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.
"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.
- 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!
Just this past week I had this smack me in the face again. And... I have noticed a pattern in my life. Whenever I come off a really encouraging time I am more than likely going to be hit with something discouraging.
For example: This past Sunday I was bracing myself for the worst. Last year on the first Sunday in June we hit our lowest point ever in our 1 year old church plant. We hit the bottom at 30 people (ouch). So heading into our second summer I had been keeping some projections with the numbers from last year and was ready for a small crowd. In April and May of this year we averaged 105 on Sundays AND on the first Sunday in June we had 111 people... go figure? Summer hits and boom we have a good Sunday, that was really encouraging to me!
Monday morning I am kind of checking out some of the blogs I follow and I read about a church that started on the same weekend we did in the spring of 2006 and now they have over 1,300 people!!! Wow! Now, don't confuse what I am saying. I was not mad at that church, or mad at where God has me, or jealous or things like that. That deal is a go God thing for me, BUT it still hit me... a little twinge of discouragement.
So how do you deal with that? It's going to happen. It might be happening for you right now. Here are three things I learned from my experience this week (and from the roller coaster of church starting).
#1 Guard yourself.
When you have those moments where something really just jacks you up be very careful in the next few days in what you read, watch, or surround yourself with. Now, obviously I am not talking about living in a cave. All I am saying is guard yourself. Be aware that the Evil One would love to get you down through even the most innocent of things.
#2 Plan for Bumps (but never accept them).
Momentum is a funny thing. One of the only things I know for sure is it doesn't go without it's share of bumps in the road. So, you should plan for those. You should plan that things will try to hijack your joy, but never accept those things. Know the difference between holy discontent and discouragement.
#3 Take a Step Back.
It doesn't matter if you are coming off a super high or a dreadful low the best thing you can do is to take a step back and gain some perspective. Things are never as good as they seem or as bad as they first seem.
Church work is some of the hardest I know. Nothing can really prepare you for the discouragement that comes with the territory. My hope is that we are less surprised by it and more equipped to deal with it.
Tell me what you think...
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