Merry Christmas (See you next year)

Merry Christmas to you and your family! Thanks for reading the Church Insider in 2007. Look for new postings in the new year as once again the Suncoast moves to a new school...

Here was our Christmas Eve @ a glance:

151 attendance
2 decisions for Christ
$12,000 offering!

Go God!!!

Take a look at some older posts while your here :-)
Some good stuff :-)

Christmas Eve Promotion

Here are a few ways we are promoting our two Christmas Eve services @ Church of the Suncoast:

Yard Signs

Invite Cards & Video

The Creative Process (Part 2)

Click HERE for part 1

Here are a few more things we try to do at Church of the Suncoast to spice things up and where we find them:

Sermon Videos
We usually have at least one, if not two, videos each week at the Suncoast. We will use canned stuff from or or . You can also try . I have also been known to take a canned video from one of those places and edit it (again) in something as simple as Windows Movie Maker that almost everyone has. If the music sucks on a video you can mute the sound and add your own music. If a video is too long you can edit that. Or you can splice a canned movie in with something original you make.

Movie Clips
Movie clips are another way to spice up a service. A great listing of movie themes that might fit your topic is:

Recently, I have also used some clips from . You can buy subscriptions for something really cheap a month that allows you to download multiple formats of movie clips, some STILL in the theaters! Don’t know how they do it, but it has spiced up our services a time or two when we just could not find anything else.

Another great place is of course . You can find almost any famous movie scene and convert the file at which is a free service. You can also buy programs for about $30 bucks to convert the FLV format to mpeg.

Music Videos
Something we used a lot before our band got up to speed was “secular” music videos. Usually they have high production value and are pretty entertaining obviously. It is an easy way to set the mood heading into a message when you don’t want to stress your band out. This works even better if you have multiple screens…

You can find music video DVD’s at places like FYE and even Wal-Mart. Also, YouTube usually has at least one that has decent quality and sound.

Mix it Up
One of the most creative things you can do is just mix the service up each week. Try to not have the same “order of service” each week. Do the welcome first then do a video then some music. Next week have three songs and then right into the message with a video in the middle of your talk. Do something crazy like a video and then right into the message followed by the music… you get the idea. Take you basic service elements and play with them. The more people can’t predict what is coming next the more creative your service will be.

Finally… copy other people! Be a student of other churches and find ways to use their creative elements in yours. A lot of the big churches are selling or giving away their videos and dramas. Use them! Also get into a network of churches in your area that fit your style and share ideas and resources!

They just got up and...

This past Sunday I experienced a first in my communicating career. I was about 1/2 way through my talk when a couple in the back just got up and stormed out of the building! We had some people see them leave and one said they had a Bible with them. I hope so... I hope they were Christians! It was strange. I have been asking myself over and over if I would ever do that? I have been asking if I thought a non-believer would do that and my answer is I don't think they would... I really think they would have enough courtesy to at least wait until the prayer time at the end and slip out. Or just wait until it was over and just not come back. I really think it was a couple Christians who didn't like something I was saying and so they up and left.

The funny thing was I was presenting the Gospel :~)

What have you experienced? Leave a comment...

The Creative Process (Part 1)

A couple of Church Insider readers have asked me about the creative process we go through when putting a series together so here are some random thoughts:

Series Graphics
The first place I look for series graphics is:
istock has tons of photography that will fit any message series you can think of. I will find a picture that I like and then buy it. They range in price depending on the size and dpi you are looking for. A large 300dpi picture runs less than $10 usually.

(A helpful hint for making message intro videos later is to find a picture that has a similar looking video to go along with it, search videos and pictures)

From there I go to They have a great selection of FREE fonts that and not too many pop up ads to annoy the snot out of you.

Take your picture and using something as simple as Publisher (or whatever high tech Mac program you guys might use) create the look you want with the font or fonts you want. As you get familiar with the program you will find ways to add cool finishing touches, but at least you now have a cool picture and a cool looking font.

Save this as a 300dpi JPEG or PNG.

Series Music
Now it’s time to fill in those dead spots in the service with bumper music. Head to iTunes and search the store with some key words from your series. For example we are starting a series this week called so I searched for cold heart and found a number of great songs. You will then need to buy them and then create a playlist so you can burn them to a CD. You need to burn them to a CD so you can get rid of the copy protection stuff on them. Once you re-load them back onto your computer you can edit them as you wish with something as simple as Windows Movie Maker. You will use these songs during your countdown clock, message intro, and during the communication card time while people are filling them out. We also use them during the offering when we don’t have a live song from the band.

Countdown Clock
You can search for a countdown clock that fits your series. Sometimes you will find one that fits, but the music sucks. Again you now have some music so import everything into Windows Movie Maker and you are good to go.

Recently I purchased a program called that allows you to create your own countdown videos using your own message series graphics and music. I have made two of them now and the program is really simple!

Message Intro Video
The message intro video is a newer element a lot of churches are taking advantage of. In the old days the choirs finished and the preacher got up to speak. Sometimes if they were really stuck on tradition they waited until the stage was totally empty! With a message intro video you can give your worship band a chance to clear the stage and set a new mood for the message.

To create one again it takes nothing more than a simple program like Windows Movie Maker and some creative thought. You can take your message series graphics and import them into Power Point in various arrangements, with text, without text and then save them as jpegs or png files. Play around with maybe throwing in some big question you want to answer in the series. The sky is the limit. These can then be installed into Windows Movie Maker where you can add 20 – 30 seconds of music and you can also add effects. You can buy some really cool effects online at places like:

(You can also add stock video files from istockphoto if they match the series graphics)

Visit our YouTube page for some simple message intro examples:

More to come later…

Leave a comment.

Letting People Leave Well (Part 2)

See (Part 1) for more info...

People are going to leave your church. That is just a fact. We preach to the parade. So what do you do when they leave? Here are a few final thoughts:

3) Tell them it is OK for them to leave
We talked last time about not getting mad and this continues that idea. It is important to let people know that is OK for them to leave. That sometimes it is just not the right fit. Free them up to go! Don't try to guilt them into staying. Tell them, "God took care of things before you guys came and He will take care of things after. He took care of you guys before our church and He will take care of you after you leave our church. That is the beauty of the church. You can find one that fits if ours doesn't. Our church isn't for everyone and we know that." In other words take the pressure and the shame they might feel off them and let them know it is OK. No one is going to get hurt here :-)

4) Send them off with your blessing!
Shock the socks off of people by sending them off with your blessing. Say a quick prayer with them as they enter this new stage in their walk with Christ. Send them out with a blessing and something funny will happen. Give it 6 months, a year... and you might see them again. (As a side note never let them, as a rule of thumb, back into a place of power or leadership if they do...)

People are going to leave. Let them leave well. 1) Don't get mad and upset! 2) Don't chase after them! 3) Tell them it is OK for them to leave! 4) Send them off with your blessing!

One final idea that you will have to figure out for your setting. We don't send people out on a Sunday morning. Our services are always about who is coming and not here yet, not about who is leaving. For us it just doesn't send the right message to guests who are checking out the Suncoast that Sunday. Have some people close to them say good bye in some other setting if they were a key leader.

Let them leave well and you can keep things like this from becoming negative situations that might hinder your growth. Straight ahead!

YouVersion (online Bible and more)

Wow! You have got to try YouVersion.

YouVersion is a new online Bible site BUT it is so much more. You can search for a verse and then with just one click can see related content from all over the web. From videos to commentaries to sermons its all there to help make reading the Bible that much more relevant. You can also post your own content for any verse and write in your online journal.

Tell your church or a friend.

Letting People Leave Well (Part 1)

If your church has been around for more than 6-months then you know people are going to leave. And, when I talk about people leaving I am talking about "Christians". The already convinced are the ones that will leave your church.

Recently, at Church of the Suncoast we have had a few waves of people (believers) leaving. For each of them it has been mainly over the idea that the church is here for outsiders, the unchurched, and not here to take care of every need a believer has. In other words we will not have dozens of ministries to meet the church's every need! Why? Because we are focusing our limited time, talent, and treasure on creating environments for unchurched people to take their next step with God. Some people just won't buy into that...

So how do you send them off??? What do you do??? Here are two things and in part 2 we will talk about 2 more ideas:

1) Don't get mad and upset!
The worst thing you can do when people tell you they are leaving is to get mad and upset. ESPECIALLY, when they are leaving because they don't buy into your vision. It's tough not to want to rush to defend the vision and beat them over the head with the vision, but we can't. We have to stay calm, thank them for their time and service, wish them the best, and tell them they are always welcome anytime! Tell them that it is "OK" because not everyone will buy into this deal. You will never convince them that you are right so don't try to defend things and don't get mad even when they say not so nice things about you. This leads to the second idea:

2) Don't chase after them!
Don't try to spend hours convincing them of how they can still fit in your church and how you can change things for them. Stay true to what God has called you, straight ahead! After they tell you they are leaving, let them! Don't give them phone calls to check in and see if they have found another church yet... Don't try to lure them back. You don't want them back! Remember they left because they didn't buy into the vision! They are not bad people, they are just not the people you need to fuel the vision. Fact is you need their seats anyway for the new people God is going to bring.

Stay tuned for the final two big ideas on letting people leave well and take a second to tell me what you think as a church planter / pastor.

Vision Meeting Re-Cap

[OUR VISION] To see thousands of people living along the Suncoast Parkway becoming fully devoted followers of Christ.

(Not just complaining Christians, not just complacent Christians, but fully alive, fully devoted followers of Jesus)

[OUR PURPOSE] Helping people take their next steps with God by loving up, reaching out & growing within.

[OUR STRATEGY] To create relevant environments in which God can work:

Sunday service - A great place to invite a guest
Lunch w/ the Pastor, GroupLINK, Starting Point (Coming Soon),
Celebrate Volunteering Dinner, Volunteering - Places to start getting connected
Community Groups - The place to belong and grow with others
Leadership - The place to give back and reach out

[WHERE WE ARE] - Since August
First Time Guests Since the move to Martinez — 56+
Decisions for Christ Since the move to Martinez - 10
Baptisms Since the move to Martinez — 7

This fall we also opened up the Warehouse (a gathering spot for the Suncoast) 14426 Black Lake Rd. Odessa, FL. 33556

Since then we have seen our Student Ministry’s numbers surge to 15 - 17 a week.

We have always been a church dedicated to taking risks, stepping out, and being church for “others”. We have always been more focused on influencing the community then our own “church” needs. We believe the Suncoast is a revolutionary God-thing and we don’t want to let the party end where we are. God has so much more for us, and this area.

As God has led we have followed even when it seemed backward or confusing. I and the staff are all grateful for your trust and “followship” even when you might not have known where. God has led us to move once again to the new Rushe Middle School back on SR 54 (just east of the Suncoast Parkway) where all this got started in 2006. We believe as God has stretched us back here at Martinez He is about to rocket us forward into a place of dominance over the coming months and years.

It all begins with you and me, together, being willing to take some more risks...

Make an intentional lifestyle of investing in and inviting people
(As we do more marketing)

Start serving somewhere like children’s, set up, greeting, parking
(As more guests come)

Start reallocating your money to fuel God’s purposes
(As we hire new staff)

Pray high risk prayers for God to use you
(As we pray for God to use the Suncoast)

Pray for the staff and leaders of the Suncoast
(As we pray for you)

>> Two Identical Christmas Eve Services - December 23 & 24
>> First Sunday @ Rushe Middle School - January 20th

Our Coastal Children’s Ministry is collecting the following items for Operation Shoebox as a part of their Agent’s in Motion mission. Please consider purchasing any of the following items and then dropping them off at the collection box in the lobby of the church.
(You can also drop items off at the Warehouse)

Donation DEADLINE is 11.25

· travel size toiletries
· dental floss
· wash cloths - green, tan, brown
· bug repellant (not-pressurized)
· sun block (SPF 30+)
· lip balm with sunscreen
· aloe lotion (for sunburn)
· foot powder
· anti-itch cream
· saline eye drops
· thick socks

· AA batteries
· small flashlight (mag type)
· personal battery operated fan
· hand-held electronic game
· miniature foam football
· Frisbee
· yo-yo
· puzzle
· small travel games
· balloons

· tea bags, coffee, hot chocolate
· gum and candy (no chocolate)
· dried fruit
· beef-jerky, pepperoni, slim jim
· pop-tarts
· nuts (shelled)
· camping type food
· cereal (individual servings)
· crackers (individually wrapped)
· 1 qt powder drink mix
· canned soup (easy open)
· cookies in tins

· zip closure plastic bags
· disposable camera
· prepaid phone cards
· sunglasses (black, no brand name)
· books/magazines (no pornographic)
· blank greeting cards to send back home
· journal
· bright colored pens
· Hand-colored picture from your child

Sling Shot

Back in August Church of the Suncoast was forced to make a move to a new location that was outside of our main area until we could get into a new middle school being opened up in January of 2008. Our old school was kicking us out, and we had a six month gap before we can get into the school we really want to be at. Six months trying to build momentum in a totally new community...

Going into the move God gave me a word picture that I didn't really appreciate until we have found ourselves neck deep in the challenges of a move like this (we have moved before, but not this far away). Of course we cast a big vision for the move and did several different marketing pieces but the reality is we lost people. I recently talked to one guy who said, "We just lost contact when you moved down there..." He is typical of the people who were on the fringes, the once a month crowd (1/4 of our church!). So the word picture God gave me going into this was a sling shot. A simple childhood toy.

In order to rocket an object forward with a sling shot you have to pull it backwards as hard as you can. You stress and stretch the rubber chords almost to the breaking point. Over the past few weeks I have felt the pulling of the sling shot. We have lost a few people (the Suncoast just wasn't what they were looking for, nothing major...), November is usually just a lousy attendance month, volunteers go out of town, the staff feels the strain, we feel the strain of needing to hire another person... it just feels like we are being stretched.

BECAUSE, I know God is about to rocket this church forward! My wife is usually the best person in the world at sensing where God is at work and what He is doing and she told me the other day we better get that new staff member in place and get our volunteers pumped because the sling shot is about to be shot! I agree. God is about to launch the Suncoast to a new level with momentum and growth.

I hope this little word picture helps you in your struggles as a church planter / pastor.

Tell me your story or your word picture. Leave a comment...

Halloweenie Handout

Tonight (Halloween Night), dozens of people from Church of the Suncoast will be holding a free cookout in their front driveways and yards. Why? Because I told them to!

The idea was simple. We had these posters made and handed them out this past Sunday for people to put up in their neighborhoods. Then tonight as floods of people pass by our homes we will have free hot dogs, cokes, snacks and invite cards for our new series "Battle of the Sexes".
Instead of battling over whether or not we should participate in this holiday we decided to leverage it for God's kingdom and expand our influence as a church in the community.

Execute (Part 2)

Last week I started a post about execution. At Church of the Suncoast we have come to the conclusion all we can do is execute. We can't make anyone do anything, and we can't even get people in the doors. All of that is up to God.

Execution allows the management team to look back over a weekend and see if we did all that we can do. The things we CAN control. Here is a list of our key areas and their items of execution:

Lead Pastor:
Did I pray for God’s blessing on the service
Did we get set up on time
Did I discuss any special transitions in the service
Did we rehearse the service on time
Did we start the service on time
Did I end the message & prayer under 35 minutes
Did my prayer, ann. and welcome make sense
Did I meet someone new
Did I encourage a volunteer

Worship Leader:
Did I pray for God’s blessing on the service
Did band practice end on time
Did we have the key musicians we needed
Were the songs executed (rhythm, tempo, right order)
Were the transitions & prayer smooth and seamless
Was the sound quality
Did the equipment work (lights, sound, projection)
Did I thank each band member
Did I meet someone new

Volunteer Care:
Did I pray for God’s blessing on the service
Did I get the volunteer central area set up on time
Did I go around and make sure the volunteers were OK
Did I get ushers and give them instructions
Did I meet someone new
Did I encourage a volunteer

Children's Director:
Did I pray for God’s blessing on the service
Did the Beach and Mangrove rooms get set up
Did the sign in kiosk get set up
Were the teams ready 15 minutes before the service
Did the teams have everything they needed
Were there at least two volunteers in each room
Did I encourage one of my teams

Sunday Administration:
Did I pray for God’s blessing on the service
Did someone help me set up
Did the hospitality, bathrooms, and info areas get set up
Was there food, coffee, and supplies
Did we have all the greeters & parking we needed
Were they in place 15 minutes before the service
Did we keep one full empty row in the back at all times
Did I encourage a volunteer

We meet every other week to look back over these areas. If it happened two weeks in a row then that makes a trend and you need to address that.

Original or Nothing...

One time a guy walked into Rick Warren's office ready to start a new church and he told Rick, "I am going to be all original or nothing!" Rick later tells he accomplished both...

Great article from a good friend of mine up in GA:


If you have been around the church world long then you know there is this natural pull towards complexity. Its pull is felt from communication to theology and from church calendars to philosophy of ministry. It other words the longer we go at this thing we call church the more complex we try to make it.

In the early days of a church plant things are simple, or at least they should be! You do Sunday mornings and maybe after six to eight months you start some small groups. You don't have the time, staff, or budget for anything else. But, as time goes by people will come to you with ministry idea after ministry idea. We should start a woman's and men's ministry. We should start a divorce care ministry. We should have a sports ministry. We should start having Bible studies... The list is endless. All good ideas... all good needs within your growing church.

BUT, here is my question: Name for me one person, or organization, that has truly changed the world and impacted lives that has done more than one or two things with excellence... I'll give you a moment... Times up! You could not do it could you? Billy Graham only did one thing and he changed the world. Campus Crusade for Christ changed the world because Bill Bright focused on the thing they could do well. We just got a 5 Guys Burgers and Fries and they have been voted the best burger for six years because they have a VERY simple menu. They focus on the one or two things they can do well.

"Now wait a minute are you saying the church should not try to meet every ones needs???" Let me be clear - YES!

The truth is many of our churches have been weakened because we invested too much time and money and man-power into things we could not do well! For the church to thrive in the next generations we have to get rid of the things that are good for the sake of what we can do the best.

In the book 7 Practices of Effective Ministry Reggie Joiner writes:
"The shift toward complexity is usually subtle, and it's rarely intentional. Passionate leaders introduce innovations; persistent members promote their agendas; new programs are established; traditions are born; new ideas are added to old programs. And over time the ministry begins to lose it focus, and the church becomes paralyzed by its inability to purge itself." (Page 101)

The conclusion: it is always dangerous to confuse activity with results!

The church that I lead, Church of the Suncoast, is only 18 months old and we have grown at a manageable rate from 9 people in my living room to over 130 people who call the Suncoast their home church. Even in this modest growth and young age we have already faced the pressure to start adding ministries and programs to meet needs. So it can happen fast!

Here is the bottom line. Be simple! Be simple! Ask yourself what are the one or two things you can do the best! Just because there is a need in your church DOESN'T MEAN YOU HAVE TO MEET IT. When you try to meet every one's needs in only feeds into a culture of "neediness" that will turn your church inward and away from the primary call of any church to seek and save the lost. Programs will always change but the vision remains the same.

You have to face the facts. To do more in life, you have to do less...

Tell me your story with complexity and simplicity:

Execute (Part 1)

At Church of the Suncoast our management team is constantly evaluating what we do on Sunday mornings. From the beginning we have been asking ourselves is this a relevant environment:

Was the context appealing?
Was the content helpful?
Was the presentation engaging?

Recently we have refined things to clarifying the win. A win for us WAS:

"If people feel comfortable inviting their friends and if those guests take a step with God"

It sounds great. It's simple! It lets us know if we are winning or losing. Or, does it???

After some interesting conversations with other church planters and a growing feeling that there might be something better to measure a win on Sundays we have come to one simple, but powerful conclusion:

We cannot control anything within our statement of what a win was! We can't control what people do. We can't control numbers. We can't control salvations. We can't control people taking their next steps with God... Only God can! So what can we do???

We can execute. We can make sure we did those things that we do have control over. Things like sound, lights, greeters, service start times... This fits better with our strategy of "creating relevant environments in which God can work".

Next time I will share more about what execution is and give you a sample of our Sunday list.

Tell me what you think??? Leave a comment.

The Warehouse

Church of the Suncoast just opened our brand new Warehouse this past week! We have leased a 2,400 sq ft warehouse in our target area and turned 1,200 into a comfortable coffee shop style meeting room. We will use this space for GroupLinks, Community Groups, Student Ministry, volunteer events, and we will use it for flexible office space during the day. The other half of the warehouse is used for storage and our trailer. We also have a conference room on that side as well. On Friday night we opened up the place with a near capacity crowd filling the room with laughter and conversation. It has been A LOT of hard work, but I know this will help having something "permanent" in the community.

F.A.C.E. A.N.G.E.R.

From Sunday's talk:

Feel the anger (let yourself get angry)
Ask yourself deep questions (what is the primary emotion)
Consider the cause (who or what is causing it)
Explore what God says (the Bible says face it)

Affirming the relationship (start with praise)
Negotiate around absolute statements (don't say, "You always...")
Guard the volume level (don't raise your voice)
Establish to resolve (don't walk away until its resolved)
Release the person (forgive them)

See you Sunday for Part 3.

Growing Pains

Great article from Nelson. Read it two times!!!


How to identify and break through the top five church growth barriers, no matter what your size

By Nelson Searcy

Are you stuck? Has your church growth leveled off or even started declining? I can relate.
When we launched The Journey Church ( in 2002 with 110 people, I was ecstatic. What a great number for a brand-new church in the middle of New York City! Unfortunately, my excitement didn’t last long. The next week, only 55 of our 110 attendees returned. Not too bad, I reasoned—we’d kept half. Yet, over the next five months, with my dynamic leadership and powerful preaching, I “grew” the church down to 35 ... in a city of 8 million. Something was definitely wrong.

Without knowing it, I was already bumping up against growth barriers—the issues we all face at various points in ministry that stop or reverse our church’s growth. But I slowly learned to identify and break through these barriers that were standing in our way. Now, five years later with God’s blessing and a clearly defined system for dealing with growth barriers, The Journey is a multicultural, multi-site community of more than 1,200.

Most churches seem to face growth barriers at five key points: when attendance reaches 65, 125, 250, 500 and 1,000. In training pastors throughout the country, I’ve discovered that we all deal with the same inevitable barriers, so remember you’re not alone. However, by becoming proactive in learning to identify and break through these barriers, we can keep our momentum and continue growing for God’s glory.

First and foremost, as a pastor looking to grow your church, make sure you’re always asking yourself the right question about growth.

The Wrong Question: How do I get my church to grow? Your job is not to force growth. When you think growth is your responsibility, you will inevitably make bad decisions. Church growth is ultimately not about what we can do in our own power; it’s about God’s power and His choice to work through us. Refuse to settle for anything less than God’s vision foryour church.
The Right Question: What is keeping my church from growing? Healthy organisms grow. If you feel stagnation setting in, barriers are inhibiting your growth. Implement a plan to remove them.

Now that you’re asking the right question, I encourage you to make two affirmative decisions.
Decision #1: I believe God wants to grow my church. 2 Peter 3:9 (NLT) tells us, “The Lord isn’t really being slow about His promise to return, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to perish, so He is giving more time for everyone to repent.” Your church is part of that redemptive plan. Of course God wants it to grow. Growth signals repentance and life change.

Decision #2: I want to see my church grow. Does thinking about the next barrier you’re facing scare you into inactivity? Don’t get discouraged. God never gives us a vision without supplying what we need to fulfill it.

When you’re asking the right question, and you know in your core that both you and God want your church to grow, nothing can stop you—but growth barriers can definitely slow you down. So whether you are growing a small church in the suburbs or a megachurch in a big city, you need to be able to recognize the top five growth barriers and know how to meet them head-on.

Growth Barrier #1: Space
Space is the most fundamental barrier we all face—and the easiest to overlook. As church leaders, we love full rooms, so we say, “Pack ’em in, there’s still a few seats!” But the truth is that when a room reaches 70% of its seating capacity, it’s full. Period. Here is a four-step exercise to perform frequently as your church grows:
Step 1: Determine how many seats you have in your main worship space.
Step 2: Multiply that number by .7 (70%).
Step 3: Determine how many people you averaged in attendance over the last month.
Step 4: Is the number in Step 3 greater than the number in Step 2? If the answer is yes, you’ve got to open up more seats, or find a larger location—fast.

At The Journey, I learned this lesson the hard way. Our first location in Manhattan was at a small comedy club-type theater. At capacity, the space could hold 110 people. Seven months after our launch, we were averaging close to 80 people each week; we would bump up to 100 every now and then, but our number would always return to below 80.

Why? It’s because we were full. We just didn’t want to admit it. People stopped inviting their friends because they perceived there was no more room. Some regular attendees stopped coming because it was hard to find a seat. Eventually, we caught on and moved to a space that was three times bigger—and our church began growing again.

I’ve seen many pastors of churches with fewer than 250 attendees start second services in an effort to circumvent this barrier. Starting a second service too early usually does more damage than good, so don’t think of it as an easy fix. For example, let’s say a church of 120 decides to start a second service. Inevitably, one service will have 100 people and the other one will have 20—it’s impossible to equally divide two services, although careful choice of service times does play a part. Over time, the 20 people will be disappointed with the small crowds and filter back into the larger service.

The better choice for a church of 120 is to find a larger space and grow to 300 or 400 before starting a second service. I encourage churches to be willing to move.

Growth Barrier #2: Self-Development
Growing churches are led by growing leaders. So, if you’ve stopped progressing personally, your church is not far behind. Jimmy Britt, pastor of Rocky River Community Church in Concord, N.C. (, recently realized the power of this truth. Jimmy had grown his church to 150 when he got stuck. After learning about the barrier of self-development, he set up a personal growth plan for himself, focusing on leadership ability and spiritual maturity. Sure enough, when he started growing as an individual, his church started growing again. An organization can never outpace the inherent qualities of its leader.
When a pastor isn’t growing: • The sermons are stale. • The congregation’s passion for ministry wanes. • The staff stops growing. • The church stops growing.

An intentional reading plan is the single best avenue for personal growth. Set a reading goal that will stretch you—perhaps a book a month—and spend focused time in the areas of theology, church history and philosophy, in addition to reading your Bible. Also schedule time to attend key conferences and plan opportunities to seek out and meet with mentors. Personal development is essential not only for your own health and balance, but also for the growth of your church.

Growth Barrier #3: Sharing
Churches stop growing when they become inwardly (instead of outwardly) focused. If you notice a decline in your number of first-time guests and an increase in discussion of inwardly focused programs, beware! You are about to fall victim to the sharing barrier.

In my experience, healthy growing churches will have a 5:100 ratio of first-time guests to regular attendees. If you are averaging 200 people per week, you should average 10 first-time guests per week. Watch this ratio carefully, and take its waning as a warning sign. When this barrier starts blocking your growth, here are some ways you can break through it: • Teach on relational evangelism. • Set an example by telling stories of how you’ve invited people to church. • Do servant evangelism outreach. • Challenge staff, volunteers and attendees to invite friends. • Read an evangelism or church growth book with your staff and key volunteers. • Ask someone who has experienced life change to share his or her testimony.

Growth Barrier #4: Worship Service
Your weekly worship service is the front door through which people are introduced to your church. If not done correctly, it can become a big barrier.

To keep your service strong, always try to look like a church twice your size. If you are a church of 100 people, intentionally create a worship service that looks like it’s for 200 people. Take your preaching up a notch. Energize your worship time. Create the excitement that would be present in a bigger crowd. Moreover, it’s essential to get in the habit of looking at your service through the eyes of your guests and regular attendees. What kind of impression are you giving them?

Improve the quality of your service in the following ways: • Tweak your transitions. • Set up feedback and develop evaluation mechanisms. • Visit larger, growing churches and benchmark against what they are doing. • Attend cutting-edge seminars and leadership conferences.

Jeff Gunn, pastor of CrossWalk Lutheran Church in Phoenix (, saw incredible growth when he was able to overcome this worship service barrier. A few years ago, Jeff started a new congregation in a longstanding community that was being transformed by new development. As a strong communicator, he grew the church to 100 people in no time. But Jeff didn’t have a worship leader. In his Sunday services, he was cueing up and playing recorded music.

When Jeff made the decision to improve his services by bringing in a worship leader, he quickly broke the 125 mark and grew to more than 200 people. As he’s learned, sometimes you have to get out of your own way and do what needs to be done to create a quality experience for your attendees.

Growth Barrier #5: Staff
If your congregation suddenly doubled in size, would you have the necessary staff members to serve them? To keep your church moving forward, you will need to hire people on faith, so you’ll be prepared to receive the harvest God wants to send you.

Hiring staff is truly a faith issue. Many pastors want to put off staff hires until they have the money in place to support the positions. Sounds like a practical plan, but unfortunately, it doesn’t work. You will never have enough money in advance to hire the staff you need.
To overcome this barrier, change your perspective on what it takes to hire a new staff person. Say you need to fill a position that would require a $48,000 salary. Don’t look at it as a year-long position. Instead, think in three-month blocks. If you approach the new position as a three-month, $12,000 risk, instead of a $48,000 risk, you will be more comfortable filling it. Then, if the staff person you hire is good, the position will begin paying for itself after three months.

When you approach staffing with a faithful heart, you’ll be much more prepared to handle the growth God brings you.

All Grown Up
In our journey from 35 to 1,200, our church had to break through every one of these barriers—most of them more than once. Thanks to that process, I have come to understand that staying ahead of growth barriers is the most effective way of dealing with them. When we cooperate with God by taking action for His church, He will bless our efforts. As you learn to identify and diffuse growth barriers before they get you stuck, you’ll be able to keep your momentum and effectively expand God’s Kingdom for His glory.

Sunday 10.7.07 in the Rearview

It has been a while since I stopped and put some thoughts out there about our weekend at Church of the Suncoast. So here are some RANDOM thoughts from the weekend that was at the Suncoast:
  • This was our first weekend back to two set up teams. When we made the move to Martinez we went back to everyone there at 7am. We were down a man or two so it took us right up to 9:30am to get all the little touches wrapped up. It will get better as we go.
  • Our worship leader Steve (and our drummer) were on vacation so the band was on their own, but did a great job! The mark of true leadership is working your way out of a job. Steve has built a team that didn't skip a beat... no pun intended.
  • The attendance was down a little this week? I guess that long Columbus Day Weekend hurts you :-)
  • We started a new series called "Good N' Angry" about, well... Anger. We opened the service with a clip from Anger Management where Adam Sandler get's tazered on the plane. I could watch that scene a 100 times. Too funny.
  • My talk felt good. It's funny how the energy level of the audience affects your communication. When they are awake and laughing it just seems to go better. I think the content was helpful. There was only one transition I didn't nail. I will work on that for this Sunday...
  • The tear down went AWESOME this week. We spanked the tear down. We were out of there by 12:15 this week! We have a family that really works their tails off. From the dad to the daughters they all bust it. It's people like that, that make this thing work!
  • For the fourth week in a row someone made a decision for Christ in the service! Go God!!! In 18 months over 55 people have taken their first step with God here at the Suncoast! That doesn't just happen. God is still doing something here in this area! I am excited to see what the future holds for our infant church. It's all Him!

God Sized Day!

This past Sunday at Church of the Suncoast we had a God-sized day of life change!

We baptized 7 people!
We also had another person take their first step with God during the service!

All very cool stories from a guys mom getting dunked to a little boy who knew who Jesus was and that he was his savior and friend.

Go God!!!

T-shirt and the Post Office

One of the many things we do promotion wise here at the Suncoast is give away free Church of the Suncoast t-shirts. We have given away over 350 shirts in our short 18 month history. We get them locally here in the Bay Area for about $7 a piece and they have proven to be very effective. Since we have done about 5 different variations I have just about a shirt for every day of the week and since I have to wear something, I can usually be found wearing a Suncoast shirt.

This week I was reminded of why. As I was dropping off baptism certificates at the post office a lady who was behind me in line stopped me and asked about the church. She lived in the area and wanted to find a place where they didn't have to be members to attend. Wow! It just reminded me of why we started this church and why I proudly wear my Suncoast t-shirts.

Teachable Moment from the Warehouse

Church of the Suncoast has been in the process of building out a 2,400 square foot warehouse into office, storage, and meeting space for Community Groups, students, volunteers... It has been a lot of work.

At our last management team (staff) meeting on Monday I confessed to our team that we dropped the ball on this one. As I was working on Saturday I realized we have not included volunteers into this project. Maybe one or two, but we could have had a lot of this stuff done by people in the church. It would have been a great project to even include people who have not stepped up yet to volunteer. Bottom line is we blew it.

Here is what I told them and what I am realizing. We have a great staff of "whatever it takes, get 'r done, people" but part of the danger of that is we don't reach out and include other people. We used this as a teachable moment at the meeting.

Honestly, it is easier to do it yourself sometimes. AND, many times you get it done faster, and of course how you want it. BUT, that does not make it better. When we go that route we miss out on moments to help people take their next step with God by serving His church. You miss out on bringing up the next generation of leaders. And, you miss out on some fun.

As we learn to bring people along I hope you will look for areas in your church where you can do things together! No task is too small to get someone to do it for you :-)

Finally gaining some traction...

Church of the Suncoast made a giant move last month to Martinez Middle School. You can read all about this in other blog postings. But, ever since we moved it has felt like running with one of those training parachutes behind you. Everything has felt up hill. The momentum we had at the old school seem to fall flat. The set up seem to take forever. Even, the mood of the volunteers seemed to be blah. Not all of this is due to the move. We lost about 15 people who moved out of our area all in August (and we have lost a handful from the move) so that really held us back for a bit because most of them were plugged in and serving somewhere. But, the move still seemed like a struggle...

This week was the first week I finally felt like we are gaining some traction again. First, the set up took about an hour and half which is way better! We have averaged 107 over the past few weeks which is just shy of the 111 we had in June. We have averaged 10 first time guests over those weeks. And, we are weekly seeing people take their first step with God! We hope to baptize about 6 or 7 people this Sunday at our next Baptism Celebration.

I still feel like God pushed us out of Oakstead and into Martinez because He wanted us to double our influence in these 5 months before we go back to SR 54. The word picture He has put in my head recently is a sling shot. Sometimes you have to go backwards to be shot forwards!

Direct Mail Questions to Ask

We have had some trouble with our direct mail house (again) and I have been looking at others in the area. As I was looking around several people gave me questions I should ask. Here is a rough list of those questions to find the best mail house for you:
  1. What is the sorting cost per piece? (biggest question)
  2. Do you have any other cost per piece like ink?
  3. Can you print on a glossy post card?
  4. What is their best postage rate per piece?
  5. What is the address list cost per household?
  6. How long does the average piece take after they drop it off?
  7. What other churches (references) have they worked with?

Our first mail house mailed them too late. The second mailed them too late. Our current company has mailed the last 2 postcards too early!!! Hopefully these questions will help you find a direct mail house that is just right!

The Warehouse

Here are some pictures of our new office and warehouse space. We are building it out for a meeting space that we can use for volunteers, community groups, band practice, office space, meetings, student ministry... Take a look:

Priming the Meeting Side

The Conference Room

The New Bathroom

Storage Side

The Anatomy of a Move

I have been getting a lot of questions about the time line of our move recently into a new school. Here is the rough anatomy of the move:
  • May - Found out our old school was not renewing our lease and had four weeks to leave!
  • May 15 - Was able to extend our stay until the end of July.
  • June - Secured the new location at Martinez Middle School (10 minutes from old school).
  • June 15 - Announced the move to our church. We never told the people in the seats we got kicked out. We played to the positive. We didn't want to cause trouble or get people mad at the school. Our goal was to motivate people with the news!
  • July - Did several work nights to get things ready, and planned out our promotion.
  • July 15 - Started a series called "The Dangerous Church" all about the vision of the church and how this move was going to expand our influence for the 5 months we are there at Martinez Middle.
  • August - First weekend in the new school. We did a 37,000 piece mailer to get the word out.
  • September 9th (after Labor Day) - Had our Grand Opening at Martinez. We did road signs, (2) 25,000 piece mailers, pumped our people up to invite and have seen over 30 first time guests in two weeks. Most of them coming from the new community we are in.

This move has been the toughest of the two so far. We are in a different community then where we started and where we will be back into in the new year. We have lost about a dozen people or so in the move. But, we also are influencing people that might not have ever stepped foot in our old location. Sometimes growth happens like a slingshot. Sometimes you have to move backwards to be shot forward.

If you have any more questions or your own move story let me know:

When You Don't Communicate It Right...

This Sunday during the message I had planned a transition out that went like this:

"As a pastor people are constantly coming up to you and asking you to pray for this or that. I’m not sure why we do that other than it’s just something we do. Maybe it’s for our own comfort or assurance? But, somewhere along the line I developed this learned behavior as a pastor where I am supposed to passionately pray for them all… even if I don’t have the slightest interest in what I am praying about. Just being honest. But, you know you can’t fake God out. It dosen’t work. And, if you really want to make a vital connection with God you have to:


The hope of that transition was to connect with people that were still checking the God thing out. The hope was they would be sitting there and think, "Hey, so these super spiritual wack jobs I work with, or see on TV, is not what it's about. This guy sounds real. He struggles too. I just need to be sincere. Not pray because I am supposed to do it..."

Two people have come up to me and said they were offended by that comment. So I felt the need to ask for their forgiveness and to explain it a little better because sometimes what you plan to say and actually say, AND what is heard, are different things.

I am an imperfect communicator and I hope people judge me on what I have done and said in the past not just in one moment of miscommunication. I do understand how it could be taken personally and again for that I am sorry.

Growing Healthy Churches RE-CAP (9.10.07)

(Next Meeting is October 8th)



Managing Expectations
It’s the role of the leader. Be careful giving out a number prediction unless it’s a personal number each person can reach. You have your expectations and then there are those you share with others. Be careful about setting the bar too high.

Stewardship / Fundraising
Need to develop some gauges like weekly, per capita… want to work on moving those up. Keep an eye on them. Do a money series in August. Do a money back guarantee for tithing. Or, if it is more money management do it in January. Keep an eye on who is giving and if there is any change in their giving. Put a stamp on the offering envelopes you give out in program. Do PayPal. Do direct withdraw with banks. 5/3 has cheapest rate on direct withdraw. Check into Vanco too. Google is doing online giving now! Do quarterly reports to givers with a letter about stories and other ways to give along with an offering envelope. Check up on staff and leaders to see if they are giving. Do a Christmas offering, a special gift to God during Christmas. Is your church tithing?

>> Raising Money Once You Start:
Previous contacts that now see the success of your church.
Window of launching and getting people outside to give is about a year.
Don’t be afraid to hit up other church planters!

Accepting Criticism
“Disciples are Made not Born” – Book Look. Do people think you’ll listen to them? If it goes against the vision you can’t accept it. All other you have to listen to it… You are not as good as they said on the way out the door. AND, they are not as bad as they say at lunch. BUT, people have to earn the right to speak things into your life. Need to find the two or three people that can tell you the hard truths. “Never go to Lunch Alone” – Book Look. You have to receive feedback on different levels. Who did it come from? Remember the source. for non-believer feedback.

Paul Wirth – Personal Walk with God
How do you do the planter/pastor life and the personal life?

1 Timothy 3:4

If you can’t manage your own “temple” (body) how can he mange the church? If we miss the mark personally we might miss the mark church-wide.

How’s your quite time – are you always looking for a sermon. Turn off your e-mail. White noise. Keep a pad in case something comes to you work related to get if off your mind. Find a journal or plan. Find accountability. Try the message or other para-phrase.

Are you in a small group – do you have people to talk to and be open with?

Who are you sharing your story and God’s story with – who are you witnessing to, who are you friends with?


How are you treating your body – How’s your weight?

How’s your family – Are you spending time with them?


Hal has kids stuff to give away:

Take a Walk (by Craig Groeschel)

5-Star Service 3 (of 5) Published by Craig Groeschel August 29th, 2007

No One Pointed

When Amy and I checked into the resort, the lady at the desk walked us all the way to our room. Every other place I’ve ever stayed simply pointed in the direction of our room, or pointed to a very confusing map and expected us to wander around by ourselves.
After a couple of days, I noticed a pattern: Every time I’d ask where something was, the person would leave their post and take us to the desired destination. This small gesture was huge to me.

When someone walks into our churches, they don’t have a clue where to go. Instead of pointing towards the two-year-old room, or toward the bathroom, or toward the small group booth, we should stop what we’re doing and walk them all the way to where they’re going.

Who knows? We might make a difference… or even make a new friend.

What are some small gestures you can make toward guests that might make a big difference?

Video Blog (8.29.07)

What I Have Learned

This weekend Church of the Suncoast has it's 71st service. This would have probably been a better post for the 75th service, but I was thinking of it today. So, what have we learned in 71 services of setting up and tearing down in 3 different locations now? In 71 services? In 71 messages? Here are some random thoughts:
  • Blue tape is da bomb! We have gone through hundreds of rolls of painters tape (or blue tape). We use it to hold down the snake and other wires from the sound cart, to fix broken things (I talk about that in a minute), and to hold up signs. It is great because it doesn't leave any residue like duct tape.
  • Stuff breaks and no one tells you. If you do portable church you will break stuff, and people will not always tell you about it. So have some basic back ups like direct boxes, mic cables, par can light bulbs, batteries, more blue tape...
  • You don't need as much money as you think for sound and lighting. We are still using the same 16 channel sound board, snake, and speakers we started with. We went with Carvin for their durability and affordability. We spent about $12,000+ on sound and lighting and have only added a few lights and some sub-woofers. Get enough to do what you want, then look for cheaper ways to do it!
  • is the best place to get programs printed. We design one for each new message series and just leave a blank area inside for announcements. We then use a HP laserjet to print those.
  • People want to know the real you as a preacher. The more you show people who you are through videos or stories the more they relate. Like it or not you are what brings them back on the front end.
  • Work on the transitions. Ask the people on Sundays about how anal I am about the transitions. I learned a long time ago to make those as quick and as seamless as possible. Don't have someone that is coming onto the stage in the seats. Put them backstage even if you have to create a backstage.
  • Get a worship leader!!! We borrowed, or worse, for the first few months. DON'T DO THAT! Get a person that can lead through the music even if you don't pay them for the rest of the week. You need a skilled person on the weekends!
  • Watch the number of seats. You can make or break a room by how many chairs you put out (assuming you can change that). Stick to the 70% rule. When you hit 70% capacity put out more chairs.
  • Thank volunteers! Tell them thank you, thank you, thank you every chance you get. They will be your lifeblood as your church grows. You can't do it alone!

I'm sure there are others so maybe later. But, think about those and if you have any let me know -

Motivation for Me in Ministry

Motivation in ministry can come from strange places... This article was kind of motivating for me as I wrestle with growing our 1 year old church that was started for people like this:


This is almost the exact words of one of my wife's friends. I hope and pray that Church of the Suncoast is and will be a place for her and people that "are just not that interested in God."

Growing Healthy Churches Tampa RE-CAP

Here are the notes from today's GHC Tampa gathering:

Send your resource ideas to for the site.


Assimilation steps

People need a job. Not leaders, just volunteers. Volunteers bring friends! People need a relationship and a responsibility! for assimilation seminar.
Ø Hand written note and gift on first time
Ø Letter on second time
Ø Third time form letter

Lunch with the pastor after the service (maybe once a month). Connection Power assimilation software. When you meet someone out front pass them off to someone else where they live. You have to find what works for you and your area. Have something after the service for people to stick around for... Ways to end a conversation with grace to get to guests (Dave has one-liners).

Help with communicating to volunteers
We have to move from e-mail to conversations. We need to call them for that week if they are working. Monthly schedule through snail mail. If someone checks the box to volunteer need to follow up with a phone call. Look for enlisters to follow up with volunteers. Keep it SHORT in e-mail. Text message every Saturday night.

Book – “Made to Stick” – How to make things “stick”

The Ideals of GHC
Building relationships
Equipping for growing a healthy church
Encouragement to keep going
1 Thessalonians 5:11 – Words of hope and courage!

Come see us next month on September 10th

The Suncoast is on Facebook

If you have a Facebook account take a look at the official Church of the Suncoast page. Still learning about it, but at least we are there :-)

Growing Healthy Churches Tampa Bay

This coming Monday the Growing Healthy Churches Network is gearing up for the fall. This is a time for church planters and those just trying to grow a church to come together for a time of resources sharing, idea sharing, best practice sharing, and problem sharing. Note the key word... Sharing. Church planters are the most generous people on the planet. If you live within driving distance of Tampa I would love to have you as my guest. Here are the details:

Growing Healthy Churches Tampa Bay
Monday, August 13th
10am - Noon
The Italian Club in Ybor City, FL.
Free Breakfast
Optional Lunch @ the Green Iguana

For more info e-mail me at

The BIG Move

Yesterday Church of the Suncoast moved for the second time in our short history. I thought this e-mail would put it in better perspective then I could. This makes a long day worth it:

---Start E-mail---

"I was reminded today of a 5 hour set-up at a day care in February, 2006.


How do you make this work?

How are these dip switches supposed to be set?

Why can't we get any sound out of the microphones?

Should we run the wires out and around the sides?.

Blue tape everywhere!!!

We were at the day care for at least 5 hours setting up, and then there was the tear down and putting everything - that's everything in the trailer.

Would anybody come? Would Bruce be able to help them all park wherever they wanted?

Some times we had a band. sometimes we had part of a band. Sometimes we had a worship leader, sometimes we borrowed a worship leader, sometimes...well...

But it got better. The set-up became a breeze and at least one set-up flunky said, "hey we don't need to be here this early anymore".

Then, we moved...

The room was now much bigger and had a real stage. The cable runs were longer. The new power speaker wire connectors didn't hold the insulation the way they should. The fog/haze machine connector broke.

The tables have benches! Rats, people prefer individual chairs.

Everything needs to be longer, set-up higher, bigger. Bigger room, bigger sound, more services for the people, more opportunities for the people to get involved.

Chasing down the feed-back gremlins was a regular day.

Making sure we left everything better than we found it was the norm

Usually it was.

Set-up the first time, Yup, again a multi- day event and about twice the time it took in the end.

Again, at least one set-up flunky from the "blue" team (Hey, there's teams now) suggested "hey we don't need to be here this early anymore".

Then, we moved again...

The horrible realization hit like a brick. "Everything no longer fits into our trailer".

But, we need it all. or most of it.

The new place will be great. A new group of neighbors, a new opportunity to reach out and bring a new chance for people to take their next steps with God.

The set-up required about 3.5 hours. 1.5 on Friday and 2 hours on Sunday morning (7 - 9 AM). That's a whole 1.5-hours less than the day care. Hum?

Two rear screen projectors, a complete new stage layout, lighting brings back the bridge, the up lights are on the center stretch of fabric. The subs and the speakers are stacked, There are two separated spaces in the Mangroves plus a picket fence and a colorful drape The Kidmo is a drape makers dream. I can't even count the chairs that got moved out and then back in. Those tables and benches were sure a lot easier than the chairs...

Three channels chose be be flaky on the sound board. Six members of our wonderful band filled the place with praise. You gave the message, and made it all look effortless.

One sign apparently went missing. Several people missed the street and had to turn around b4 finding us. ( Hey you gotta find us to worship with us!). Take-down took 1.5 hours so we have a little work to do there. The Pastor worked way too hard, so we've got a little work to do there.

Today the Church of the Suncoast has at least 4 times the number of people that call this place home from those days in February, 2006. We also have at least 6.5 times the money to re-launch September 2nd.

God is doing great things through this ministry, and he's using his servant Brian Moon to lead the effort. Through all of the details. Through all of the uncertainties. Through all of the challenges.

You done great my friend.

Well done.

PS You know.. I'm feeling like God's just getting warmed up here."

---End of E-mail---

Does Your Church Plant Tithe (Revisited)

One of my first posts on the Church Insider was about tithing as a church plant. We started Church of the Suncoast on only $17,000 dollars!!! BUT, even in those tough and tight first few months we were committed to being a conduit of God's blessing. Time and time again as we gave, God gave back.

The latest tithe check we wrote went to help some missionaries in Costa Rica, to help Nelson Searcy do church planting conferences, to some people within the church, and to the local food bank. All together it was just over $5,000. We sent that out about a month ago...

This Sunday we received a gift of $40,000!!! Go God!!!

So again, my question to every church planter reading this. Does your church plant tithe?

Videos (the new stained glass)

A lot of traditional church leaders find the use of video at Church of the Suncoast unsettling. "Why do you need all those videos. People will think it's all about being entertained..." I have seen the push back to using creative video in church from people that have checked out the Suncoast from traditional backgrounds and my answer to the critics is this.

Videos are nothing more than today's stained glass. I grew up in a church that had three huge stained glass windows. It painted a beautiful picture of the cross. It visually told a story that is sometimes too deep for words alone. Video does the same thing. Video paints a picture of spiritual truths that sometimes are too deep for words.

So why not embrace it! Technology is here to stay and to fight against it or to not use it in my opinion is a sin. Seriously, instead of ignoring technology why not harness it and leverage it for God's kingdom! Why not use some of these multi-sensory mediums like video, and lighting, and the arts to stir something within people that is too deep for words.

Check out today's best stained glass sites:

Leading Through a Move

This Sunday is Church of the Suncoasts last week in Oakstead Elementary School. On August 5th we will be moving to Martinez Middle School which is about a 10 minute drive from where we have met for the past 10 months. This will be the second move in our brief history (we moved about 5 minutes down the road last time).

So what have we learned from moving a church plant around? At first it seems like a real bummer. You get established and then BOOM you up and move. "Hey, where did that church go?" Or, as I like to call it, "Dude, where's my church?" Either way it seems like it would hurt momentum.

BUT, if you lead through a move right it can be a real shot in the arm. Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Why are you moving? That seems kind of obvious but you need to know every angle of why you are moving because you will have to articulate it over and over.
  2. What are the positives? It's easy to find the negative aspects of moving. But, what are the positives? Find those and make those your mantra for the weeks leading up to your big day.
  3. Who can you include? Every time we have moved we gained new volunteers because they signed on for a short term project and it turns into something they love.
  4. What do you need? Make a list! Seriously, with all the little things that it takes to do portable church make a list of everything you can think of and then delegate it if you can.
  5. Who can you invite? Who do you know that needs to be at this new chapter of your churches history? Who do your people need to invite?
  6. What are promoting? Promote the fool out of your move! We are doing a Gas Buy Down at two area filling stations, 2,500 invite cards, and a 37,000 piece mailer.
  7. When is your Grand Opening? You want people to come to your first week in the new place, but you also want to do a Grand Opening. People like openings. Its new, its fresh, its exciting. Do a Grand Opening a few weeks out to make sure you get the kinks worked out. It's a double shot in the arm!

As you read this list please won't you say a prayer that our move be one that takes new territory for God's kingdom! For more info e-mail me at

While I Was Away (Vacation at a Church Plant)

Last Sunday my wife Cheryl and I took our first real vacation (one where you miss a Sunday) since we started Church of the Suncoast in April of last year. AND, while we were away everything went flawless! Here are some thoughts on why:

  • We planned for it well. Our management team and some key volunteers planned out every detail of what I do on a Sunday just out of instinct. First I prepared a document that I called "A Guide to What the Heck Brian Does Each Sunday" that was just a time line of the things I still do on Sundays. Things like getting the trailer, putting out a couple signs early, getting breakfast for the custodian at our school, and so on... We then gave everyone some of those duties. Sounds elementary, but I have been at "established" churches that when the boss goes away everything is kind of up for grabs.
  • We got a speaker that fit our vision and style. A church planting friend of mine in Tampa loaned us his student ministry guy. He is a great communicator and the styles of the two churches are close enough that it was an easy fit to walk into a group of strangers and speak. Our people also didn't have to try to get where he was coming from. It was just a good fit.
  • I stayed away! Even though we got back late Saturday night I did not show up on Sunday. I let the volunteers and staff own the day. It showed them I really do trust them and it proved to them that this thing is not just about me.

Here are some random thoughts on how it felt:

  • Like I was missing out. I really do like our church and its people! I felt like I missed out on a whole week of jokes and laughs.
  • Like no one missed us. That was a strange feeling. Even though I know it is not true you can't help but feel that way I guess.
  • At peace. Surprisingly, I was at peace with the whole thing. Must have been a God thing...
  • Proud. Our church has come from a handful of people that had no idea what we were doing into a small army of trained volunteers who can run a church without a problem.

I didn't take any time off for the first 15 months of our church's life. That is just the way it is when you start from nothing. Now I will start building in some regular times away. You need it and your church needs it. They need to see that they can do it even in a baby church plant.

Facts on Church Growth

I promise I will spend a few minutes talking about my first weekend miss at our church, but for now check out this article:

Very interesting read!

Back from Vacation

Just got back from a little vacation to the Keys. First time away from a weekend at our church since we started in April of 2006. I will download some of those thoughts this week on the Insider. Thank you for checking back in. It means a lot that you would want to hear about Church of the Suncoast and the ministry God has blessed me with.

Finding Your Identity

As a new church start you can go one of two ways. Both of which land you in the same spot in my opinion. One way is to think you will be this amazing, original church. This guy spends months underground creating church documents, and “org” charts, and writing discipleship curriculum… Then once they totally assimilate the leadership team they start. The other is to borrow as much from others and stand on their shoulders until you can stand on your own. You just do it and work on the fly. The church is more of an experiment then an institution.

Here’s my observation. The first way ultimately will lead to you borrowing stuff anyway. You just can't be totally original in a church plant. Your resources are too limited. Your time is limited. Your people are limited. AND, to see real growth you have to learn what other people are doing right and apply that to your church. Can you see which way I favor? So the question eventually is how do you find your own identity? What makes your church unique from the one down the street?

Every prevailing church has something they are known for. Something they excel at. For Willow it is the use of the arts. For Saddleback it is the teaching. For Northpoint it’s relevant environments. For Fellowship it’s creativity. For Life Church it’s the campuses. For my church it’s… Have you ever thought of that? Here are a few of the things I am processing as our 1-year old church begins this process:

1) What am I good at?
I honestly believe the church is an expression of the lead pastor. It will take on his DNA over time. Most people tend to discredit this, I say use it! Use your own strengths to build those same strengths into the church. If you are a great preacher then be known for that. If you are really strategic then be known for strategy. If you are creative then be creative!

2) What are you already doing well?
What is the area of your church that is almost on autopilot already? Is it the music? Is it the service? Is it the assimilation? What are you doing well now? Go to work on that? I know that sounds strange. We think we should work on our weaknesses. I don’t find that in the Bible. God used people’s strengths. God worked in the weaknesses, but he used people’s personalities. He didn’t send them to Dale Carnegie!

3) Ask some people what word they think of…
Take a group of 10 or 15 people and ask them this question: “What is the first word that pops into your mind when I say (Fill in the name of your church)?” I would be willing to bet you will find already a common theme. AND, I bet it fits your personality!

4) Brand yourself!
Once you think you have an idea of what you do well. Make a brand out of it! Promote yourself as that! Market those things in print and audibly. It’s funny. Every night on the “Tonight Show” Jay tells us he has a great show lined up for us. That might be the furthest thing from the truth, but you believe it because he says it over and over again. Tell people what makes your church so special.

I hope those thoughts as always spark some of your thoughts. When those thoughts are sparked as always please send them back to me so that we can continue to learn from each other. That is what The Church Insider is all about!

Sunday (July 1st) in the Rearview

Wow, it's been over a week since I blogged... I feel such shame. I'm sure some guys dropped me from their blog rolls. Seriously, it was a crazy week. We had some people issues and those are never fun and always time consuming. I heard Bill Hybels say on a recent Willow CD that in those kinds of conversations there is 90% that is easy for both parties to hear and say. 10% that you really have to have a God-thing happen. AND, then there is 2% within that 10% that is really the heart of the conversation and what most people cower away from. It took us a day and half to get to the 2% but I think it was finally shared and now things are moving along again.

After an AMAZING June at Church of the Suncoast we finally had summer hit! It sucks! Really... it does. Starting a church from scratch like we did a year ago is the hardest thing I have ever done. There are times when you would give anything for some momentum and then when a bump comes in the road it just drives you crazy. There's not really a lot I can compare it to. You kind of just have to experience it to know what I mean.

BUT, we did have some really cool things happen on Sunday. We baptized 3 more people! I love baptism! It's such an important step in the life of a Christ-Follower.

We also had a picnic after the service which was a huge hit with adults and kids a like. I saw as many adults on the giant slide as kids! We also had a DJ there and it really helped to carry the mood and excitement everyone felt.

We also started a new series called "Shortcuts." I think this is going to be a powerful couple of weeks. It's a principle we all deal with. We all are tempted to take shortcuts in life. I know we have a lot of people right there on a lot of big decisions and my prayer is that they will never have to wonder what God might have done in their lives. And, that they never lose the ability and privilege to look to God and say, "You got me into this, you have to get me out because I did it your way."

Click HERE for the Series Intro Video

Great Podcast on Evangelism

Here is a great podcast on evangelism from Rick Warren and Ed Young.


I am listening to it in my truck right now. If you don't have iTunes, get it!


Momentum. For a church starter that is a mysterious and magical word. When you have the big "Mo" it feels like you can't do anything wrong. But, without it, this thing called church planting can be down right discouraging.

In June Church of the Suncoast has been riding a strange wave of momentum. But, first here are some things we have working against this momentum:

1. We are doing a series on money.
2. It is summer time in Florida with great weather.
3. We have not done a lick of promotion since the first week in May.
4. Me (but, we always have that working against us) :-)

So far in June we have had 111, 102, 126 people on Sundays. This from a church plant that literally started from scratch one year ago. This from a church that had 30 people on these Sundays last year. This from a church that was averaging 98 people in 2007. So what have we changed? What are we doing different to see this growth at a time we should not be growing? What secret have we stumbled across that allows us to grow despite the money series, despite it being the middle of summer, despite the lack of marketing?

Here it is... nothing. We have not changed a darn thing. From the service, to the vision, to the music, to the strategy we have not changed a thing. So why the growth? Here are a few random thoughts (emphasis on the randomness):
  • We made the announcement we are moving in August to a new school and that this is a strategic win for us to spread our influence into new communities. This really sparked our growth last year when we made our first big move into our current school.
  • Our promotion blitz from the spring is paying off. This spring we sent nearly 200,000 postcards out to our community. I think we are seeing some residual effect from that. People are aware of us.
  • We have been focusing and praying for our Sunday service. Sunday has always been the main event at the Suncoast. But, I think we have taken the excellence factor up a few notches this spring.
  • The cost of fuel is keeping more people at home instead of on extended weekend vacations. So this summer might be working to our advantage by giving people more free time for church.
  • Our management team is in place. We have a staff now. God sees that we are ready for exponential growth.
  • God just wants to prove me wrong. I made an announcement to our leaders about bracing for the summer and not to be disappointed when the numbers dropped off. I told them it happens to the best churches in America... God just wants to prove me wrong.

I am still trying to figure out this new traction we have, but I do know this and I want to leave you with this. When the big "Mo" comes don't try to keep it. Don't try to protect it. Instead, ask yourself what will bring the next wave? What do we need to do to catch the next wave after this one is hitting the shore?

Also, from surfing as a kid, I know that sometimes you have to sit out there a long time before the waves come. Don't head back to shore so soon. Sometimes the measure of an organization and it's leaders is what it takes to make them quit. Don't miss the wave because you went back to shore too soon.


I was just reading in John 12 and found this line troubling:

"for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God." John 12:43

Ouch! That kind of hit me. What a thought. Do I love the approval of:
  • "Wow, that was a great message"
  • "You saved my son's life..."
  • "You are just so funny"
  • "I thought you did an excellent job today"
  • "You are a great writer"
  • "You are a real visionary"
  • "You are so creative, how do you do it?"

more than I love the approval of my Heavenly Father? Would I be willing to pass up all those things if that meant gaining the approval of God? Would I risk being unpopular in the eyes of people to make Jesus proud?

As a church starter your ego is so closely tied into the church at times that I think we all could spend a few moments unpacking these questions.

Sunday (6.10) in the Rearview

It's Monday morning and here are some random thoughts from yesterday at Church of the Suncoast:
  • No summer slump so far??? We started the Suncoast from scratch in the Spring of 2006. NEVER start a church in the Spring! Why? We hit the summer in about 6 weeks of launching and the bottom fell out the first two weeks of June. THIS YEAR we have had 111 and 102 the first two weeks of June? I am praying this momentum carries us through. The fall is going to be huge!
  • 1 person received Christ. That makes 24 this year!!! Go God!
  • We had a vision meeting about our big move to Martinez Middle School in August. This temporary move for about 5 months will allow us to reach thousands of new people because of it's location and spread our influence into new areas. 45 people or so stuck around for short 15 minute meeting. They also turned in a commitment card for the big move. We did something different, we just prayed and silently had people (if they felt comfortable) bring them up to the stage. It was kind of cool.
  • This new series "$BLING$" has really been good so far. We have been talking about our attitudes with money and the plan laid out in the Bible. We haven't pulled any punches and next week I am offering a money back guarantee if people try tithing.
  • Steve did the welcome today for the first time. This is only about the 3rd time I have not done it. Just trying to get more people on the stage and comfortable with that. Trying to let people see it's not just about me. In the beginning it is. In a church plant people come back because of you. Now that we are a year into this I hope I can make the transition out of that over this 2nd year.
  • We went a little long today. I think I talked a few minutes too long.
  • Our sound issues from last week seem to be better. Oh, the joy of doing portable church in rented facilities :-)
  • My wife came up on stage and shared a little story for the first time and did a great job!
  • We really have a great church to be so young!