Shock and Awe Church Planting

There are probably hundreds of different ways to plant a church, and about 99% of them are right.

If you’re planting a church, even if it is right next door to where I’m planting a church, I’m for you. It often takes a variety of churches to reach a variety of people. It also takes a variety of methods, and this post is not about knocking any church who is doing their best to reach out to their communities with the love of Christ. It just helps me clarify a little about what we are doing.

We’re planting Compass Church the way we are not because it is the only way or even the “right” way. It’s because it is the way we sense God leading us to do it based on our previous experience. I believe that God is using that experience in Church planting to teach me in particular to avoid certain pitfalls in which I personally am prone to fall.

One of those is putting all of my church planting/launching eggs into one “Shock & Awe” basket.

By a “Shock & Awe” launch, I mean big media, 45,000 direct mail pieces, advertising everywhere, balloons and bounce houses with free gifts for everyone who shows up and lollipops for the kids. Big splash. Big Noise. A loud “Y’all Come.”

But please don’t misunderstand – I think all of that is great – if you have enough people to back it up to start with. Or if you just go for it and tons of people just show up. Who knows? Maybe it’s just the leap of faith that brings in a great harvest of people. But if it isn’t, you had better have a back up plan.

What happens when you go for “Shock & Awe,” but the crowds don’t show up? Well, that’s when you become the one who is “shocked and awed.” It’s happened to me before, and it’s a pretty sickening feeling, let me tell you. It would not have been so stunning, however, if we had had a large enough group of people to absorb some of that impact.

That’s why our strategy this time around involves gathering groups of people long before that first “launch” service. That way, when we do eventually do a little “Shock & Awe” to get the word out, we already have momentum whether anyone else shows up at that service or not.

Now, like I said, if the big splash works for you, I could not be more excited for you. In fact, there is another church planter in another town who started about the same time we started our first church plant. He sent out a ton of mailers and had over 300 people show up at their launch.

I think that’s awesome. But I also think that I thought it would happen just as automatically for us. And then when it didn’t, I realized how stinkin’ that thinkin’ really was.

Knowing what I know about myself and the Alliance area, I believe it would just be too risky for us to do only that – and I’m a pretty big risk taker.

Here’s one example of many from my first time around. Think of it as a cautionary tale:

For over a week our church was everywhere. It was almost impossible not to notice us. We placed signs all over the area that simply asked the question, “What’s the Point?” A few days later, we hit the area with a 37,000 piece mailer that answered the question and invited people to our new series that kicked off that weekend.

That week we also had an article about us appear in the newspaper, as well as a quarter page ad that we had purchased ourselves. On Saturday, the day before our series began, we served in a very visible way at a big festival in town, giving away tickets to rides and manning a booth about our church. We literally had some kind of interaction with thousands of people in one way or another over the course of that week.

On Sunday morning there was shock. There was awe. And it was all on the faces of our team when we realized that the response from all of our “big splash” efforts was zero. Not one person showed up at our church as a result of our “shockeriffic” campaign. In fact, we didn’t have any visitors at all on that day. Our series was called, “What’s the Point?” and that was probably the question my team was asking themselves for the rest of the day.

Now of course, it might have been the wrong strategy, implemented in the wrong way – but that’s my point. “Shock & Awe” for us this time around is a part of our strategy, but it is definitely not our whole strategy.

For that, you’ll have to wait for a future post… 😀


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s