Here’s an edited extract from an email conversation Scott Sanders had with Toby Neal (Vine Church) and Jai Wright (Mackay Evangelical) in the weeks after their successful plants in Surry Hills, NSW and Mackay, QLD…

Hi Toby and Jai. How’s things t

ravelling at weeks 2 and 3 after launch? How’ve you gone following newcomers up?

Toby: Going really well. Over 50 people there on Sunday. Feels like we’re gaining momentum. Everyone is very excited. We need more space. We’ve got two options: move or start a second congregation in a local pub (my preference).

Follow up is ok. We’re looking at getting Church Community Builder to help out with it a bit more. We’re not doing great at getting comment cards filled in though, and we need to start taking a collection.

Scott: Jai, Jay-ellen’s prayer wrote to us, “The first Sunday after the launch we had four new adults come!  Praise God!  And lots of conversations during the week about the flyers, newspaper article – we’re on the map!

Jai, you had 40 the first week and 35 next week for MAKE. Toby, at Vine Church – 140 then 50. Was it a larger supporter base? More people known in Sydney (a large city) vs. Mackay (a regional city)?

What can we learn from both MAKE and Vine launches?’

Toby: We had 150+ first week. Most were friends and family. Over the past couple of weeks some of them have come back, but we have had others from elsewhere come in. We did do a mass letterbox drop – 12,000+ – but I don’t actually think it was that successful. We perhaps had ten people come through it, and thus far only three have really connected.

One thing that the launch did was create a bunch of noise for our church. As a result our team got excited and invited their friends because they could see all the energy we were putting in: graphic design, postcards, Facebook, Twitter, music, catering etc.

I think we probably had more than Jai because we’re already connected in Sydney. The vast majority of the 150+ were friends and family of people in our church. Every member brought on average 2-3 people with them.

I also think our preaching series has been really helpful to invite people along. It wasn’t gimmicky, but fits into the kind of church we want to be: one where we can ask tough and honest questions about faith and spirituality.

Things to learn:

• Start with a series that seeks to converse with the questions of people in the community.
• Throw a party. We got a caterer and had alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks.
• Explain to your people that we’re already a church, and we’re just taking our church public, letting the city know that we’re hear and serious about speaking to them about faith and spirituality.
• Make it shorter and more accessible than usual.
• Tap in to media outlets. Create a Facebook event, post regular updates on Facebook and Twitter, ask popular blogs to blog it, send out media releases to local papers and radio, get good quality graphic design that fits the people you are reaching out to.
• Pray. We had two prayer meetings on the two Monday nights prior to the event. Additionally in our community groups we had been praying for three friends to invite to the event.

Scott: Toby, very helpful. Jai?

I think Toby has some great thoughts in there about how to launch well.

Interesting picking up some of the differences between our contexts from what Toby has said.

Really I think we’re in a lot earlier stage here in Mackay – launching to gather a launch team, who’ll be ready to re-launch down the track.  We had 30 people on launch day and have had average of 20 people each week since. We’ve got twelve adults coming along regularly now and another five or so who look like they might be regular attendees.

We were working towards the launch with seven adults (including Jay and I).  Only one guy out of those seven has any family in town and over half the team has only been in Mackay since January. So we’re not drawing on the same relational base and this is maybe typical of people in Mackay where people only live here five to six years on average. 

In the end, I think that only people Jay and I had invited came along to the launch.  We’ve only had three adults come along from flyers (we put out 10,000), but two of those three have connected really well and I think I’d like to hold off before I make too much judgment about the effectiveness, until we’ve put out three or four lots of flyers. We plan to put them out every three months or so – I see it’s a way of trying to develop a relationship with 10,000 people. Anecdotally we’ve heard of a few friends who got flyers and though they didn’t make it to church, it’s moved them a step closer.

We didn’t do as much advertising for the launch as Toby, mainly cause we didn’t have the manpower to pull it off.  It was personal invites, website, 10,000 flyers, a few signs out the front of the building on Sunday and a newspaper article after the event.

Also, an advantage of being small is that follow up is heaps easier 😉 We’ve had one or two new people each week for the last two months. It’s been pretty easy to direct them to our visitors book and to be able to follow up on a one to one basis as suits them.

In terms of prayer, we’ve got over a hundred people receiving prayer updates fortnightly and at least six churches praying regularly for the work, with lots of reports of people praying for us.  We also had two prayer meetings as a team leading up to the launch.  So I guess I was expecting pretty big things of God – we were praying for 40 adults and 30 kids at the launch.  Naturally I was a bit disappointed with the outcome, but in reality we can see God’s wisdom in sending us a slow drip of new people rather than a big mass of people at once.

Realistically it’s what we’ve been able to manage as a family and as a launch team.  But helpful to be having this conversation about the practical aspects of launching which God so often uses to do his work.

Scott: Thanks for the insights. We’ll continue to pray for you both.