I’m continuing to answer questions from church planters. Here’s the third question:
When Am I Ready to Launch the Church?
Before I say anything, let me offer a disclaimer for my answer: this is my opinion. Every church denomination or association has their own metrics for when to launch. So listen to them first. I don’t want to undermine what they are saying. But from my experience here are five things I’d be looking to have in place before launching a new church:
#1 – a good band. It doesn’t have to be amazing, but whatever you put together should be quality. The bigger you want to be long term, the better the band should be.
A good band will help put people at ease and a good leader will help them relax and focus on God.
Pray for the person leading your worship. They spend almost as much time in front of people as you (the pastor) so you want to make sure they represent you and the vision well. You don’t want people checking out before they hear the message.
#2 – a solid plan for kids. If you want families to come…and you do…you need to have a great children’s ministry. Think like a parent…parents want their kids to be SAFE more than anything. If you skimp on children, you will lose families. I speak from experience. We had a bad space in a theater when we launched and we ended up moving just to recapture families.
#3 – a significant core team. Critical mass is…critical. The size you start with really depends on your vision. When we launched our church we opened with 200. It was nice to open with that many because we broke the 200 barrier on the first day. A lot of churches have trouble breaking 200.
I wouldn’t start with less than 50…if the second week drops to 25 it will feel awful. I’d set 100 as a minimum number to launch with. We had up to 100 people coming to our pre-launch services. 125-200 came to our preview services (three of them in three months). Then we launched with 200. To get a core team you need to really work hard (see my earlier post on building a launch team).
#4 – an advertising plan. In the business world they say you have to spend money to make money. The point is: don’t be cheap. You need to let people know you exist. But most church planters have no marketing experience. I was fortunate: I had a sales/marketing background.
Be strategic. Don’t just buy any kind of advertising. Mailers are good to gain awareness, but the best advertising is people handing out postcards with a personal invitation to fun events or services with compelling topics.
#5 – strong preview services. Everything should be in place (prayer, children’s ministry, band, etc.). Previews are the dress rehearsal…not practice for the real thing. You want previews to be as good as opening day, otherwise no one will come opening day! They should preview what you want your church to be like. You want your messages to be the best thing you’ve got. Work on these. You only get one chance for a first impression.
Overall, you want to launch at a time of peak momentum. If you don’t sense you have momentum, delay the launch until you do. You don’t want to start with a dud. You may never recover from it.
I hope this helps. Let me know your questions.