Launch Conference, Part 4: Developing a Launch Strategy

Searcy and Thomas were pretty serious about having a strategy for your Launch. They defined a strategy like this:

A Strategy is simply a logical plan to get you from where you are to where God wants you to be.

They said that a good strategy will clarify and quantify what you’re trying to accomplish. And then they gave us Eight Key Elements of a Start-Up Strategy:

1. Purpose, Mission, and Vision Statement
  • Purpose Statement – How you will do it.
  • Mission Statement – What you will do.
  • Vision Statement – What it will look like to do it.
2. Core Values
  • What makes your church unique?
  • The Core Values are the filters through which you do ministry and make decisions.
  • Ken Blanchard says that no organization should have more than 10 values and as few as 5 or 6.
3. Strategic Aim
  • States what the specific aim of your strategy is. What are you trying to do?
  • “Our strategic aim is to effectively launch a new church in Great City, USA, on the second Sunday in September, 2007, with 300 in attendance and average 215 people in weekly attendance during the month of October.”
4. Major Objectives
  • These are the large objectives of your launch strategy.
  • For a church Launch, this includes:
              a. Preparation
              b. Pre-Launch
              c. Launch
              d. Post-Launch
  • Eventually you will determine the specific tasks to accomplish each major objective.
5. Goals
  • Goals have to be accomplished to achieve major objectives.
  • Goals are a subcategory of Major Objectives.
6. Tasks
  • Tasks are clear actions that have to be taken
  • Determining specific tasks makes it easier to get people to help you. You can be very specific about what you need a person to do.
7. Calendar
  • Put all the major objectives, goals, and tasks on a calendar
8. Budget

They made a special note that Objectives, Goals, and Tasks should be S.M.A.R.T.

S – Specific
  • All of the statements in your strategy need to be written in as precise language as possible. Avoid generalities.
M – Measurable
  • Make sure that you have some kind of gauge for measuring the accomplishment of each objective, goal, and task.
A – Attainable
  • Break your statements into small enough bites that each one is realistically attainable. You can stretch, but don’t overextend!
R – Relevant
  • Make each statement relative to the one that precedes it. For example, all tasks under Goal 1 should be directly relevant to Goal 1.
T – Time Bound
  • Put a projected completion date on every task, goal, and major objective.


Launch Conference, Part 3: The Call to Start a Church

The third section of my notes from The Launch Conference is called Calling: The Call to Start a Church. This was probably one of the most significant sessions for me personally.

They started this section by asking this question:

"Do you know for sure that you are undeniably called by God to start a church?"

After giving us a few seconds to wrestle with that question, they began to talk about improper and proper sources of calling.

Sources of Improper Calling
  • Unemployment (“No church will hire me, so God must be calling me to start a church.”
  • Anger about something (e.g., about your denomination, about a church, etc.).
  • Anger at your Senior Pastor (“I’ll show him [or her] how successful I can be!”).
  • It’s easier than searching for another ministry position.
  • Ego. A lot of pastors want to do something that will make them look good or important—like church-planting. (Ken Blanchard refers to ego as “Edging God Out”).
  • Church-planting is kind of cool nowadays.
Sources of Proper Calling
  • Prayer and Bible study.
  • Surprise (i.e., God surprises you with the call to start a church; it’s not something you ever expected).
  • Holy discontent (Admittedly, it can be hard to distinguish between holy discontent and frustration about something in your denomination or church).
  • Strong burden for the lost.
  • Godly counsel (others have confirmed that God may be calling you to start a church).

Next, they talked about The Four Calls of a Church Planter.

1. My call as to start a church.
  • Keep a journal as you start the church and discern God’s calling. Later, when you get discouraged, looking back through this journal will be a source of encouragement to you.
2. My spouse’s call to start a church.
  • If you’re married, your spouse needs to be called, too.
  • Your spouse’s call may not come at the same time. It may come earlier than yours or it may come later.
  • Since God has made the two of you one in marriage, God will speak to both of you. He won’t say one thing to one and something else to the other.
3. Our call to a specific place to start a church.
  • God’s call to start a church is usually a call to a specific place.
  • God prepares a place for you and prepares you for a place.
  • When you go to that place, it will feel like this is what God created you for.
4. Our call to reach a specific people.
  • In any place you go, there are many different kinds of people.
  • God will call you to reach one of those people groups.
  • However, just because you have the heart for a people group, that doesn’t mean you’ve been called to reach them. Your call may be to support someone else who is called. Or to find someone else who has been called.

And here are four questions they said to ask yourself as you consider starting a church:

1. Is your calling clear?
2. Has your calling been confirmed by others?
3. Are you humbled by your call?
4. Have you taken action on your call?

And then they concluded by talking about Answering the Call: Preparation. They discussed three ways in which we need to prepare to answer God’s call:

1. Prepare to lead.
  • Growing churches have growing leaders. Make sure you’re always growing.
  • All leaders are readers. In other words, read lots of books. Or listen to podcasts. Or listen to CD’s. Or wahtever way you best absorb information.
  • A quote I liked: “God, help me become the leader I need to be to lead this church to the next level.”
2. Prepare to teach.
  • You will be the primary voice for the vision.
  • Listen to people who are great communicators.
  • Have people evaluate your teaching.
  • Our message is too important for people to miss it because we lack clarity in our communication.
  • Videotape yourself so you can watch and evaluate yourself.

There you go. Coming up next—Strategy: Developing a Launch Strategy.

Hollywood's "Living Water"

Tom Shadyac (pictured below) is cool. Tom Shadyac is the director of movies like Liar, Liar, Patch Adams, and Bruce Almighty. Tom Shadyac is a Christian.

His Christian worldview is fairly evident in movies like Liar, Liar, Accepted (which he produced), and especially Bruce Almighty.

But Tom Shadyac does more than include Christian themes in his movies. Tom Shadyac has started a non-profit bottled water company called HtoO, which stands for "Hope to Others." 100%--not 50% or 75%, but 100%--of the profits go to charities like St. Jude's Research Hospital, Habitat for Humanity, Operation Smile, The Salvation Army, etc. (Click here for a complete list of HtoO charities.)

I love the fact that Tom Shadyac is using his position in Hollywood not only to present a Christian worldview in his movies, but also to make a difference in the lives of those who are hungry, thirsty, sick, and outcast (see Matthew 25:31-46).


New Lauch Conference post...

For some reason, my most recent post (Launch Conference, Part 2: Eighty Contrarian Ideas) showed up below my last post (Baby Watson #2). Anyway, click here for my second Launch Conference post.


Baby Watson #2

Man, I've turned into a posting fiend again, haven't I?!

Anyway, I've got great news! Some of you will remember that Robin and I had a miscarriage last fall. That was tough. But there's always life after death, and today we got to see the first pictures of the new life that's growing inside of Robin!

Introducing Baby Watson #2!!

Launch Conference, Part 2: Eight Contrarian Ideas

Ok, next section from the Launch Conference….

These are the 8 Contrarian Church Launching Ideas. What that means is that these are ideas that are true of church planting, but don’t necessarily seem intuitive. Here are those ideas:

1. Your call to start a church is the most critical factor to the church’s success.
  • It will be hard. You’ll feel like giving up at times. But the conviction of your call will sustain you.
2. Don’t be afraid to raise funds from other churches.
  • Pursue all avenues for raising funds: individuals, churches, mission organizations, etc.
3. Build your new church from the outside in.
  • Here, Nelson Searcy drew the five concentric circles that Rick Warren talks about in The Purpose-Driven Church. At the center is your Core group. Then moving outward: Committed, Congregation, Crowd, and Community.
  • Don’t start by building your Core. If you do, they will become too inward-focused.
  • Build up from the Community and move them in toward becoming the Core.
4. Resist the temptation to do everything at first.
  • Don’t try to do everything when you start. You’ll spread yourself and your church too thin.
  • Focus on doing one thing well—in the case of a new church, the weekend service.
  • In the early days of the church, don’t do small groups.
5. Use 3-6 monthly worship services to build up to weekly services.

6. Don’t try to gather the churched; stay focused on the unchurched.
  • Church planting is about reaching the unchurched.
7. You can start a church much faster than you think.
  • You can start within 4-9 months of moving into the area God has called you to reach.
8. You can grow a church much faster than you think.


Looking Down

I found this cartoon over on CartoonChurch (which I discovered through Kyle's link over on Vindicated). I thought it was great--definitely a "stretchychurch" concept.

cartoon from www.weblogcartoons.com

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

And we do this in the church, don't we? Instead of helping people get on the lift, we look down on them for not yet having gotten on it.

Launch Conference, Part 1: Three Key Launch Ideas

The Launch Conference is over. And as I said, it was a really great conference!

A few days ago, I mentioned that I’m not yet sure if I’ll end up doing a church plant or go to an established church, but the great thing about this conference was that a lot of the information was absolutely transferable to an established church setting.

What I want to do is give you some of the notes from the conference. You may be asking, to quote Nute Gunray, “Is that legal?” In response, let me quote Darth Sidious: “I will make it legal!”

I’m in a bit of a giddy mood, I think…

Seriously, though, folks… Nelson Searcy and Kerrick Thomas urged us to post as much of this information on our blogs as we want. They want this information getting out. In fact, one of the responsibilities of a leader, they said, is to share what we learn with other leaders.

So here goes… After some general opening comments on the need and significance of church planting, and following a summary of their experience in launching The Journey Church, Searcy and Thomas shared Three Key Launch Ideas. They are:

1. Launch large
  • The larger the initial launch of the new church, the better the chance that the church will grow.
  • “Large” is a relative term. In one region, 200 people might be a large launch, while in another region, a large launch might be 50. It all depends on the culture and the context of that area.
  • “God’s dream for your church is bigger than your dream.”

2. Launch quickly
  • The odds of successful growth increase for those churches who launch quickly. In other words, don’t get stuck overanalyzing your area or your target or whatever. Don’t wait two years to launch. You can launch successfully within 5-9 months.
  • The longer you wait, the more excuses Satan will put before you not to launch.
  • “There is always going to be a reason to postpone launching your church. Conditions will never be perfect.”

3. Launch from the outside in
  • In other words, it’s possible to launch with only the pastor, the worship leader, and their spouses as the only Christians on the initial launch team.
  • It is absolutely possible for the initial launch team to be made up largely of unchurched people.
  • “It is completely possible to launch a church in which the only Christians on the initial team are the staff.”

There you go! Page 1 (technically, it’s page 6, but whatever…) of my notes from the Launch Conference. Stay tuned for 8 Contrarian Church Launching Ideas.

The Church and Homosexuality

This is a pretty big issue these days. How should the church relate to homosexuals? I mean really relate to them in a way that is Christlike,

Ted over at Stragglingband has posted some compelling thoughts on this question. Check out his post here.


Airport Lovin'!

I just got home and, believe it or not I just finished Blue Like Jazz. I have to admit, I loved it. I liked Miller's style and I like where he was coming from. But I'm not gonna get into that right now.

There’s something else that I gotta share. (I wrote what follows while I was waiting for my flight back in New York.)

I’ve been feeling convicted lately that I don’t connect with people enough in my day-to-day life. I’m not talking about friends and people I already know. It’s easy for me to connect with them. I’m talking about strangers.

I first started feeling this way when I went to the Revolution conference in Seattle with D.G. back in November. If you know, D.G., the guy is crazy. He’ll be standing next to someone at the urinal and end up getting their life story before they flush and top it all off by letting them know how much Jesus loves them.

He was like that on our trip to Seattle and it amazed me and convicted me.

Usually, when I fly somewhere I think to myself, “Sweet! I’ve got 5 hours of uninterrupted reading!!” D.G. thinks, “Sweet! 5 hours of talking to someone and making them feel loved!!”

So, as I prepared for this trip to New York, I’ve been thinking that I need to at least take some small steps to make people feel cared about in some way.

This was my plan: I would say to whoever I was sitting next to, “So, are you heading toward home or away from home.” Hey, that’s a pretty good pick-up line if you ask me! Especially considering my tendency is to start reading as soon as I sit down and hope they don’t start talking to me, robbing me of my precious reading time.

Well, that idea hasn’t worked out quite yet. On both legs of my flight to New York I was the only person in my row. But I still wanted to take some small steps to connect with people on this trip.

One of the things I did as we were waiting to take off from New York back to Cincinnati (which hasn’t yet happened—I’m back sitting in the waiting area almost four hours after my flight was supposed to leave) was to make some small talk with the flight attendant.

She was being very patient while we all sat there for an hour waiting for the strobe light on the plane to get fixed. People were frustrated, often taking it out on her. I said to her, “This is the hard part of your job, isn’t it?”

She smiled and said, “No.” Then she said, “Well, actually it is, because I don’t get paid for this time—flight time only.” I told her I thought that sucked and kept chatting for a few minutes.

After I got transferred to another airline, I went to check in and one of the employees—an elderly Indian or Pakistani man—saw the book I was reading, Blue Like Jazz. He asked if it was a book about jazz and I told him that, no, it was a book about spirituality.

At this point, I probably would have ended the conversation. But I thought to myself, I need to follow up on this. So I asked him, “Are you a jazz fan?”

He said he was.

I said I didn’t know much about jazz, but there was a neat quote in the beginning of the book about jazz. So, he came over and read it. Here’s the quote:

I never liked jazz music because jazz music doesn’t resolve. But I was outside the Bagdad Theater in Portland one night when I saw a man playing the saxophone. I stood there for fifteen minutes, and he never opened his eyes.

After that I liked jazz music.

Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way.

I used to not like God because God didn’t resolve. But that was before any of this happened.

The man smiled as he read this and then wrote down the name of the book and the author, Donald Miller. And then he went on to tell me all about the jazz musicians he loves and which ones he’s seen in person and which ones his friend had played with. And then he had to leave.

What excites me about this encounter is not the fact that I talked to him or that I showed him the book. What excites me is that God took my wimpy, little attempt at hospitality and blessed it. This man who quite possibly subscribes to Eastern spirituality (an assumption based on a stereotype, I know...) might read this book on Christian spirituality and might encounter Jesus in it.

I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty awesome!


New York, New York!

Had a great day today!

The conference didn't start till 1:00 p.m., so I took the morning to do a little sightseeing. I took the bus and the subway to get into Manhattan. I had intended to go straight to Ground Zero, but misread the directions the hotel gave me, so I ended up at Times Square.

Which was totally fine. I hadn't been at Times Square before, so I walked around a little, took some pictures, and then jumped back on the subway after about ten minutes.

It wasn't far to Ground Zero. I had been to the top of the World Trade Center on a short trip to New York when I was in college, so I was anxious to see this place again.

When I stepped onto the street from the subway, the first thing I saw was that iconic cross made of two steel beams that had been fused together in the heat of 9/11. I saw it and got choked up.

Half a block down the street was Ground Zero. It was amazing to see. I looked up at the sky and tried to imagine how high I would have been standing on the top floor of the World Trade Center fifteen years ago. I spent time looking at the artwork in the viewing area. I read the timeline of events on 9/11. I looked at pictures that had been drawn by children for their daddies and mommies and aunts and uncles who died that day.

That last part was the most emotional part for me. As a dad, I kept thinking about my son Micah. I never, ever want to lose him, or be lost to him. I can't imagine the pain of losing your daddy or being the spouse left behind.

I spent about half an hour at Ground Zero, and then took a cab back to my hotel so that I could get to the conference on time.

The conference itself is great!

It's being led almost entirely by Nelson Searcy and Kerrick Thomas, pastors of The Journey Church, a church that launched in Manhattan in early 2002 and now has around 1000 in attendance.

Here's what they've talked about so far:
  1. The Journey Story - how The Journey Church got started
  2. Introduction - Launch large, Launch quickly, and Launch from the outside in
  3. 8 Contrarian Ideas - 8 church-planting ideas that may not seem intuitive, but are true
  4. Calling - Do you know for sure that you are undeniably called by God to start a church?
  5. Strategy - Developing a launch strategy
  6. Funding - Raising funds to launch a church
  7. Staffing - building a staff from scratch
Like I said, great stuff. Information that applies mostly to new churches, but much of which is also transferable to existing congregations. I'll fill you in on some more of the details from these sessions in the next week or so.

Tomorrow, I'll be at the conference from 9:00 a.m - 4:00 p.m., and then I head back home to Cincinnati.

Till then, enjoy these pictures from my trip to Manhattan this morning.

Aw, yeah! The view from my hotel room in Queens.

Times Square

Had to prove I was there!

Ok, as a native Californian, it's just kinda weird to see a Quiksilver boardriders store in downtown New York. Not exactly for hodads (since there's no surfing in New York--that I know of), but can you say "poser"?

The Cross.

One of the children's pictures.

Construction at Ground Zero


Church-leaving and Church-planting

So here's what's going on in my life.

I'm the Associate Pastor at Union Presbyterian Church, working primarily with the youth ministry. But you already knew that (some of you, anyway). Last May our Senior Pastor resigned, leaving me as the only pastor on staff. It was challenging, but also a time of significant personal growth for me. While I didn't hold the title, "Head of Staff," I essentially served in that role. In that time, I grew in confidence in my ability and calling to serve a church as the lead pastor.

In August, I told our Session (our governing board) that I'd be willing to consider serving as UPC's Interim Pastor. The Session was in favor of it, but the Presbytery (the regional governing body) said they wouldn't approve that. They suggested it would be good for someone to come in from the outside to help the church work through some of its history and challenges.

And I can definitely see the value in that.

Add to all this the fact that our church is having a tough time financially and can now afford to keep only one pastor. Since I couldn't stay on as Interim Pastor, that meant that I would have to leave this church.

Well, at that point, it became clear that God was carving out a new path for me and my family. So, I started looking for a new position, looking primarily for Head of Staff positions.

In the past year, I've begun to develop an interest in church planting, so, in addition to seeking positions at established churches, I also submitted my resume to presbyteries that are starting new churches.

So, here's what has happened with all of that. I've been in touch with two churches over the past several months (one of them more seriously in the past couple weeks). One is a New Church Development (that's what us Presbyterians call a church plant); the other is an established congregation. Both have their pros and cons. Both will be challenging. Both, I believe, will be rewarding. Both--including the established church--are looking for someone with an interest in church planting.

And I'm waiting to see what happens--circling the destination, so to speak, waiting for my clearance to land. Except I'm not sure which one is my destination. Come to think of it, it's totally possible that neither of these is my destination. In any case, I'm waiting--waiting for God to say, "Go!" And when he does, I'll go.

At this moment, I'm lying on my bed in my hotel room in New York City with my laptop on top of my lap, watching Firewall on HBO (man, intense movie!). Tomorrow I walk down the street to attend The Launch Conference: Starting a New Church from Scratch. (The guys doing this conference have got some pretty good, practical podcasts on their site. Check them out here.)

I'm really looking forward to what I'll learn at this conference--regardless of whether I end up in a New Church Development or an established church. As a shrinking denomination, I believe the PC(USA) needs church planters. I believe it needs new churches and it needs renewed churches.

So, anyway, that's what's going on right now. I'll let you know how the conference goes.

Oh, yeah--one more thing. I just started reading Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller. I've heard good things about this book. I've heard bad things. The flight attendant on my first leg today told me it was a great book. My friend, Ted, on the other hand, felt differently. Check out his thoughts here. In all honesty, I love it so far!

One year of StretchyChurch!

Yeah, yeah... I know I'm slacking.

But I absolutely had to post today. Why? Because today--January 21, 2007--is the one year anniversary since the launch of StretchyChurch!

That's right, one year ago today was my first post ever. For a little trip back in time, click here. Much of what I said then is still true. But I've also grown in some ways--and if I can get myself to start posting again you'll pick up on what those things are!


When God works through us...

Ministry can be pretty thankless work. You put everything you've got into what God has called you to do, and the best you can hope for every now and then is to hear someone say, "Good sermon, this morning."

And then there are times when you discover that God is really doing something through you! This happened to me after church today.

I was having a conversation with a couple of guys at my church--well, it was more like they were having the conversation and I was listening! They were talking about the business world--which I haven't really had a lot of experience in--and how difficult and frustrating it can be as a Christian.

One of the guys--I'll call him Steve--was talking about how his company had once instructed him to fire an employee who was beginning to show signs of epilepsy. They said that it was too expensive to keep him on with all the medical expenses the company would incur! To me, that's unbelievable! But then, I live much of my life in church-land.)

Against his better judgment (and fear of being fired himself) Steve did end up firing the man--who then had a heart attack soon after being fired!

After they found out about the heart attack, one of Steve's supervisors poked his head into Steve's office, gave him a thumbs up, and said with a smile and wink, "Boy! We sure dodged that bullet didn't we!" Meaning, of course, the company avoided even more medical expenses for the man who'd been fired.

Steve, however, felt awful about, not only this situation, but others like it. Eventually, he left the company.

After telling this story, Steve turned to me and said, "And Markus, you really helped me with some of this stuff last year."

I said, "I did?"

And Steve replied, "Yeah, I remember you saying in one of your sermons once that living as a Christian is harder than it is not to. And I remember thinking about that as I was going through some of this stuff." And he talked about how much easier it would be just to do things the world's way, but that as Christians we have to live a different way.

I tell this story not to boast. Clearly, I had no idea that I was saying anything particularly helpful for Steve. But it's so encouraging to know that God can work through a single comment (or a single touch, or a single visit, or a single phone call, or a single...) to move a person to walk closer to Jesus.



I think 2007 will prove to be quite interesting... and exciting... and a blessing!

I hope all of you have a great new year and keep growing closer to Jesus!