It’s so hard to believe that in 5 days Vertical Church celebrates our 1st birthday. HOW COULD IT BE A YEAR ALREADY?!?
This first year of ministry has been such an incredible journey. After dreaming with my friends about what it would be like to actually start a church from scratch and then being part of it happening is a SWEET experience! To “see” something in your heart for so long become reality, something you can see with your eyes is an experience – just a WOW experience.
This week I am going to be sharing some of my favorite experiences from our 1st year.
LAUNCH SUNDAY – February 6th, 2011
We launched our church without a lot of fanfare. Most churches that launch do a lot of advertising, mass mailers and a huge blitz to do all they can to get people in the house for the “big day”.
As excited as I was for our launch day, truth is, the “big day” scared me.
We had been praying for this day for so long. We had studied, prayed, read, prayed, gone to conferences, prayed, read blogs, prayed, talked to church planters, prayed (you get the picture). One of the things that I saw to be very common in many church plants were that many had huge launch days only to lose sometimes half and maybe up to 60% on the very next weekend. After all that my team and I had been through and the many months of training our leaders and volunteers had been through I thought that it would be devastating to us if we had close to 300 on launch day (that was a personal goal) only to drop below 150 on week 2. I felt a great momentum in our midst and didn’t want to do anything to hurt it. With this in mind my team and I made a decision:
No mass mail. No newspaper ads. No internet ads. Our method: word of mouth through the people pumped about VC, invite cards to be handed out by them, facebook (no FB ads, just wall posts) and some yard signs like the ones you see. It felt risky and everything within my promotions driven self was fighting the urge to go big on the advertising. Brandon (our Student Pastor/Service programming director and fellow marketer) and I talked daily about whether we were doing the right thing. We trusted that we were doing the right thing believing that a huge drop in 2nd/3rd week attendance would hurt us too badly. “But what if we have a bad 1st day?” was a common thought. This fear was quickly replaced by the reassuring thought that this plan was from the Lord.
Our team was ready. Our environments were tight. I told the leaders it was my goal for us to look so good and be so effective at what we do that we want to look like we’ve been here 5 years on week 1. People were not going to have pity on us because we were new – not the people we were trying to reach! Even our music on day 1 was pretty excellent for a band that had only come together within the last 3 weeks (God was cutting it close in the music area). We were prayed up, excited and believing God for the beginning of a miracle.
THE RESULTS? We had an outstanding Launch day!!! We had surprises from friends who came to support us for our opening day but the biggest surprise were all of the people who came because a friend invited them – people who didn’t go to church anywhere else, coming to see what this new church that met in the movie theater was all about. People gave their hearts to Jesus that day. Others said, “I will be back next week” and we actually had 296 people on our 1st day (like I said, my personal goal was 300). But the test for me wasn’t how many actually came on week 1, it was based around how many returned on week 2. That being said, on week 2 we only experienced a 26% drop in attendance and we have never dipped that low again since that day.
The moral of this story? I would tell any church planter in reference to beginning your weekly services don’t count on big advertising to get you off to a great start – YOU CANNOT BUY SUCCESS. There isn’t an easy way to a successful launch (and if there is let me know so we can try it next time). Build excellence into your environments and train people to be better than anything they have ever experienced. In a mobile church plant the people on your team must have complete buy-in. It is so important that your team understand that the way that God is going to bring about change to their community is through them BEING the change and BRINGING that change to the people that God has so skillfully placed in their life.
(DON’T MISS OUR PARTY THIS SUNDAY – 9am & 11am – it’s going to be an outstanding morning, you’ll be glad you came!)