Call me an optimist but I’ve always been of the view that if I could sit with 100 people and explain the gospel clearly, simply, truly, prayerfully, a significant chunk would respond call it 10%? 20%? It doesn’t matter the percentages. My point is, get any 100 people and explain the gospel and there will be a response.
Where’ this lead?
One of the reasons we don’t see more responding to the gospel is because we haven’t made contact with enough people to give them an opportunity to hear and understand the claims of Christ.
A key in ministry, in planting, is to make contact with as many people as possible in as meaningful a way as possible.
Relational networks are great. But with such a small number of people who actually know the gospel, and can explain it, it leaves a massive proportion of our community entirely untouched. And in a small church plant, your relationship networks are tiny. The chances you will find warmly interested people among the friends of the 40 or 50 launch members is small (and far less if your launch group is even smaller).
How do we make contact with as many as possible?
One of the key goals for a new church plant is profile within the community it is seeking to reach. The bigger the profile (within its target community) the greater the chance a church plant has (humanly speaking) of connecting with the warm contacts contacts who may be entirely outside your launch group’ relationship networks.
I recently spoke with a planter who has been labouring with a small launch group for some 18 months. It’ been tough going. Those among the core who were mature were living missionally and engaged with their networks. But few were responding (and the quality of the missional life of each launch member varied greatly,as you would naturally expect).
However, he then had a two-page spread in the local paper on his church and him as the leader. Suddenly they are getting many more warm contacts.
Does this prove my initial point? I suggest it does. Among any 100 people in our community there are a percentage who are genuinely interested we just haven’t connected with them yet! Our challenge in church planting is to break out past our launch group’ relationship networks into that wider group to find the warm contacts.
How to create profile?
The options are endless. Some of our guys have discovered the best way is to offend a local eccelesiastical official in an establish church structure. Others have found some controversy over a position they took gave them profile. Obviously not all of this kind of profile is good! And I’m certainly not advocating getting it via these means. The point is profile comes in different ways. Of course, a far better way is being so engaged in the local area door knocking regularly? Being present at local events in a public way? Serving on task groups? Doing clean up regularly at the local school, etc… that people get to know you and your church through godly, humble Christian service.
Advertising is helpful, though expensive for small churches. In any sort of promotion like this bigger is not necessarily better. Targeting a small area and working it regularly is far more effective. Instead of large but infrequent contact (which rarely gets into a person’ consciousness), use smaller but more frequent promotion, with follow up visits.
Some other good ways of growing profile…
In our early years we ran two major public events around Christmas: an outdoor Carols event in a very visible location; and an annual children’ day camp in the first week of January (a week long event we call Summerfest). Both gave us opportunity to promote with purpose in our nearby community and present ourselves in very positive ways.
No promotional method replaces personal relationships but they can empower some of that relationship work and also give you connection into networks of people you would take many years to ever touch just working relationally.
Profile a critical component of church planting.