Thursday, March 27, 2008

Easter Church Launch

If you are going to launch a church at Easter this was the year to do it with Easter so early. However, I would advise against launching on Easter most years despite that being the "traditional" church planting wisdom and what much of the older literature says to do. Here are the reasons:

1. Most people, even if they are unchurched, want to go to a dress up, wear your bonnet, dress your little daughter in an Easter dress kind of traditional church- not a new church meeting in a school or movie theater. Easter is still a special day even for those who have not found their way back to God.

2. In most years, and in most places, the Sunday after Easter is the second worst Sunday of the year after the Sunday after Christmas. Kids are on spring break and families are travelling and recovering from the holiday. There will be letdown no matter how well your launch goes. It will be doubled if you have an absolutely awful second Sunday.

3. Depending on when Easter falls you do not have much time to begin building and keeping momentum before summer comes. The giant sucking sound is summer taking all your people away. You may or may not recover.

Some other thoughts:
God determines when you launch your church- listen to him! However, he does call you to be wise as the serpent in dealing the serpent.

I have found, in our mission field, the best time to launch is October or in the second half of January or first half of February to avoid what is above. At New Season we ended up launching the Sunday after Labor Day (another popular launch date) but I have found that persons still are not back out of the summer rhythms until October when the weather is colder.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Easter and the Preaching Calendar

For those who do not use the lectionary and plan out your message series I learned what I think is a helpful thing for series planning when it comes to Easter. I learned it from Nelson Searcy.

My practice in the past was to do a stand alone message on Easter. I would finish up the previous series on Palm Sunday and then begin a brand new series the Sunday after Easter. While I have never done it, there are also people who end a series on Easter.

Nelson makes the point that it is best, in terms of retaining first time guests, to begin a brand new series on Easter. After all, any message can have Easter themes to it. By beginning a brand new message series on Easter you have the opportunity to pique the interest of guests on this high guest Sunday so that they want to come hear the rest of the series. This obviously cannot be done when you do a stand alone message on Easter or end a series on Easter.

Your series should be a felt needs series that you begin. At New Season we started "Overwhelmed" last Sunday with the message the "Victory Has Been Won." Upcoming messages in this felt needs series include:
Overhaul Your Priorities
Overcoming Family Frustrations
Overcome Over Commitment
Turn it Over to God

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Easter and Guest Retention

Easter is the earliest it has been in years and the earliest it will be for some time. This is a great opportunity for churches to retain and connect those who are first time guests on Easter.

So many times, when Easter is late, the summer comes quickly and the likelihood of retaining and connecting first time guests before the summer slump diminishes. With Easter earlier this year, the likelihood of retaining and connecting first time guests goes up.

It seems to me the question is how do we follow up with our first time guests, what opportunities do we make available and communicate to guests to get connected, and what does a whole integrated process for doing this look like that allows someone to move from being a first time guest to becoming a fully connected radical follower of Jesus in a local church?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Egg Hunt

We just finished holding our fourth egg hunt for Lancaster Gate (a subdivision in our mission field) in as many years. Yes, we started holding these people gathering/ connection events even before we launched the church. While our Egg Hunt is not quite as elaborate as our co-laborers in the mission field, (mostly because we did not think of dropping our eggs from a helicopter first :) it is still a great event.

It is always a great event and is great for that community. I think Sunday we had the best turnout we have ever had. The weather did not start out too great- it was rainy for much of the morning, but before worship was over the sun had come out. And, while it was a little chilly and windy it was sunny and even the bit of chilly weather did not keep people away.

For all the New Season people who came out to help- a huge thanks. We got orange shirts for everybody that helped that had our logo on the front and on the back the words "The Church Has Left the Building" with our website.

We continue to get the hell out of the church!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Bless My Sole Ministry

Check out this story and video about "Bless My Sole" Ministry. It features Polly Chamberlain from Centenary United Methodist Church in Richmond, the founder of the ministry, but also mentioned New Season's own Jimmy and Betty Sue Mills.

Jimmy and Betty Sue travel to Richmond every Friday to participate in this foot washing ministry of the homeless. Thanks for the example of how to turn the world upside down for Jesus Betty Sue and Jimmy!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Institutions and Movements

H.R. Niebuhr notes, "there are essential differences between and institution and a movement: The one is conservative, the other progressive; the one is more or less passive yielding to influences from the outside, the other is active in influencing rather than being influenced; the one looks to the past, he other to the future. In addition the one is anxious, the other is prepared to take risks; the one guards boundaries, the other crosses them."

As I came across this quote I could not help but think of the Apostolic movement my own tribe (United Methodism) at one time exhibited. When did we stop being a movement and start being an institution? It is amazing how much it effort it takes to recover the missional focus that has been taken captive by the institutional monster. One can only ask, is it even possible? With God all things are possible!!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What To Do With Easter Lilies

I am fairly certain thee is no biblical support for the influx of Easter lilies on Easter Sunday though I am sure there are some traditions that have arisen around them (you know like the petals represent this, the stalk this, blah, blah). Yet, for me, even as one who did not grow up in the church- they are very much a part of Easter.

In most places that have Easter lilies I have seen people donate them in memory or honor of someone and it helps beautify the church on Easter Sunday and causes some preachers to sneeze a lot!

I do not know where I got this idea from, however, at New Season we are taking it a step further. After our Easter worship celebration experience we are going to take our lilies to area nursing homes, assisted living facilities etc. for persons who will not have a visitor this Easter. We are saying to our folks at New Season- instead of taking it home and having it die, or putting it in the ground, let the Easter lilies you donated be signs of Christ's love to somebody else. What better way to honor or remember someone.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Yes, Lord!

One of the great things about reading other people's blogs is you get to go to Conferences with them that you cannot physically be present at. I have been reading Greg Rohlinger's blog lately and he shared this quote from Wayne Cordeiro at the Doing Church As a Team Conference that I thought was money. I got to hear Wayne speak at last year's Exponential New Church Conference and he is a great speaker and leader.

Wayne said, our disposition needs to be...

“Lord, our answer is yes! Now, what’s the question”

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss

Yesterday was Dr. Seuss' birthday! How did you celebrate? I was part of the celerbation at Robert's school and had the opportunity to read to fifteen kindergartners "The Cat in the Hat" and "The Foot Book." Fun times. Happy birthday Theodore S. Giesel.

What to Give a Bum

Do you ever struggle with giving the homeless guy at the bottom of the exit ramp with holding a sign twenty dollars in cash? I mean after all, we know he is probably going to go and buy booze and cigarettes with it right?

We just finished up a Bible study where one of the participants shared a story about how he learned about God's grace through a co-worker as it pertains to this question. It seems this person and his co-worker came out of a dining establishment to be greeted by a homeless person who had obvious signs of alcohol abuse in his face (bloodshot eyes etc.). The man's coworker gave the homeless guy thirty dollars after he asked him if he could spare any money.

Once back in the car our Bible study participant asked him why he did that- didn't he know the guy was probably going to spend it on booze. To which the coworker responded to the effect that "yeah it is just kind of like when we receive grace- we go and blow it all the time. Yet God keeps giving it. That is offensive grace." How many times do we take the grace given to us and go buy booze and cigarettes with it? Yet, God keeps showering us with his grace. If we are to be Christ to others what does that mean for us when we are faced with the question of whether we should give money to the poor guy on the street because he might buy booze and cigarettes with it. I guess there is a chance he won't. I guess we should take the chance that he won't buy booze and cigarettes. It is the same chance God takes on us as he pours out grace upon grace on us.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Living Life Together Wrap Up

Please find below the remaining messages from the Living Life Together message series.

To listen now, click on the link below.

You and I were never intended to go through this life all by ourselves. God created us to be in community together. When we live life together we can help each other, encourage one another, and provide the necessary support to live this life to its fullest. So, beginning Sunday, February 3rd, we are going to discover God’s plan for Living Life Together and how each one of us can strengthen relationships with others so that we do not go it alone on the journey of life.

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