Some people start with core groups of 50 or more people, some US church planting books tell you not to launch the church until you are sure over 100 people will attend the launch. But what if your core group is six people? What if your mother church only has 50 people?
Here's some hints and tips on the very, very real situation of church planting, starting small:
1. Don't romanticise it
Starting small is hard and slow and tough. Don't kid yourself that it'll be easy and organic and awesome. It could just be lonely and draining.
2. Pace yourself
Be prepared for a slow, three year build up before you break through the 1-50 barrier. So keep your lamps trimmed and full of oil. You will need to have that kind of financial commitment from your mother church and personal commitment from your core team. Otherwise the whole thing will start to evaporate after the first year or two.
3. Keep an umbilical cord
It might seem weak to keep strong connections with a mother church, but to survive the early years it makes a great deal of sense. The mother church can support you with financial, pastoral and administrative support. The mother church can show enthusiasm for your ministry when it seems that no-one else cares.
4. Carry the church
In those early months and years the leader will need to carry the vision for the new church. I think it is best if there is one person who really owns and internalises the new church. If you share this vision out too quickly, the core team will become discouraged if they can't 'see' it. If you share out responsibility too wide, too soon, the core team will be burned out with tasks before they've seen any fruit. Best for the lead planter to carry a lot of the work and vision in the early days.
5. Learn the art of strategic transfer growth
Your ideal is evangelistic growth but most new church plants also involve a certain amount of transfer growth. Make sure you do this well, both in relating to other churches and in accepting the right kind of transfer growth. Sometimes it might be wise to proactively seek out some people to join you in the start-up.
6. Make the most of small
Figure out what things work best when you are small and major on these strengths. Make the most of shared meals, nicknames, Facebook, interactive services and other things that build camaraderie.
7. Don't start thinking small
Keep thinking and praying and planning beyond these early days. If you don't, the vision of the church will become less attractive to newcomers and it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. A new church plant should always try to punch above its weight.