Seizing gospel opportunities

Greetings, one and all.

Good news! You still have time to register for next week's Sydney and Brisbane Masterclasses, with Ed Stetzer. An American pastor and missiologist who has lectured at more Bible Colleges than you have had hot dinners, Ed also is a cultural expert who regularly features on Christianity Today, as well as CNN and USAToday. Ed will be sharing his research and wisdom on cultural changes in the Western World, to help church planters understand how best to minister to those around them.

After you have finished registering for the Sydney Masterclass or Brisband Masterclass, come back here to whet your appetite for what Ed is on about. Are you back? Great, because we have some important stuff to share with you – straight from Ed's brainbox.

4 out of 5 Australians accept Jesus?

During our most recent Planter Session – Geneva's monthly webinars that focus upon different church-planter topics – Ed discussed “Are Christmas and Easter losing their gospel edge?” with Scott Sanders. A vital question to answer, right? Especially with Easter celebrations being fresh in our minds and pews. Well, seats. Benches. Whatever. To get into all of what Ed had to say, you can view the whole Planter Session by clicking here.

One of the overarching points made by Ed, was that Australians already are warm to Christiianity. No, he wasn't just making that up. Based on Olive Tree Media and McCrindle research, it's official: four out of five Australians accept Jesus was real. Additionally, the majority of Australians have an affinity with identifying as Christian.

Although our society might not seem anything but hostile to the things of Christ, Ed noted how such research suggested otherwise. Also, statistics gathered by Lifeway Research – the US data-gatherers that has Ed as its executive director (how many things can one man be part of?) – revealed “that people are most open to spiritual conversations at Christmas and Easter – Christmas ranks highest, and Easter is second highest.” 

Seize the moments

You really, really, really should check out the full webinar to hear how Ed offers helpful categorisation of people, to shape a church-planter's approach to whomever attends a Christmas or Easter event. But one group in particular – the non-Christian – led Ed to make a strong declaration about how to maintain the gospel edge during Christianity's major annual celebrations.

“It's a cultural oddity to non-Christians,” said Ed about the idea of Easter or Christmas services. “They might want to come to see what Christmas is all about, like a Muslim person might invite us to Ramadan activities or a Jewish person to Passover activities.

“It's a cultural phenomenon that they may want to learn from. They might be less open [than some others], but not without opportunity.”

“As a pastor and a Christian, I lead my people and encourage them to seize these moments as gospel opportunities.”

 

For more, click here to watch “Are Christmas and Easter losing their gospel edge?”

– Ed. 

Countdown to launch

Greetings all,

Arguably the most stressful time in a church planting team's life will be the launch phase. The assembling of the right team members and the core support group, the months of planning leading up to the big day, the thousands of details associated with the event itself, the intense follow-up that follows…

Recently we received this email from the team over at Trinity South Coast in Victor Harbour, South Australia. They're currently celebrating their launch week:

It was a wonderful service. Around 190 were there in all, which is quite a lot different to our usual 40! Lots were visitors from other Trinity churches but many mentioned they were locals. Others said they were waiting for us to start up so they could come. Obviously our advertising & letterbox drops have helped … The core group has been kept extremely busy, and because several of us are not young, we have been praying for stamina & energy to get through it all!

You'll definitely have our prayers at Geneva central – and it's our intention to help guys like the Trinity South Coast team to have as successful and stress-free launch as possible. So this month we've been assembling a host of great launch resources for planters approaching that important day:

NEW Resources for Getting Started

  • A fresh new resource, Andrew Heard discusses with Mark Hadley what he think are the absolute, basic ABCs of Launching
  • Scott Sanders introduces to his 'top 5 resources areas' for planning a launch in Your One Stop Launch Shop
  • And because knowing what you're getting into is a top priority, we introduce you to a new tool for getting Your City's Ethnic Snapshot 

The Launch Team

Becoming visible

Meeting those who are actually doing it

And if that isn't enough for you, we'd encourage you to get along to one of the Ed Stetzer Masterclasses who will be doing a number of specialty workshops on engaging with the culture you hope to launch a church in – more on that in the coming weeks!

Happy clicking!

– Ed.

Your city’s ethnic snapshot

Preparing for your church launch? Nothing beats hard data – especially when it comes to understanding the ethnic make-up of your target audience.

We all may feel like we understand the community in which we live, but often our impressions are just reflections of the groups that we're personally associated with. If you happen to hail from an Anglo background it's possible you don't realise just how ethnically diverse your suburb is.

Small Multiples are data visualisation specialists based in Sydney and they have generated a series of scalable maps of Australia's capital cities that map our ethnic origins. The result is a highly useful 'snapshot' of not only the dominent ethnicity of each suburb, but the second and third-place getters as well. You'll be surprised to see just how low an English origin ranks in Australian society:

Click here for an ethnic snapshot of your capital city

Preparing to launch in an ethnically diverse suburb? It's worth bearing in mind that Australians are also born travellers. Anyone coming to your church might actually be crossing several suburbs to do so, so pay close attention to the suburbs around your target area as well.

And if you'd like more helpful information on building ethnically sensitive outreach we'd encourage you to take a look at our Resource Library's Multiculturalism and Ministry collection, as well as the talks from Multiply14 where developing ethnic ministries was the focal topic for the three day event.

God bless,

Scott Sanders

Defining your digital presence

Greetings all,

It's almost a no-brainer. You want to know about something, so you Google it. You arrive at a website, and depending on how good the result, you find out everything you want to know. Australians use the same process for evaluating products, events, destinations … and churches. But for such a 'no brainer' it's amazing how little brain-power ministries can devote to their digitial presence.

This month, as we concentrate on the millions of details that go into successfully launching a church, we want to draw your attention to two articles on making sure the digital doorway to your ministry is easy to find, unlock and walk through.

The first is from the website that makes no secret of the problems Christians create online, Church Marketing Sucks:

8 Ways Your Church Website Can Welcome First-Time Visitors Before They Arrive 

The key criticism is the lack of really basic information that non-Christians would ask about any event:

  1. How long is a church service going to be? (Not just start times, please!)
  2. What's the dress code? (Am I going to feel out of place in thongs?)
  3. What's it sound like? (That is, am I in for 'old-timey' hymns?)
  4. What about the kids? (Will they thank me for dragging them along?)
  5. Are multicultural people welcome? (And if so, does the website reflect that?)

There's also quite a few really helpful questions to ask about design, like:

Imagine it’s Sunday morning. A potential guest is running late. They jump in the car and go, only to realize they don’t remember exactly how to get to your church. At a stoplight they pull up your site on their phone to check for directions. Are they going to find what they need? Will your site even work on their mobile phone?

Read all about it at 8 Ways Your Church Website Can Welcome First-Time Visitors Before They Arrive

And while you're surfing the web, take a look at our second helpful pick for this month…

Four Things Churches Must Get Right with Digital Presence

Lifeway Church Tech & Media is another good site to keep an eye on and this article is actually the first in a series by Matt Morris who certainly knows what he's talking about – he serves US churches by developing multi-format digital strategies, including eBook, tablet, Internet and mobile applications. Matt has also authored church technology blogs for LifeWay, Pastors Today, Preaching Magazine, i4j and Church Tech Today.

So what is the first point he wants church planters to consider as they launch into a digital universe? Who it is they in particular are talking to…

Most traffic to your church website is from potential visitors and newcomers. Your site is a virtual welcome center, open 24/7/365. I’ll quantify a “visitor” as someone who has only been inside of your church three or fewer times. Visitors make decisions and form opinions of your church based on the information they see online. Often times, they ask themselves, “Will I/my family fit in?”

Who you are and what you are all about should be clear. Do you have a lot of young families in your church? Are you an ethnically diverse church? What is your worship style? Contemporary or traditional? What is your theology? You want visitors to know all about your church within seconds of being on your website. Subconsciously, they will form opinions about whether or not they will fit in based solely on your homepage content and images. If you have a contemporary worship style, don’t show a picture of an organ. And don’t show pictures of a bunch of young kids if your church represents an older demographic. Make content a true representation of your church.

Interested? Start your education at Four Things Churches Must Get Right with Digital Presence – Part 1

Happy clicking!

– Ed.

The Ed Stetzer Masterclass

Greetings all,

Ed Stetzer is one of the world's leading missiologists and he is coming to Australia in April to present a one day Master Class – in two locations!

Church leaders, missionaries, & theological students who are passionate to see the Gospel growing can benefit from Ed's research and insight in Sydney on April 20 and Brisbane on April 23.

On top of that, you can help us build the program!

Ed is offering to do a number of speciality workshops on top of his presentations Culture and the Unchanging Gospel, and they will be determined according to those the people registering want to hear most.

When you sign up you'll be able to choose three of the following:

  • Comeback Churches (key revitalisation church learning)
  • Transformational Discipleship (creating a culture of discipleship in your church)
  • Viral Churches (Obstacles to missional replication)
  • Bringing gospel to unreached and unengaged
  • Church Systems (mission, assimilation etc)
  • Church Growth (overcoming key growth barriers, key insights)
  • Healthy Churches (Transformational Church)
  • International Church Planting (learning from non-Western cultures
  • Church and Social Media

The topics that get the most votes will settle which three are on the agenda on each of the days, so sign up quickly and tailor these unique Masterclasses to your Missional needs!

Resources for Building Momentum in Church Plants

Hi there, one and all. Thanks for joining us. 

During this month's Planter Session about “Big Events That Actually Build Churches”, Vine Church pastor Toby Neal provided us with plenty of insights and experience around what it says in that Planter Session title. To view the whole “Big Events That Actually Build Churches” webinar, click here. You won't be disappointed.

As a taster to an entire discussion about church growth that you really should check out, keep reading. Because part of Toby's discussion with Scott Sanders included how to build momentum, as a church plant. During his reflection on the early stages of church life, Toby highlighted the first two.

By understanding what is going on during each stage, and who is involved, Toby says momentum can be better harnessed and directed – for the greater good of kingdom growth.

1. Family Church (3-35 members)

When small or “family church”, it is relationships within the congregation that hold it together. The pastor isn't as important during that phase. Proximity/depth of relationship is the glue. Toby advised being aware of this, and using it to the advantage of your fledgling church. “When you are a small church, you've got to capitalise on that. Have dinners every week. Go out to BBQs. Spend lots of time. When new people come, invite them into the life of that.” 

“I think that's the dynamic for growth.”

2. Pastoral (75-140)

The next stage of church life is the shift from “family church” to “pastoral church”. This stage is “more about [each member's] relationship with the pastor. You've moved from the congregation holding the church together, to the pastor holding it together.” Think of any church you'e been to, where the pastor does it all – baptisms, weddings, funerals and all things in between. Toby says that a church will never grow out of that stage, “if the pastor [continues to be] the most important person.”

To grow beyond this stage, Toby highlights how the church will be shifting from “organism” to “organisation”. Doing this requires the pastor and his team to “write more programs that don't depend upon [the pastor]. The body of Christ has to be lifted up, to do more.”

While this is a move back towards greater congregational involvement, it will be notably different to the “family church” stage (due to the changes to relational capacities and complexities). For more on building momentum, view Big Events That Actually Build Churches.

 

Extra resources

Toby cited two articles which he believes are most helpful to thinking about building momentum in your church plant – Rick Warren's “How to Break Through the 200-300 Attendance Barrier”, and Tim Keller's “Leadership and Church Size Dynamics” Chuckling about a “strange similarity between these two documents”, Toby promoted them because they do delve into the machinations of development and growth – within smaller churches. Click the links below, to access the articles.

To read the Rick Warren article, click here.

To read the Tim Keller article, click here. 

 

– Ed.

6 Steps To Pulling Off A Big Church Event

Greetings, one and all

Were you part of our most recent Planter Session? This month's webinar focused on Big Events That Actually Build Churches and Toby Neal – pastor at Sydney's Vine Church – took us through that huge, helpful topic. If you joined in that rich discussion, you already would know that Toby provided us all with a checklist for putting together a Big Event. For those who missed it or weren't quick enough to take notes, below is Toby's quick guide to event planning at churches. 

Because you'll be left wanting more of Toby's wisdom and advice on this topic, click here to view the whole Big Events That Actually Build Churches webinar.

1. Plan – in advance. A looooooong way, in advance

Using the launch of Vine Church as an example, Toby stressed that planning a week or four in advance isn't enough when putting on a Big Event. You need plenty of lead time, so all the various elements of your event can be given their due. “Plan it well out and plan it as a big, special event.”

2. What is everybody else doing?

“When people get together in your area, how do they celebrate?” is a key question that should be asked. Appealing to the celebration modes of those in your community, should help you reach and attract them. Toby provided a few examples: If you're in a posh suburb, perhaps a string quartet and champagne is the best way to celebrate. But iff you're in a beachside town, maybe a BBQ, thongs and “a dredlocked guy playing a guitar” is the better mode of celebration. And once you've worked out how your local people celebrate, Toby added an additional incentive for the Big Event you are going to put on: “Do it well.”

3. Pay for the event, not print-outs 

“I consider these events as our best marketing opportunities,” says Toby. “If people come and enjoy themselves, they will return and give us a hearing.” As such, Toby recommends putting more money into funding Big Events, rather than traditional print campaigns (ie flyers or brochures, for letterboxing). Vine Church has had more positive stories emerge from church members inviting their friends to Big Events, rather than the distribution of materials.

4. Event manager to manage your event

“In your church, find the person who can run events.” Simple, really. Recruit that faithful and available person who is good with logistics, details and communications (especially when the Big Event is happening).

5. Share and showcase your event with everyone

Toby is a big believer in hiring quality photographers, to take top snaps of your Big Event. Why? Because sharing photos via social media, has been fantastic publicity for Vine Church. “Photos are one of the most powerful things. We put them up on Facebook and they get the most traction, of any of our communications. They showcase what we are on about at our church.”

6. Do the follow-up

Don't just plan how you are going to spruik, organise and run your Big Event. What are you going to do afterwards? Particularly if, God willing, you have visitors who would love to know more about what your church is all about.  “Our whole follow-up processes; we've really worked hard at that,” says Toby. “It's probably one of the best things we do at our church.” Toby recommends coordinating church staff and members “to do prompt, personal and practical follow-up.”

 

For many more helpful hints and theological reflection upon doing stuff at your church, check out Big Events That Actually Build Churches. 

– Ed.

6 Resources To Help You Avoid Church Planting Reefs

Greetings, everyone.

We kicked off the new year with a Planter Session about “Church Planting Reefs” (click here to view the entire discussion). During the enlightening discussion between Scott Sanders and Geneva Push Coaching Director Craig Tucker, about how to navigate the various pitfalls and perils of church planting, they recommended several resources. Read on, for a quick yet considered check-list of resources that can help any church planter to be aware – and strive to steer clear – of those hazardous reefs. 

As a terrific place to dive in, Scott reckons that you can't go past Ed Stetzer's Planting Missional Churches book. It's a top read,  and is great to dip into, for guidance on different areas of church planting. To give you a strong taste of how helpful Ed can be, when it comes to avoiding potential perils of church planting, click here to download a copy of 7 Top Issues Church Planters Face. This article is a condensed version of Ed's thoughts, and should entice you to wanting to read more in Planting Missional Churches.

During the “Church Planting Reefs” session, Scott highlighted Ed's “7 Top Issues” article. He also strongly recommended Tom Nebel and Gary Rohrmayer's book Church Planting Landmines: Mistakes To Avoid in Years 2 Through 10. Long title, terrific resource, that records many first-hand stories and then thinks through some of the possible solutions. Most helpful for understanding key issues that any planter may face, during the first decade of church life. 

Click here to download the first chapter of Church Planting Landmines: Mistakes to Avoid In Years 2 Through 10

Other recommended titles include Tim Keller's Center Church (good BUT very detailed; Click here to read more about Center Church) and Craig is a big fan of Lyle Schaller's 44 Questions For Church Planters. Although this was published a while ago, and has dated, Craig suggests that just reading the 44 questions – and mulling them over – can aid your avoidance of potential reefs. Click here to check out 44 Questions For Church Planters.

Finally, Scott and Craig recommend two Bible Study series. The Good Book Company has put out “Gospel Centred Church”, which can be a good series for your core team to think through mission and church, together. Click here to access Gospel Centred Church.

As Clayton Fopp, one of Geneva's coaches, was preparing his own core team, he created a “Lessons for New Churches” Bible Study series. Click here to access Lessons for New Churches.

Plenty for you to tuck into, as you prayerfully endeavour to guard yourself, your leadership team, and congregation, against the devastation of “Church Planting Reefs”.

– Ed.

Good coaches make the difference

Greetings all,

Geneva Push has made no secret of how important we think coaching is in the life of the church planter. Assessment is a great start to any new work, for the planter as well as the plant. However it's not just about finding good ground and a good model for your new congregation. The pastor has to be watered as much as his congregation. Under God, this is where a Geneva coach comes in. 

Our network teams up new planters with trained coaches drawn from similar areas of ministry. They regularly meet with the planter to not only problem-solve the planting isses that arise, but to help them to grow and gain maturity as ministers of the Gospel. And since the Geneva network is growing rapidly, it's not surprising that we're looking for more mature pastors to be trained up as Gospel coaches. 

This month we're devoting our website to all things coaching, and in particular those resources that will help every pastor consider their role as a Gospel coach. You may be planting in virgin territory, developing the reach of your congregation or reviving a work that has long struggled – it doesn't matter. As Andrew Heard puts it, “Every minister should be coaching,” – and every minister can benefit from becoming a coach.

So, if you're feeling your way through the topic let us suggest you start with these great articles:

For those of you struggling to separate coaching, mentoring, discipling etc. and what each means in the life of a Christian, check out:

We also have some important words of wisdom on the subject from two stand-out Geneva coaches:

Excited by the potential of Gospel Coaching yet? We are, and so this is the year that Craig Tucker will be taking on Geneva's coaching ministry. For this month's Planter Session he talked with Scott Sanders about the various Church planter reefs that can wreck a ministry, which coaches can help people avoid. Craig is also running coaching clinics where you can pick up the best skills for coaching members of your own ministry team. They're running in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth so don't miss out!

Yours in Him,

– Ed.

Church Planting Reefs: More Questions Answered

Greetings, all

Church planting can be a dangerous undertaking. So many “reefs” can crop up, to obstruct or shipwreck your work, your colleagues, or your own faith. Geneva Push Coaching Director Craig Tucker spoke about navigating “Church Planting Reefs” during our first Planter Sessi

on for 2015.

For Craig's full discussion with Scott Sanders, click here to view Church Planting Reefs.

Among the key issues discussed by Craig and Scott are sex, money, and power, and how they can impact a planter's personal growth, inhibit leadership development, cause mission drift and hamper teams.

Because this is such a vital and far-reaching topic, we were unable to put all of your questions to Craig, during the Planter Session. That's the bad news. The good news is Craig kindly agreed to answer those questions. Read on, for more helpful wisdom about navigating the waters surrounding “Church Planting Reefs”. 

 

YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED

1. DUVINH: During the Planter Session, you said that you speak to each visitor about whether or not your church is a good fit for them. But isn't church a place where Jesus welcomes all? (I do realise the wisdom of talking to those who have had problems with their previous church).

CRAIG'S RESPONSE: Great question. Two thoughts. 

First thought: Jesus is not always welcoming. As I look at Jesus, he is welcoming to the broken and the sinner, but not to the self-righteous (refer to his rant in Matthew 23) or those who will not wholeheartedly follow (like the bloke in Luke 18:18-30; see also Luke 9:57-62). Jesus loves people by challenging them to repent where they need to. When someone wants to join a new church or launch team, having left a previous church with issues they have not dealt with, it is (1) bad for them; (2) bad for the new church, where the same unrepented issues may emerge; and (3) bad for the previous church as they are robbed of the opportunity to reconcile. If you encourage people to come to you because you put on a slightly “better show” than the Bible-believing church down the road that they currently attend, all you do is affirm them in their consumer mindset (the opposite of a servant mindset), as you also fill your own church with consumer-minded Christians. You will reap the whirl-wind in years to come. 

Second thought: We need to distinguish kingdom membership from church membership. If I discourage someone from churching with me because it's not the particular church that is most helpful for them – there could be a bunch of reasons why, such as distance – I am not saying they don't belong to Jesus. It's just that this church is not best for them. We should distinguish the “whosoever” invitation to salvation that Jesus offers to all, from my democratic right as a consumer to church shop wherever and whenever I want to. 

 

2. MARK: Being accountable to someone, to avoid the “Church Planting Reefs”, is best. Should that be someone in the pastor's Church or outside?

CRAIG'S RESPONSE: I reckon outside. To have someone you shepherd, take on that accountability role, can confuse your role and their role. 

Honesty is the great enemy of accountability working well. The reason we, as leaders, need this kind of accountability is that we are prone to pretend and conceal our sin from others. It is an immensely strong temptation, because of the expectations of church leadership being a model to the flock. It will tempt you to pretend even more than otherwise, if your accountability partner is someone at church. 

 

3. JOSHUA: Do you have any suggestions about how to set up a church constitution, in a way to guard against these dangers?

CRAIG'S RESPONSE: I think Scott can answer this. Outside my skill set!

SCOTT'S RESPONSE: I am happy to speak with anyone, in more detail, about any of the legal and technical documents necessary for starting a congregation in Australia. Click here to email me. Also, Andrew Heard has walked us through how to “Get Governance Right First Go”. Click here to access that instructive, practical resource.

 

4. SEBASTIAN: How do you take an existing church and plant into it?

CRAIG'S RESPONSE: Not sure what you are asking, mate. There are models for planting new chuches in old buldings, for revitalising old churches with a team from outside. While these can be valuable ministries, I wouldn't call the latter “church planting”. But that's really just to quibble about definitions. I intend to do a blog post later in the year on various models like the ones mentioned here, with a “Strengths and Weaknesses” comparison. Stay tuned!

 

5. RACHEL: Church plants always struggle with leaders and leadership… What have been the challenges of developing leaders? 

CRAIG'S RESPONSE: Savvy question Rachel. Wow… this sounds like a whole webinar on its own. I'm going to duck this for now.  

 

No need to duck the question, Craig. The Planter Sessions already has covered that topic. Click here to check out “Building Effective Leadership Teams”.

For more excellent and practical assistance, don't miss out on the next Planter Sessions: Click once to register for 'Big Events That Actually Build Churches.'

 

– Ed.