This is Kerrick Thomas – I serve as the Executive Pastor at The Journey Church in NYC and co-author of Launch: Starting a New Church from Scratch. Here’s an answer I sent recently to a church planter that Nelson asked me to share today:
Q: We started our church this past Easter and we’re only running about 20 people.
I realize now that I didn’t do enough promotion/marketing for a large launch. I only used free newspaper press release and a christian radio station. We are have a hard time during the summer months and I need to raise money to restart our marketing (we’d like to do a 10-15,000 piece mailing, cable TV advertising, etc).
We have a good location, worship and we are able to sustain as we have jobs. I feel our biggest issue is we need to get the message out better, but money is the issue. We meet in a nice school gym and we are wondering how important the environment is, as we have had a number of visitors, but we believe either from the environment or because there isn’t enough people, they aren’t coming back.
I guess my biggest question is ‘What is the best way to do a restart?’ Any thoughts and help would be appreciated.
A: First of all – if you haven’t yet – I would encourage you to pick up the church planting book that Nelson and I wrote called “Launch: Starting a New Church from Scratch.” It has our thoughts on almost every question you ask in your e-mail. You can pick it up here:
I think you would find it helpful if you haven’t read it before.
Now to answer some of your questions:
1) My first thought is that if you are starting a brand new church – your goal should be to reach the unchurched and those who don’t know Jesus. Because of that – I would strongly urge you not invest your valuable and limited evangelism budget on Christian radio. Most everyone who listens to Christian radio is already connected to a church. If it was free then that is okay.
2) I think you are right that you should re-start if you are averaging 20 people each week and don’t have funds. What we recommend in Launch is 6-weeks of monthly services that lead up to the launch of weekly services. And during that time – you make an effort to raise money (we give suggestions in Launch), reach people, create systems and get better and better at all aspects of the Sunday service.
Even if you’ve already launched weekly services – it’s not too late to give it another shot. We’ve had churches who did monthly services and launched weekly and didn’t do well. Then stopped weekly – did 6 more monthly – re-launched and now are successfully reaching people.
What if you moved back to monthly services beginning the week after school starts in your area. Do 6 monthly services until February. Use that time to do the things I mention above. And ramp up the promotion/evangelism for your launch with each succeeding monthly service. And then use most of your funds to promote the launch of your weekly services in February 2010. (Be sure you don’t launch on a holiday).
The good part of that is that Easter will not be too far away and Easter gives you a chance for a 2nd big day and sort of a 2nd launch before summer arrives.
You would just need to take the group of people you have now and cast vision to them about the new vision and make them into your new “Launch Team” with the goal of launching with more people in February, 2010.
Now – that’s just my initial thought. Obviously I don’t know all the details of your situation.
3) Finally you ask about the environment. It’s hard for me to comment on without seeing it. But a few thoughts:
- (a) Location is most important. It your location well known to your target audience, easy to get to, is there enough parking, etc. Is it in the center of the area you are trying to reach.
- (b) I’ve seen many churches grow in school gyms and auditoriums. Ask a friend that you trust to come to a service as a first time guest (as if they didn’t know you) and ask for their feedback. But gyms can be very welcoming.
- (c) To make a school atmosphere more welcoming – be sure you have friendly greeters, good signage outside and inside and use pipe and drape to make the atmosphere more warm and welcoming. If you only have 20 people in a full sized gym it might seem weird – but there are things that you can do to make the gym feel smaller, more intimate and eliminate the weird feeling.
Again – those are just my initial thoughts. I hope they are helpful and at least get you to thinking. Again – I think a careful reading of Launch would be helpful if you are not familiar with some of the principles we include there.
Know that we’re praying for you!
P.S. Are you planting a new church? I’d like to give you more than $75 in free resources to help you — CLICK HERE.
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