From the start of our church plant, we adopted a contrarian “no launch” launch plan.
If you are “launching,” then you need people. Enough of them. Experts say at least 50 of them, or else there’s an 85% chance you’ll never make it to 50.
Congregations are Psychological Animals
I think that part of what’s behind that statistic is psychological. There is a certain effect that empty chairs have on the morale. If you “launch” with 25 people in a room that could hold 125, you’re going to feel pretty pathetic. Try as you might to get this fledgling congregation to imagine filling the space, psychologically, there’s not much that can be done to engender optimism with so many vacant cushions.
If you have a group of 25 people, chances are they are anxious to launch. To get out there in the wild. To get out of the living room and into something that feels more like church. The gurus will say to wait. Launch later, launch larger.
Some Standard Contrarian Counsel
Never launch. Just don’t. Reject the whole idea. Then you don’t have to “wait” until you hit some magic number in order to “go public.”
Nah. Stay put until you’re bursting at the seams. Until there is so much energy in the teensy little room you’re in that you simply must acquire a new meeting space.
Why? Because, instead of launching, you can continually calibrate the psychology of your church plant by pressing the limits of whatever space you inhabit.
Upsizing and Downsizing
In our case, we stayed in the living room until we simply couldn’t. Then we moved into a public space, but we didn’t “go public.” We just met there instead. That was two years ago.
This summer, our evening service began slumping in attendance due to vacations. So we moved that service (and the pot luck that goes with it) back into a home. Now we’re bursting at the seams “again”. Going forward, this gives us the option of either meeting in two homes instead of one in the evenings, or moving back into our larger space. Both things will feel more like momentum is in our favor rather than against us.
In the mean time, the psychology of our evening crowd is not “man, that stinks that we got so small that we went back to being in living rooms.” Instead, it’s “whoa, there’s a lot of people crammed in here!”
If you are in a small room, you’re probably experiencing a big feel. Always be a little crowded as opposed to a little empty.
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