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Monday, April 21, 2008

What have you learned in the last 20 days?

It's been 20 days since my last post. The Church Planting Internship is continuing to be amazing simply because it's the most challenging thing we've ever done. We have about 40 active subscribers to our blog and I was wondering what our readers have learned over the the last 20 days? Please comment. Here is our journey:

Wentzville Preview Meetings
Rick Hein has successfully completed 2 church preview meetings out in Wentzville and there are 3 more to go. We have learned:
  1. This is an outside-in strategy, rather than an inside-out strategy. Rick has done a lot in the community to generate guests at these 5 monthly preview meetings before launch. The first Sunday had 55 guests, with a total of 109 people. Last Sunday had 17 guests. Rick will form a church launch team from visitors who display interest. This method allows a leader to launch a church faster and with larger numbers. It is opposite to building a small group and then launching a church from the group. There is nothing wrong with that approach but it can take a lot longer.
  2. Jubilee Wentzville is not technically a new church, but rather a new location of an existing church. This is a genius approach to church planting because it means you can launch even faster and can facilitate growth better. For example, the original church already has a website, logo, staff policies, bank account, documents, resources, books, volunteers, charitable status, book keeping, secretaries, equipment, and the list goes on. Removing these practical elements for the leader frees them up to focus on vision, teaching/preaching, networking and building a community. Working smarter not harder!
  3. Rick does a great job of making it easy for people to connect with the church. It is so important that guests are comfortable and that assimilating them is not cumbersome. Rick uses a communication card, placed on each chair with a pen, which has all kinds of options for people to select. He explains what the card is and asks people to fill it in and clearly sets the level of expectation of what will happen if people check certain boxes. One option on the card is "Get to know Jubilee". If checked, Rick invited guests into his home to personally connect with them and gauge their level of interest. This is a clear process to move guests into team players.
  4. See a video slideshow of the first preview launch at the bottom of the post.
We Moved Downstairs
Just over 2 weeks ago we moved to the downstairs apartment because, among other things, we desired easier stroller access. We have learned:
  1. Connection to our neighbors is easier than ever. We can see who's about and what's happening because we are on the street level now. Love this neighborhood!
  2. For example, I saw the mailman outside and after talking with him ended up praying for his feet to be healed of stress fractures. He really appreciated it. We met 5 more neighbors in the process of moving. I guess movement = connection and stagnation = disconnection.
  3. God used the process of moving to bring out character issues in me. I was getting frustrated with the amount of time it was taking. I got frustrated that we missed our running group that week. I was thinking that my regular behavior, connecting with people in a running group, would mean I was being a good church planter who was in consistent interaction with the community. Idiot! Behavior does not determine identity. Identity determines behavior! I set unreasonable standards for myself. Chill pill.
Traveling: St. Joseph & Atlanta
2 weekends ago I traveled to Living Hope Church in St. Joseph Missouri with John Lanferman, Euan Crane and Curt Mccutchan to observe how John helps churches. Heather drove 10 hours to Atlanta with our 4 month old Jones to see her parents -- yes my wife is crazy! We learned:
  1. We hate being apart. I especially hate it because a diet of pizza and beer is not the best for you. Thankfully I ate better on the trip than I did at home by myself.
  2. John Lanferman is good at asking questions and helping church leaders identify where they are at and how to change.
  3. Some top quotes from John are (paraphrased):
    1. "You need to establish clear measurements so that you know when you have a win. You can't play basketball without any hoops. A lot of churches don't know if they are winning or losing and it's got to be more than numerical attendance -- that's just a small aspect if it".
    2. "Nothing is sacred. You have to keep the goal in mind. Be ruthless in evaluation."
    3. "You need to spend your money on people more than buildings. Buildings are important, but with a student ministry you wont see any return from it. So invest the money you have into a longterm strategy to develop leaders from your student work."
    4. "The mission comes before the community."
  4. Heather and I always learn from her parents whenever we spend time with them. Heather commented that they were training her just in the way they live.
Ozarks & Wet Door Hangers
Last Thursday I spent a day at the Lake of the Ozarks praying with a group of church leaders. Then, I spent the next rainy day distributing door hangers in Wentzville. I learned:
  1. It is SO important to gather with other men who share the same vision and talk about what's happening at our various scenes. I got seriously stirred about our mission together.
  2. Johnny Privett, a church leader from Nashville TN, shared about the recent growth they had experienced through students. They sent a lot of Baptist kids to a Newfrontiers 20's conference and it totally changed their perspective of God.
  3. I don't enjoy walking around in the rain, but I was happy to do it because we were distributing door hangers for the church launch and I was with Grant Barns. He has more excitement and energy than a supernova!
Freelance Work
Last week I completed a small website. I learned:
  1. I still love writing website code. I know that sounds geeky but there is something very rewarding about taking a beautiful design and making it functional.
  2. I can still code complete websites using notepad. I realized I didn't have the latest version of Dreamweaver, so I hand coded it ALL in notepad. CSS layouts included.
  3. God is providing work for us as an answer to prayer. We've taken a big step of faith and God is proving to be faithful.
I met this awesome Scottish guy and invited him and his fiancé over to grill out last night. We learned:
  1. Meeting strangers and having them over is not always that hard.
  2. People have the best stories and love to tell them. I know this mainly because I like to talk about myself a lot. I'm trying to ask more questions.
  3. Everybody wants community. We hung out with these guys from 5:30-10:30pm because we WANTED to and they WANTED to. They didn't have to come around, they didn't even know us. Actually, I'd only met him 3 times. Total strangers, total fun and totally rewarding! I hope we hit a longterm friendship off with them.
Wentzville Preview Service #1 Video:


steve.miles said...

Hi Matt, Heather and Jones:
Once again you have given a great post Matt. Very encouraging and stimulating.

I am learning that just because kids are raised in a Christian household, parents can't just be on cruise control and think that they are catching our values and mission and values. Hopefully, it is caught, but it also must be taught otherwise they can't communicate what they are experiencing and make it known to further generations.
I am learning a lot about me through my kids. They are a wonderful blessing from God.

Great to hear from you again. Please don't wait another 20 days for a post.

Matt Sweetman said...

Thanks Steve. That sounds like a big thing to be learning. Thanks for sharing it. It tells me that Jones is my first disciple, my first leader in training. Thanks for reminding me of that. Now I just got to figure out how to train a 5 month old!