Archive for March, 2007|Monthly archive page

Launching Large – Part 3 of 3

1)    Be everywhere you can be.

“Intelligent people are always open to new ideas.  In fact, they look for them.” – Proverbs 18:17

Partner with community events; don’t reinvent the wheel.  We look for things that are already happening in our community that we can just hop on board with.

Our downtown area does downtown trick or treating. So instead of being gay and boycotting Halloween, we went downtown and gave out candy and helium balloons.  All the little demons and spidermans were walking around with our church logo.

Our city does a big 4th of July festival in the park.  Instead of doing our own block party, we just took a free moonwalk there and talked to people while their kids jumped around.  Last year, we met a guy that now serves on our setup team and sets up lights each week.

Last Easter, we did some Easter Egg hunts in local neighborhoods.  It wasn’t a huge event, but something that we did for my own neighborhood.

We call up schools and ask them what we could do.  A few months ago, an elementary school asked us to bring our moonwalk to their Breakfast with Santa.  It was a great way to do something nice for a local public school.

Get a community calendar.  Talk to the people at the Chamber of Commerce.  Call schools and ask what they need.  You don’t have to do your own thing all the time…you can make other stuff better.

2)    Develop a system to keep quests.   

Everybody is a guest at first.  Once they come to your church once, you want them to come back.  So work hard on developing your system, and make sure you stick to it. 

We call all first time guests.
We send them an e-mail from the church.
We send them a hand written note.

Ask people if they have any questions.  Let them volunteer.  We don’t ask our greeters to go through 12 weeks of greeter training and submit their tax records.  I don’t even require that they be a Christian.  I know that if they get around our people, they will see Jesus.  They will meet a need and get to know some great people.  They stay because they are wanted and needed.

Toot your own horn. 

There are enough Ed Youngs out there.  I don’t want to be Andy Stanley.  I don’t want to preach his messages.  I am very passionate about this.

We borrow graphics, videos, and ideas, but never messages.  I think that’s lazy.  I work very hard every week on my messages.

The main reason is this:  I have something to say.  I know a lot of people make their stuff available, and that’s cool.  I will read through some of it to spur on ideas, but I will not teach somebody elses outline or content.  I may use a story or an idea, but I believe that God has to give me a message for my people.  I’m not looking to for something to say.  That has to come from God, or I should just go home and play videos for the sermon.

“Let your wife worry about you clothes. Buy books and study. We don’t need any more well-dressed, hip, funny, heretics. Who cares how you say it if what you’re saying is wrong?” – Matt Chandler

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General Update

I had the opportunity to visit a small group from our sponsoring church who will be praying for us.  I gave them a little overview of where we’ve been and some prayer requests.  I thought I would post that here as well.  I began with a little timeline.

May 2005: Moved to Cartersville from Arkansas
August 2005: Began working @ Westridge as a church planting intern
October 2005: Held an Informational Meeting at a hotel with 5 families attending
November 2005: Small Group Formed and went through a short Bible study
January 2006: Launch Team Formed and started meeting on Sunday nights
June 2006: First Preview Service – 180 people present
July 2006:  Second Preview Service – 240 people present
August 20, 2006:  Grand Opening – 280 people present
October 2006:  First Staff Retreat, Broke 300 barrier
January 2007:  Began Second Worship Service
February 2007: First Baptism Service
March 4, 2007: Nearly 500 people in attendance
March 2007:  Began church planting partnership with Network35 and Westridge


  • We are actively looking for a family pastor to join our staff team.  This would be the third full time pastor on staff.
  • We are praying about launching a second venue inside the movie theater, with live worship and video teaching.
  • We are meeting with the city school board and The Grand Theater in town to attempt to get them to change their standing policies to rent to organizations on an ongoing basis.
  • There are about 60,000 people within 10 miles of us that do not go to church at all.  We really want to reach out to these people.
  • For all of our people to stay focused on God’s vision.

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Launching Large – Part 2 of 3

4)    Have a good Sunday service. 

For us, Sunday morning is the front door.  The only time that we acted like a “big” church was on Sunday morning.  Every church plant cuts corners…decide in advance what corners to cut.  We don’t cut corners on Sunday morning.  When we got people there via personal invitations and our marketing efforts, our Sunday morning experience didn’t disappoint.

In our short history, people have asked when we’re going to start a women’s ministry, VBS, motorcycle ministry.  Some have offered to lead these things…we still say no.   There’s already a big church in town that does a Fall Festival.  It wouldn’t be good stewardship for us to go and do what someone else already does.   We focus hard on making Sunday morning count.  We want the service to be good, even if that means some other aspect of our church has to be bad.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when dreams come true, there is life and joy.” – Proverbs 13:12

A quality service will inspire people.  It will make them proud to invite their friends.  If your people are just hoping for the day when your church plant will have something good, then they will burn out.  When they see the vision and the dream on Sunday morning, they are going to be excited and invite their friends.

Some people say don’t small groups for one year.  Some start small groups before the public launch.  There’s probably no right way, but I do know this…you need to have a good, quality worship service no matter what.

Spend money on Sunday.  And that includes your kids environments.  I’d put just as much money and energy and creativity there as you do in your adult service.

I may be wrong and I may be prideful, but sometimes, I think people talk about how bad big churches are to give themselves an excuse to be small. 

We didn’t break new ground in launching this church.  Everything we did has probably been done before.  But I do think we have a good Sunday morning service.  I work really, really hard on the details.  I work really, really hard on my message.  I don’t download it from yahoo or 

5)    You’re starting a business

Is it wrong to run a church like a business?  I don’t know about your church, but we’re actually a 501c3 corporation.  We have a bank account.  We buy things and pay people.  That sounds like a lot of business to me.   Listen…the church is not JUST a business, but it is a business.

In addition to reading Marketing books, I would recommend that you read some business books.  The E-Myth is a great one to start with.

“Don’t try to avoid responsibility by saying you didn’t know about it.”  – Proverbs 24:12. A lot of churches make dumb business moves and then claim that they didn’t know the rules.  You need to know the tax laws, the postal mailing regulations, and somebody on your lead team needs to have a business mind.

I think seminaries ought to teach some business and marketing classes to go along with all that useless stuff they tried to teach me.

6)    Work hard. 

“Work brings profit, but mere talk leads to poverty.” – Proverbs 14:23

“If you are too lazy to plow in the right season, you will have no food at the harvest.” – Proverbs 20:4

“Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.” – Proverbs 21:5

If you are a lead pastor, no one will have as big a vision as you do.  You’re going to work harder than anyone else on your team, and do the things that other people won’t do.  You have to get it done.  That may mean some late nights and some Saturday afternoons.  It may mean you set up stages and roll up cords.  Just because so-and-so at the mega church doesn’t do it doesn’t mean you don’t have to.  Most of the time, they did all that stuff in the early days.  There’s a lot of books out there on delegating and playing to your strengths, but in the early days, you’re going to work hard.  If you’re Brittish, you’re going to work your arse off.

As the lead pastor of Oak Leaf, I get to the theater at 6 AM with our setup team.  I ask our staff to do the same thing.  We’re asking people with jobs and families to make that sacrifice…I think we should too.  Starting a church and working at a church plant is not a cush ministry job.  At least not at Oak Leaf.

I don’t think I could have done this with a real job on the side.   I don’t have any verse to back this up, but I focused everything on this church. If I had to substitute teach or work at Home Depot, I would not have been able to put the proper amount of energy into launching large.  I think we would have less people and less leverage now.

I am not a fan of bi-vocational church planting.  I would recommend that you get 6 jobs and save some money, so that when it’s time to pull the trigger, you can devote all your attention and resources to launching the church.

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3.18.07 Recap

Series:  Your Great Sex Life
Topic:  The Spiritual Side of Sex (get the podcast)
Highlights:  We focused on the fact that God created us male and female, and then turned the corner and talked about sexual sins, guilt and forgiveness.  We used a hammer and nails to illustrate the scars that are left behind from sexual mistakes.  We debuted the Easter @ the Movies video.  Message transcript and SG discussion questions are here.
Songs:  The Time Has Come (Hillsong), Our Love is Loud (Old School Passion) and I Am So In Love (Will Goodwin original)
Stats:  136 people at the 9:00 service, 206 people at the 10:15 service and 86 kids in Kidventure.  Take out 80 volunteers who stayed for both services and there were a total of 436 people in attendance.

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Launching Large – Part 1 of 3

Here is part one of the breakout session that I did at the Church Planters Conference.  You can order the CD from their website.

Launching Large

“Commit your work to the Lord, and then your plans will succeed.” – Proverbs 16:3

1)    Don’t just teach the vision, be the vision. 

“Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you.” – Proverbs 4:25

It’s not enough to have a vision…you have to act on it.  The vision has to become a reality.
Vision isn’t enough.  Execution is just as important.  Don’t just tell people that you’re going to care about ministry…do some ministry. 

One of our launch team people helped me understand this principle as it related to our second preview service.  I was going to talk about the vision of the church, but she challenged me to let it be a normal service and speak for itself.  Showing is always better than telling.  We just decided to be who we were going to be. 

If you want people to know you’re funny, you don’t tell them how funny you are, you just tell them a joke.  In the first six months of our church, I haven’t taught a sole vision message.  Because each week, we flesh out that vision, and I incorporate vision into just about every message.

2)    A dozen eggs is better than a golden egg. 

I’m talking about advertising and promotion.  If you think advertising and promotion isn’t spiritual, you’re mistaken.  It’s a form of evangelism.  Why wouldn’t you want to do everything you can, short of sinning, to get people to come to your church?  Doesn’t the greatest message deserve to be promoted?   Before we launched, we did:

Doorhangers – worked pretty good, but not the most effective
Direct Mail – we’ve figured out some cost effective ways to get this done
Road Signs – these were the hightest impact thing we did for the dollar
Invite Cards  – these went along with personal invitations

I think we market our church well.  We spend some money here, but not as much as you might thing.  We learned some things that we can do to save money on direct mail, and that has turned out to be effective for us.

All of our early marketing played to the fact that we meet in a church.  You need to come up with an angle that is unique to your church.  Do not send out stock postcards – get someone to design something that fits your personality as a church.  Do not send out postcards with church buildings or pastel, girly colors on them.  Remember that you’re sending out something that needs to appeal to men, not just women.

"So this isn’t about having to bribe people into paying attention by sexing things up with graphics, sound, or shock. This is about helping the mind and the brain agree on what’s worth paying attention to. And if you want it to be you, then you better be the most provocative and interesting thing in their environment." – Kathy Sierra

If you want to attract a crowd to your first service, I would suggest that you do some marketing.  Read some marketing books.  And not just Christian ones.   I really suggest a book called Buzzmarketing.  I’ve read about 7 or 8 really good books on marketing that have really helped us.   

3)    Don’t copy churches that aren’t growing. 

“Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many counselors bring success.” – Proverbs 15:22
“Whoever walks with the wise will become wise.” – Proverbs 13:20

Everybody has a coaching network, and you need to be around people who are doing what you want to do.  We looked and learned from Mountain Lake Church, Westridge Church and NorthPoint.  I read a lot of church leader blogs.  There are some very smart people out there.   We’ve gotten advice about when to start a second service, what times those service should be, how to get people in small groups, how to raise money.  Ask a lot of questions, and get advice.

But don’t get advice from dead or dying churches.  Who cares what they are doing if it is not working?  Why are you going to copy something that stinks?

And don’t just go do the opposite of what you hated in your last church.  You need to get with God, and seek good advice from people you respect.  And you need to make smart decisions.

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I had the opportunity to lead a breakout at the conference back in February.  Click here to order the breakout session on CD.  There were some other great breakouts that you should pick up as well.  I highly recommend that conference if you’re planting or want to plant a church.

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Sunday Setlist

March 11 Recap

Songs: The Power of Love (Huey Lewis), Revolutionary Love, I Am in Love (a Will Goodwin original), and Beautiful One. The band was exceptionally good today.

Message: Dealing with Desire (Part 2 of Your Great Sex Life). We talked about how to deal with desires. You have to prioritize them since Satan’s plan is to sidetrack you with lesser desires. And you have to set boundaries to guard them. We showed a little clip from Elf. Download the podcast here.

Attendance: Down a bit from the week before. Losing an hour never helps. I think time change day should happen on Monday so everyone is late to work. We’re averaging about 400 people for the year.

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Resources for You

Several have asked for what we give out at our Newcomer’s Dinners
(we’re making them light snack events now and calling it Newcomers
Q&A).  We wrote a short book that goes over our story, vision,
values, beliefs, ministries, etc.  We use to print these and
just order them as needed.  You can order 1 or 50.  We give out the
info to Newcomers and let them read it on their own, and just talk
about our vision, heartbeat and a little about our strategy.  Then we
just let people ask questions.  It keeps it from becoming like a class
and keeps the focus on relationships.  Our newcomers class is like

Anyway, here’s a PDF of the inside of the book.  Download.

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Photos of Setup

Look in the sidebar to see a few pictures of our Sunday morning setup.  Here’s a few tidbits to guide you on your way:

  • The crew gets there around 6 AM.  The first service begins at 9 AM.  We’ve got some amazing guys and girls on this team.
  • We setup a full stage, a couple different light trees, and a very nice sound system.
  • We have 6 ellipsoidal lights and 16 PAR cans.  And a serious amount of extension cords.
  • We use our own projector and project onto the movie screen.
  • We set up an Information Table, and put brochures, do registrations, etc.  We also have a representative from different ministries there to answer questions in person.
  • We set up a Resource Table and sell T-shirts, messages on CD, and a few other things.  This month, we’re selling copies of "Sheet Music."
  • We serve Starbucks Coffee in lobby.  We order all the stuff from a local distributor.
  • The Kids area is called "KidVenture."
  • We set up a bunch of banners and signs inside and outside the theater, including a sign out on the road, two big banners hanging from the front of the theater, and a bunch of signs in the lobby.
  • It takes us about 45 minutes to clear the theaters before they start showing movies.
  • We run the adult service from two Mac Book Pros and a simple Edirol video mixer. 

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Too Much Too Soon

I wanted to take a moment and tell you about a mistake we made.  I think we’ve done a lot of things right, but we also do some things wrong.  And it’s probably more helpful to learn from people’s mistakes rather than make them yourself.

From the beginning, we said we wanted to do four things well.  Music, teaching, kids and small groups.  We belived we should say no to everything else.  We staffed and budgeted around these things.  We made them our priority.  We tried to act like a "real church" only on Sunday, and we still do these things now.

We will probably always be slim when it comes to various ministries, but in the first couple of years of a church plant, I think it is even more crucial to be streamlined, simple, and just say no. 

But after 5 months, we tried to do a once a month service for believers/Christians.  We wanted a time to address more of our core, and do some "deeper" (i hate that word) worship.  So we launched a monthly service called First Tuesday.  We did the first one in January.  It was good.  We had a decent turnout.  I talked about vision.  We did some worship.

It took a good part of the day to setup, and we had to arrange for childcare.  And in the end, we determined that while it was a good event and nobody was mad that they game, it probably wasn’t necessary to our growth.  We have a system of moving people from the front door (Sunday morning) to the living room (journey groups), and this Tuesday service was something that existed outside of that system.  It didn’t help move people to small groups.  It was good, but it wasn’t great.  It was helpful, but maybe not necessary.  It didn’t fit in with our steps or with our system.  It was something way off to the side.

So after one time, we decided to kill it.  If we were to keep doing it, it would take some focus and some energy and some money away from Sunday.  And that’s not the thing to do right now.  Even though we really believed the keep it simple stuff, we got sucked into trying something extra.  I think it was a mistake.  I should have said no.  But the temptation is to do more and add more, and after 5 short months, I was feeling it.  I always come up with great ideas, and I have to put them in the file and make myself say no (or wait).  In the first couple years of a church plant, I think it’s so important to be streamlined and not get sidetracked.  Even good things and ministry can sidetrack you.

We have decided to streamline even more.  Sunday and small groups.  We’re going to spend time with key volunteers that make these things happen.  Even if that means not counseling people. (we’ll refer people).  Even if that means not starting a biker ministry or planning a VBS.  We can’t do all these things well and then do Sunday and Groups well.  And Sunday and Groups is our peanut butter and jelly.

Anyway, that’s one of many mistakes we made.  Hope it helps.

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