage (lots of support raising letters) $1,060
  • Programming $1000
  • Rent (2 preview services and office space) $4,500
  • Miscellaneous $1000
  • Office Equipment and Supplies (including database software) $3500
  • Utilities $700

We didn’t spend a lot of money on sound stuff, because we brought in bands.  And we have a guy in our church that has an amazing sound rig.  I recognize that this is not normal.  Had Brad not come along, we probably would have rented stuff for a couple of months instead of spending money we didn’t have.  Since the launch, we’ve purchased more equipment and "Sunday stuff".  I chose to rent office space because I have young kids and just can’t work at home.  It worked for us.  Salaries weren’t included here since that was all support. 

I give out all this open source information to let you know what one church plant really spent getting off the ground.  This wasn’t our budget…it’s what we actually spent.  There are things there like insurance and postage and food costs that I would have never guessed right on the front end.

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Booking Bands

For the first 16 weeks of Oak Leaf Church, including our two preview services, we’ve been booking bands and bringing in people to lead worship.  I know a lot of people say that a worship leader is one of the most important people to get on staff early in a church plant, but it didn’t shake out that way for us, and we decided to just play to our strengths.  We’ve used about 6 or 7 different bands or individuals so far and it’s been working out for us. 

Here’s some reasons why we decided to go this route:

  1. The obvious reason was that we didn’t have THE person identified, and getting the wrong worship leader is worse than having no worship leader.
  2. It allowed us to have quality music from day one.  People checking out the church can see what kind of music we have right at the start.  Music still defines a lot of a church’s identity.
  3. Good music attracts good musicians.  We’ve been able to identify some players out of our group over the past 16 weeks.  It’s hard for a good guitar player to listen to a bad guitar player.   
  4. It gave us time to identify and begin to develop our own players without having to focus on getting something ready every Sunday.
  5. For the first few days, we brought in bands that had their own sound and lights.  We used their gear, which saved us some up front money. 

Now on to some tips for bringing in bands for your church…

  1. Find people that are definitely in your same mold.  Though we’ve used several different people with some different style, all of them were pretty close in style.
  2. We either brought in bands that played together all the time, or booked worship leaders who brought in their own musicians.  Either way, we had one contact person to work with.
  3. We tried to book people for a two weeks in a row for consistency.  Once we found someone we liked, we tried to get them once a month.  Now we have a pool of 3-4 guys/bands that we would use regularly.
  4. We peppered the lineup with our own guys, to get them some stage time and help them develop.  So our guys might have a month to get ready, practice, learn, etc.
  5. We found these worship leaders by contacting other churches.  Our sponsoring church has a band that leads on Thursday nights.  A local church in our area has a rotating schedule, so their musicians get days off, and I was able to get them for a Sunday.  I found one guy leading a local singles service.  I used Tenth Avenue North three times when they were coming through town. 
  6. There are so many bands and musicians out there.   I’d check with local colleges, check out any singles service or campus ministry, and call other cool churches.
  7. I pay pretty close attention to song selection.  These guys don’t know your church and your people, so I usually ask them for 5 songs, and then cut it down to three for them.  If you don’t like a song or don’t think it will fit, you have to be willing to make the call.  I have probably heard a song or two during sound check that I should have axed.  Most of the guys we work with are cool, so some time on the phone talking through the service works well and results in stuff that fits nicely.  We can’t integrate as much as we would like, but it’s still good.
  8. I have them send me lyrics to the songs as they will do them.  This is important to our computer people because everybody does the songs differently.  Some start with the chorus of "Here is Our King" while others start with the verse.  I send them a template and ask them to send the lyrics formatted the way we want them.   

We didn’t have a lot of money to spend on this…probably $400 – $500 a week, which is not a lot of money if you are a professional or a band.  This system has worked well for us.  We’re still wanting to bring a worship pastor or creative arts director to the team, but we’re able to take our time doing so.

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Church Planting Wisdom

Derek over at The Harmony Blog just posted some of my church planting wisdom tidbits.  He’s doing a great series of posts with some amazing church planters.  There’s some great nuggets that will help you in ministry.

Anytime someone asks me what we do or how we do something, I’m honored to open up.  We certainly don’t have everything figured out, but we do want to let others know our ideas.  We always want to contribute to the discussion.

Whenever I’m asked a question or to share my opinion, I always think about our great staff team, our amazing people, and the incredible launch team.  I may be the guy answering the questions, but a lot of people’s hard work, sacrifice and dollars went into launching Oak Leaf.  My hat is continually off to these folks.

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Why People Stay

Why people visit a church is different from the reason they might stay at that church.  Allow me to explain.  Folks decide to visit a church for a variety of reasons.  They are new in town and are looking for a church, they feel like they ought to go, they got mad at their old church, a life crisis, etc.  But the main reason that people visit a church is because of some form of invitation. Most people attend a church for the first time because they were invited.  This may be a flier or a postcard in the mail, but the most effective form of invitation is a personal invitation from a friend.  We’ve found this to be the #1 form of "advertising."  Word of mouth really is the most effective way to do it.

But the invitation alone doesn’t mean they will like the service.  No, that depends on their experience.  If they had a good time and connected with something emotionally, they will most likely enjoy the service.  It might be the atmosphere, the music, the teaching, the kids ministry, the topic,  or the length of the service.  So we work hard to create an environment that unchurched people will enjoy.  We try to eliminate the cringe factor and crank up the wow factor.  So, an invitation will get them there, but an experience will make them enjoy it.

But still…they may not stay.  Invitation and experience alone are not enough to cause a person to stay a part of a church (or an organization for that matter).  What will cause them to stay is a connection.  People must feel a connection to something to stay.  People that are connected with a ministry team or a small group will stay 9 times out of 10.  That’s why we encourage everyone to volunteer – they don’t have to be a member.  (They may not even be a Christian.)  But we know that if they get connected with a small group of people, either serving together or growing together, they will stick.  (And we’ve just raised the bar on the possibility that they will become a Christ follower).  A better measuring stick of buy in at Oak Leaf is how many people are connected in small groups or ministry teams.   Sunday morning attendance isn’t the most important attendance number.

So there it is:  invitation, experience and connection.  What does your church do well in these areas?  How can you invite more people, crank up the experience, or encourage more connections?

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Ten Minutes Before The Service

About a month ago, we started showing videos ten minutes before the service.  I use iMovie to create a ten minute video containing some announcement stuff, some still slides of announcements (I create a simple slideshow in Keynote, which exports so easily to a quicktime movie), some funny stuff I get from the Internet, some funny stuff we create (like a staff retreat highlight), maybe some movie clips that set up the message and a countdown.  Ten minutes really isn’t that hard to fill up, especially when the last three is a countdown.  We set it to music.  It also helps people get there early.

It lets us decide in advance what the preservice music will be and what people will see.  At 9:50, we just start the video and it sets the service into motion.  It probably takes me about an hour a week to make this. Then I go to the Drive Conference and see that Northpoint is doing the same thing now.

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Partnering with Other Churches

Oak Leaf Church is praying about a church plant that we can partner
with.  I’m not sure all that partnering means, but for us, it includes
sending a mission team to the same place on a regular basis.  We’d love
for that to be reciprocated.  From the beginning, we want to be
involved in what God is doing all over the place.  We’re not going to
wait around until we’re established to get involved in missions and
support church plants.  We’re praying and searching for a church plant
in a US city somewhere, as well as a country that we can "adopt." Our criteria is:

  • It has to be a place we can get to easily.  I don’t want to take a boat, train, and a camel.  Not yet anyway.  We need it to be a cost effective place for us to get to. 
  • We want to speak English.
  • We want there to be a real need that we can meet.  I’m sorry if this doesn’t seem spiritual, but when looking at a mission trip, if I see the words "prayer walk" that’s code "we really don’t have much for you to do."

Do you know of a church plant that is knocking it out of the park, or
has a team that is about to knock it out of the park?  Do you know of a particular ministry in a country that is doing some good stuff?  If so, let me
know.

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Inspirie a Giving Culture

By far one of the coolest moments in our short history was about a month ago.  We learned about the wells in Rwanda project at Catalyst the past couple of years, and we decided this was something that we could get our hands around.  $3,000 builds a well for a village in Rwanda.

So we took some of the Catalyst footage and created a little video to show our people.  After the video, I stood on the stage and said, "Now this is when you begin to reach for your wallets, but we’re not going to do that today.  See, you guys have already given.  Because you guys have been faithful to give and support the mission of this church, we’ve already sent them a check.  If you’ve ever put a dime in the offering buckets, you had a part in building a well in Rwanda."

Our people clapped and it was very cool.  We set aside 10% of everything that’s given to give away to other organizations and church plants and missionaries.  I think by doing that, we’re letting our people know that’s it not just about us.  It’s more than building a church here.  We want to be a giving church made up of giving people.  So we set the bar.

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9:20

A few weeks ago, we started gathering all our volunteers together – set up team, host team, kids workers, band people, basically everyone in the building – for a short prayer time.  We meet in the lobby of the theater and just ask God to bless the service that day.  We pray for those making their way to church.  We ask God to use our efforts.  I also have a couple of minutes to thank everyone for helping.  This little time has done a couple of things:

1.  It’s giving us some prayer time.  Little prayers 3 minutes before the service are no good.  We pray before any people are there and we aren’t really rushed.

2.  Our volunteers stand there and see all the other volunteers.  Kids workers see that they are not all alone with a three year old.  They look in the faces of all the other people who have bought into serving.

3.  I get a couple of minutes to communicate anything important to our core people.  I don’t do announcement stuff, but if there is something big that pertains to everyone, I have a platform to communicate that.

It’s a pretty simple thing, that works well for us.   Do you guys do anything similar to this?  What works for you?

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Finances and Budgets

We launched in August and we’ve had 12 Sunday services so far.  To this point, we have not had a budget.  We just spend whatever we get.  That’s how it it goes with a new church – you don’t have anything you need – you have to buy it or borrow it. 

But during the next month or so, I’m going to work hard on creating a 6 month budget for January – June of 2007.  I think it is going to work out to where we need about $5,000 a week.  I’ve struggled with whether or not to let our people know numbers – like how many people are there or what the offering was last week.  I don’t want people to think that’s all we care about.  I don’t want to constantly be harassing people about money.  I have already taught a message on giving, and we take up an offering each week.

But last week, I decided to print "Weekly goal: $5000.  Last week’s offering: $4300" in the Sunday handout.  I think our people just want to know where we are.  It was a little old school and a little open source to print that, but I’ve got people coming up to me and asking how we’re doing financially.  I don’t want to harass guests to give money, but I do think our people want to know where we are.  Anyway, so we printed that info in the handout Sunday and we’ll see.  Those of you who lead cool churches, what do you guys do?

For the first 12 weeks of Oak Leaf, the offering has averaged about $4000 a week.  It’s been in the low 2’s and the high 6’s.  It doesn’t necessarily track with attendance.   It has worked out to be about $17 per person per Sunday.  Anyway, that’s where we are.  I don’t know if that’s good or bad for a church, but we’re thankful that God is meeting our needs.  Sure, there’s more we want to do, and we want to pay our great staff more.  But we’ll get there in God’s timing.   

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Children’s Ministry in a Church Plant

Here’s the quick overview of what we do in our children’s ministry. 

Name:  KidVenture

Location:  We use one theater for elementary children
(k-5th), one for babies (0-2 years) and one for preschool (3-5 years).
Each environment has a different theme.  The Ocean is for babies.  The
Jungle is for 3-5’s.  And the elementary environment is called The
City.  We had 91 total children and workers involved in KidVenture last
week. 

Curriculum:  We use First look for the preschoolers.  We started out with KidMo
for our Elementary kids.  It’s DVD based and allowed us to jumpstart
without having a bunch of volunteers.  It’s pretty easy to use, with
large groups stuff on DVD and then small group material to follow up.
I would recommend this for most church plants.  Beginning this week, we
are switching to 252 Basics.  It
fits a little better with our overall strategy for KidVenture, and in
my opinion, is the best children’s curriculum out there.  It does take
a couple of extra leaders – like a storyteller and a host for the large
group time.  And the small group stuff is a little more detailed.  But
in my opinion, it’s better. 

Check In:  We use label stickers to check kids in.  We have
one table for regular attenders.  They just fill out the sticker and
they are done.  We have a separate table for guests.  They fill out the
registration card and get extra help.

Security:  Kid wears half of the sticker.  Parent keeps
half.  They have to show it to get back in the hallway, and we just
match halves when releasing children.  Fellowship One has a great check in option with their church management system, and eventually, we’ll use it.  Like when we get some money.

Biggest Challenge:  Volunteers, hands down.  This is one of
the reasons we are going to two services in January.  I think we will
be able to involve some new volunteers since they won’t have to miss
the service. 

Dana is our KidVenture director.  She’s part time on our staff and holds one of the most important jobs on the planet.

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