BUT, with all of this coming the week before our biggest week of the year it has been crazy busy and forced us to get creative with the stage and stuff. I just wanted to give a shout out to the people making it happen in the face of a tough deal:
First to all the volunteers that got "church" from one location to another in 2 hours and still had some sound, video, coffee!!! Wow. You guys are the best volunteers I have ever worked with. You will do whatever it takes I love that about you all.
Then I want to thank the staff. Linda and Rita just started doing the stuff and made it happen at the Warehouse. Steve got the band set up and still got through a rehearsal in that time. Crazy stuff I am telling you! Andre has been working on like 6 videos this week, no lie! And, this Sunday will be great and Christmas Eve will be off the hook yall! DO NOT COME LATE! The experience will begin from the parking lot to the pre-service stuff and the opening will be hot! Suncoast send your staff a thank you e-mail this week!!!
I also want to thank some church planting friends of mine. First Danny Schaffner loaned us some extra stage so that we can fit everyone with our limited stage use this week. Then Paul Wirth gave us some invite card sleeves so that we can create a cool little way to get invite cards in some creative places. Church planters are the most generous guys in the church world!
Finally, I want to thank our set up guys. They are having to come in at 8pm on Saturday night and do set up because of the changes in the stage. What a great group of guys! These guys are my church hero's! Week in and week out they are the ones that make it happen! Mad props fellas!
This Sunday and Christmas Eve are going to be amazing events in the life of our church. There would not be this much resistence if God wasn't about to kick a dent in the size of hell!
Sunday - 10am @ Rushe Middle
Christmas Eve - 5pm & 6:30pm @ Rushe Middle
From the Urban Dictionary:
"Don't be hatin"
A phrase you might have heard from Malibu's Most Wanted. MEANS: don't be a hater don't dislike somebody because you're not them. Don't hate on somebody because of your jealousy
Yo, don't be hatin. Why you hatin on me. Don't hate me cuz you aint me.
As I read this morning in Galatians 5 I came across this:
"The fact that I am still be persecuted proves that I am still preaching salvation through faith in the cross of Christ alone." Galatians 5:11 LB
The main idea here is that Paul was defending himself by saying because people were still hatin' on him proves he was still preaching an offensive Gospel of faith in Jesus alone, not religious traditions.
God kind of hit me over the head with this (because of some religious people hatin' on me) by saying don't be surprised when religious people bash you. When you preach about my love and grace it will offend religious types and they will attack because they feel threatened by true grace.
So from now on I am spending a moment in each hatin' comment or e-mail then trashing it forever. I'm letting myself feel it all but then moving on. Why? Because I always want to preach an offensive Gospel of faith in Christ alone!
Anyone have any thoughts? Leave a comment but don't be hatin' !!!
6am - Arrive at the school for set up. No big suck here.
7am - We notice that the part of the school we don't use, but store some empty carts, was under about an inch of water. We told the custodian and kept on setting up.
8:30am - The vice principal arrives and tells us we can't meet today! We could have, but they just wouldn't budge even after my best persuasive argument.
8:30 - 9:45am - We pack everything back up and send some people to our 1,200 sq ft warehouse to get things set up to try to do church there. Hey we even had coffee and donuts still!!! But for kids space we rolled out some carpet and pillows and they just hung out in the back of the room until the message time when they went out to the amazing parking lot for games and paper airplanes!!!
9:45am - We unpacked the remaining stuff we needed from the trailer and send people back to the school with maps and that we will be meeting at 10:30 and not 10.
10:15am - We open the doors to the Warehouse.
10:30am - We start the service with one projector on the wall that was just covered a little by the florescent light. The band had all acoustic guitars, the drums and bass were in an amp along with the lead vocal (who was sick and lost his voice on the last song). We also had issues with MediaShout so during my talk people kept looking over my head at the stuff on the wall. All in all about 70% of our normal crowd found us and no one really complained.
11:30am - The service ended and we started packing stuff back into the trailer but left early for our volunteer thank you at Shane's Rib Shack.
12:30 - We got to Shane's and 50+ of our volunteers showed up for free food and fun!
1:30pm - Headed back to the Warehouse to pick up and get ready for our student ministry Christmas party also at the Warehouse.
3:30pm - Came home to a sick wife and a quick shower and 30 minutes of TV time.
6:30pm - 8:30pm - Back to the Warehouse for student ministry party.
9pm - Got an e-mail from someone who lives near the Warehouse complaining and telling me he was going to call the county about us.
9am - Got a phone call from the school telling us we can meet on Sunday but that we can't use the stage until January! SUCK! So we are trying to get creative with folding stage stuff and figuring out the lighting. Help!
Something big must be about to happen at our Christmas Eve services because this has been a big bucket of suck :-)
"You were very happy then, but where is that joy now? I am ready to testify that you would have taken out your eyes and given them to me if that were possible.16 Now am I your enemy because I tell you the truth?" Galatians 4:15-16
When I read that it was like God hit me over the head and said: "Brian, this is going to happen to you as a church planter / leader. If this happened to Paul then it will happen to you. People at the church that once welcomed you and were excited about serving the church will turn into enemies. BUT, keep telling them the truth. AND, keep leading them!"
Wow! I still don't know how all that looks, but isn't that the truth. If you have ever stuck your neck out and led or started a church it is the strangest of relational realities. One minute people are welcoming you and trying to be your best friend and the next they are slandering you behind your back and treating you like you are the enemy. I don't know why that happens but I at least now feel some comfort in knowing the Apostle Paul pissed people off too!
Pastor, be encouraged! Be a leader! Leaders lead and sometimes that ruffles a few "friends". Just ask Paul one day.
I need your help. What two times work best???
Some possibilities (We really can't get things ready before 9:15am):
9:15 & 10:30
9:30 & 11
9:30 & 10:45
Let me know I have to make a decision by tomorrow! Leave a comment or e-mail me direct at email@example.com
Then on Friday of the following week I insert all of the text into a "mind map" template in Publisher. The order of the text columns goes from:
The reason I lay it out like this is because our minds remember things in a clockwise manner. Bet you didn't know that! So by laying it out like this in Arial 10pt font it takes up 3 1/2 pages. I then take these pages and with highlighters mark up the key points and ideas and connect ones I need to connect. (Click on the picture to see it bigger)
So, I have written the talk a week before and now on a Friday I have highlighted it. Then I don't look at it again until Saturday night. The last thing I do before I go to bed is read over the entire message. Then lights out.
On Sunday morning I read over the whole message one more time and then I preach it to myself. REALLY, I go downstairs and preach, just like I was on stage! Finally, 15 minutes before the service I escape to my "green" room at the middle school. This is where I look over just the highlighted points before I go on stage. I also might look over the opening right before I hit the stage just to make sure I don't freeze up and go... "ahhhhh".
So: Write it, mind map it, read it, sleep, read it, practice it, quick glance, preach it.
The mind map, even though it looks kind of strange, REALLY helps you remember where you are and I can all but memorize the thing by doing just what I outlined above. No real mind tricks. Not a ton of prep. And I can get most of the talk memorized without having to look down and remember what comes next.
OH... this might help too. I took laminating sheets and cover the pages of my Bible. This way I can tape the mind map in there and re-use the same pages of the Bible each week. You know it makes you look more spiritual when all you bring up is the Bible and no notes... OH, I can read some of your minds right now :-)
So, we have a call into Equity One to see if they would be willing to lease a building and land to us for 10 years. Right now Publix will not allow non-profits in the same plaza, but the location we are looking at is technically across Sunlake Blvd and would not cause traffic / parking problems. So say a prayer for the people at Equity One and Publix.
They would build the shell of the building which would be 13,000 sq ft and we would have to build it out and then also pay the monthly rent unless they gave us a tax write off. Again say a prayer. We are going to two services on January 18th of 2009 and if we fill those by the end of 2009 we really don't have any other options at Rushe. At least right now. So again, you guessed it. Say a prayer.
These are exciting times for Church of the Suncoast. I can't wait to see what happens in 2009.
(The 70% rule is basically after a room reaches 70% capacity people stop inviting and the church stops growing. It feels too full. People like space!)
Even though our attendance numbers are averaging 127 and most people will tell you wait until 400 to start a second service we just don't have that luxury within a 15 drive of where we meet. We can either try to fit another 25 people in our room and stop growing -OR- we can roll the dice, cast some vision that we need another service and WE NEED TO FILL THEM, and see how God blesses our faith effort. Obviously, you can guess what I thought we should do!
BUT, now the fun part. How do you pull it off. The staff meets tomorrow night to talk time line. We threw out all the things that need to get done and now we need to put deadlines to them. Some promotion will be needed, and lots of new volunteers. But confession from the pastor... I don't know how all this is going to work out and we are making it up as we go along. Don't tell anyone OK!!!
So, if you are a church planter that started with one service and then went to two services I would love to hear how you did it. What you would do different. What not to try. What times work and what ones don't... If you send me a comment here on the blog or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org I will send you a gift for taking the time to share what you have learned along the way!
Also there is a little bonus song from the band... it was smokin'
Our crowd was a little lower than the past 4 weeks. We had 118. But over the past four weeks we have averaged 128 people. That is the first time we have been a month over 125. Think we have broken that one... on to 250 now!
We are going to two services in late Jan 2009. Do we need to... kind of... But I think we need to roll the dice as a church like we did in the early days 2 years ago. Stay tuned...
The band at the Suncoast has been rocking over the past few weeks. We have been doing a few Lee McDerment songs and I love the sound. Out new drummer is smokin' it!!!
Over the past four weeks we have had:
- 46 first time guests
- 30 second time guests
- 9 third time guests
- 12 people accept Christ!!!
I was in the second part of a new series called "BIG faith" (Click HERE for the podcast) and I think I did a good job with the talk. No glaring mess ups and the only stupid thing I said was something to the effect that the first time you hear someone teach the Bible in a practical way it is like "Biblical Crack". You can't get enough of it. Nice right?
It was stinkin' cold doing set up, only 45!!!
I am grateful we have some people at the Suncoast who will do whatever it takes to make things happen on a Sunday. Very cool peeps!
We did communion a little different. We had it right in the middle of a song. Not sure how it went because I didn't do it. I was back in my "green room". Thanks Steve for leading out.
We already need a bigger trailer... yikes!
10. Our small groups are too small! The best groups are 12 - 15 people because it takes a very skilled leader to lead a group of only 7 people or less.
9. You may not have to hire a small groups person if you split the role up among all your staff.
8. Summer group attendance is the same as spring group attendance.
7. Don't make people go to something else before they can sign up for a group.
6. Do group sign ups for a month and then close the groups for three months.
5. Don't split groups or even multiply groups. Multiply leaders!
4. It is possible to have more people in groups than on Sunday mornings!
3. If the entire staff (pastor too) is not in a group then this isn't going work.
2. Have new leaders lead the study they just did under someone else.
1. We oversell groups when it comes to relationships. We need to promote friendships not intimate, life-long, relationships! They might happen out of a group but are not where most groups are going to be.
0 (Bonus). If a group does not produce new leaders after two semesters kill it because it has become inwardly focused!
John says this to one of the leaders in the early church he writes to:
"I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face."
Here is how I read that:
"I have a lot of stuff I want to tell you but there are some things I will not mention in an e-mail. We need to talk face-to-face."
How many times have we done the exact opposite of that and it has turned around and bit us in the butt! We get all worked up and from behind our keyboard we get all kinds of courage that we don't have in real life and we just lay it all out there in an e-mail, a written copy that we can't take back. DUMB!
E-mail is a great tool. The best way to get a hold of me and get my attention is in an e-mail. I love e-mail. BUT, e-mail is NEVER something we should use when it comes to something we should be doing face-to-face! Man up! - I am telling myself that... MAN UP!
Have the guts and the conviction to talk face-to-face. - Again talking to myself here. No one likes having tough conversations, but just because we don't like it and it makes us nervous and want to throw up it is never a reason not to do the right thing. As a leader you don't want a written copy just floating out there. There are some things that can't be conveyed in text and when other people see our words they can be taken and used against us in ways we had never intended.
My challenge to every pastor and church leader is to do what John did even in his old age... say it face-to-face. If you can't say it face-to-face then it is not worth saying at all!!!
Part 4 - Click
Part 3 - Click
Part 2 - Click
Part 1 - Click
This is the final post on our history up to now here at Church of the Suncoast. We are a 2 & 1/2 year old church plant as of November of 2008 and here is how we got to this point from where we left off in September of 2007.
Last time I talked about how right when things looked like they were about to explode we got kicked out of the school we were meeting in. I don't know if you have ever had a moment when you felt like God let you down but this was one of those times for me. I was so confused and on top of it all we had 1 month to find a new location to meet in. At the time there were no other schools in our area and no other locations big enough to house us. So as I started looking outside our community I drove past a middle school down in Hillsborough County on Lutz Lake Fern Rd. I stopped in and the vice principal was a joy to talk to. She said sure we could meet there and by the end of August 2007 we packed up everything and moved our portable church to Martinez Middle School. The school's cafeteria was smaller, the school was hidden, and maybe most damaging it was 15 minutes away from where we used to meet. Over the months there we lost a lot of people and again I felt like God had let us down even though I had tried to spin this as a win.
BUT, during those months at Martinez we had our biggest baptism celebration to date and almost weekly people were coming to Christ. Even though our overall numbers dropped into the 80's God was still doing stuff and still connecting new people to the Suncoast. Many who made the move back to SR 54 in Feb. of 2008.
During this fall at Martinez Middle we also opened up the Warehouse. The Warehouse is... exactly what it is named, a warehouse. We found a spot near the center of our area on 54 and rented out 2,400 sq ft of space. Half of the place holds our "stuff" and our 21 ft trailer that we store our Sunday stuff in. It also has an office that two of us share. There is also space for another make shift office we use and the other side we did up like a Starbucks. We painted the floors, added A/C, hung black movie curtains on the walls, and filled the place with furniture. It will seat about 50 people and has been used for Community Groups, student groups, volunteer dinners, and my HOA even meets in there. The Warehouse serves as our base of operation even though we still do portable church.
We ended our time at Martinez with a couple Christmas Eve services where I stunned everyone by wearing a suit jacket! And we had a couple weeks in January there to get ready for the big move back to 54.
February of 2008 comes and we planned two mailers to hit the week before our move back to SR 54 where we got things started in '06 & '07. We used a guy that was recommended to us but everything got messed up and not a single card hit for our grand opening back on 54 at Rushe Middle School. BUT, we still saw an instant bounce back into the 100's. Spring went by fast this year and for only our third Easter service we had 161 people and 3 people accept Christ!!! We were back. Go God!!! This summer our numbers blew up during a time of year you don't expect big numbers. We had 140+ people on the July 4th weekend. Crazy stuff. We also did One Prayer this summer which was our first try at video teaching and it rocked!
The fall of 2008 started a little slow for a few weeks but over the past month we have averaged 126 people and have seen over 10 people accept Christ! We feel like God is moving so we are moving with Him. In January of 2009 we will be going to two services at Rushe Middle School.
This journey has not been anything like what I thought would happen. I started this place when I was just 27 years old and thought I knew what would take place. I had read all the books, been to the conferences, talked to all the right people but nothing can prepare you for the high of the highs or the low of the lows. A church plant in many ways is a visible expression of the pastors walk with God. Like it or not the church becomes you. It is not all about you, but it is you. You can't help but be connected in a way that is very similar to marriage. So you obviously have to keep boundaries or it becomes your mistress. Or you get so hurt by people that you become bitter and burn out. By the grace of God neither of those has happened and I hold onto the vision God has given and the wife and partner He has blessed me with. The Suncoast was not my idea it was God's idea and I can't wait to see where it goes. Our best days are still ahead of us! Go God!
* How do I get 100% of my church involved in small groups?
* What are the basic elements of an effective small groups system?
* How do I recruit and train enough small-group leaders?
* What are the myths that are holding back my small groups?
* What is a good structure for small-group ministry?
* How do I get small groups involved in serving and evangelism?
* How do I get started?
For more info or to sign up click on the following link:
LINK for Activate Seminar
We had 139 people in the middle of November!!!
We had 14 first time guests!!! (19 last week)
We had 14 second time guests!!!
We had 2 third time guests!!!
We had 8 people accept Christ!!!
We had a $9,200 offering!!!
That blows me away! Go God! Go Suncoast! You guys had a part in each of those, I am blown away! Speakless... Crazy right?
Here is what went wrong:
30 minutes before the service our PC that we run Media Shout on took a dump. A big one. A nasty one. No amount of reboots would help. We tried to use my old laptop but the VGA port is broken so that didn't work. We held people outside until 9:55 and finally had to open the doors with no media... and we are a media driven church. No 4B4 pre-service video which is the bands cue to take the stage... no lyrics... no graphics... no cool message intro... and 1/2 my message was on video! So fun stuff.
I have been praying the three prayers from "IT" (Stretch me, Ruin me, Heal me) Wow!
I want to point out one difference in what we did versus what other planters do. There are a couple schools of thought when starting a church from scratch. One is to gather a small core group and meet with them for months and months and months until you are sure everyone is on board and gets what you guys are about to do. From that you birth a Sunday service and hope to grow from there. At the Suncoast we went the other way. We grabbed a few people, or borrowed, just what we needed to start and we launched a service first hoping then to get people in the community to be our long term core. There are too many reasons to list here why we did this but the bottom line was we believe in starting with the community and then working our way to a core.
The proof of this was harder than I could have imagined. I’m not saying I would do it different, other than launch with more people, why? From that launch number of 67 and then 95 our first Easter I grew the church all the way to 32 – 34 people in the middle of that first summer. I know you are impressed right? Those were HARD days. I would go home after tearing down the little day care and be mad, I would cry, I would shut down. I don’t know why… but for some reason probably a God-thing I stuck it out and over the remainder of the summer we started growing again and by the time we made the big move to our first real location we had a strong group of 60 + people.
What we did in those days leading up to our big move to Oakstead Elementary was really cast the vision for a re-launch that we called a Grand Opening. It was one of the most exciting times I think for me. We all threw our hands in the middle and said lets do it. We moved into Oakstead in late August of 2006 and for our Grand Opening we had 163 people!!! It was a go God moment!!!
From there we settled in around the high 70’s to low 80’s with some weeks in the 90’s. Tons of new faces and again people coming to Christ for the first time. That is one of the most amazing things about our church. Since we started in 2006 we have seen over 90 PEOPLE RECEIVE CHRIST! We finished out 2006 with our first Christmas Eve service with another great day of 153 and a couple salvations.
That Christmas was also when someone gave Church of the Suncoast a gift that I don’t think they really understand how meaningful this was… I am getting a little misty just thinking back to this. That Christmas someone gave us a gift of $70,000. Yes that is seventy thousand dollars. For the first time I was able to really sleep at night knowing that next Sunday will happen now. I didn’t have to carry around that burden of if the church will be able to pay me next week or if we can make the rent at the school.
2007 brought a lot of optimism as you might have guessed. We started the year with a high attraction series on sex and saw some weeks in the triple digits and by that summer God really gave us some unexpected momentum in June of all months! We has weeks in the 120’s talking about money!!! Wow.
BUT, right when you could feel the flood gates about to burst I got the phone call that our school was kicking us out in a month. CRUSHED! That is how I remember feeling for weeks. What do we do? Where do we go? God why are you letting this happen?
And, that is where we will pick things up again next time in the final post on the history of the Suncoast. I hope you have enjoyed hearing our story.
Answering Questions about Growing Spiritually
at Church of the Suncoast
Q: What is our spiritual growth or discipleship model?
A: We want people to fulfill our purpose statement. Take a next step with God by:
Loving Up (Worship, Sunday Services)
Reaching Out (Influencing Others for Christ and Inviting Them to Church)
Growing Within (Community Groups, Serving, Giving, Personal Disciplines)
Spiritual growth is not a linear progression. It is cyclical. A Sunday worship experience or serving on a team will mean different things to your faith at different stages of life. You don’t complete one and then move on the next, then the next, then what? We want people to stay in those things and God will grow a person’s faith through seasons of life and circumstances.
If you are already in all of those things then great! Keep on because God will grow you the more you are exposed to them.
Q: What about new believers?
A: Specifically which one? Are we talking about a general group or a person? Is there something we need to do for a specific new believer? We can deal with that! We can track the growth of specific people, we can’t as a group. We can’t rush growth.
Q: What do you have for mature believers?
A: We have opportunities for you to pour your life out into the lives of people that are not as mature. Mature believers do not need another Bible study or “deeper” worship. If you can use the internet then you can find answers to any question you might have. Mature believers should know better than this. What we need are people willing to share what they know with new believers and mentor them in our various environments. Maturity is not about only “knowing” more stuff!
(Most of the time this question comes from a group of people getting together and talking about all the things they would change about the pastor or the church. The reality is a mature believer may never “learn” anything new at our church and that is OK. If a person needs to learn there are tons of resources we can point them to like books, blogs, and websites)
At our church we have endless opportunities for you to pour your mature faith out into the lives of people that are not as far along as you are through relationships and authentic community.
Mature believers need to learn to be self - feeders through a daily quite time and learning to research things on their own. A sign of maturity is the ability to feed yourself and not always be dependant on the preacher, teacher, and or leader. The point of being a mature believer is being a self - feeder and able to feed others.
Check out the last two parts of the History of the Suncoast later this week.
PS - We did a Halloweenie Handout on Friday night and gave out 112 hotdogs. Mad props to everyone at the Suncoast that passed out some dogs.
PSS - The Hurricanes beat Virgina in ACC play! Go Canes!
In December of 2005 we landed our first meeting facility which was a Discovery Point Day Care at SR 54 & the Suncoast Parkway. Today you can't even see the place because they built a Target and Petco and McDonalds and Starbucks and... in front of it. We were literally meeting in the only space bigger than a living room in this new community. There were not even any schools yet! We later landed the first school which we moved into later in 2006. But to get the Suncoast off the ground we used the Discovery Point's little cafeteria and of course their children's rooms which were actually good deals.
We hand stamped our first three mailings of 1,500 people right around the day care and hung 1,000 door hangers the week before the first Preview Service. (Preview services happen once or twice a month with a week or two off in the middle to re-tool and build a sense of anticipation). My wife and I also invited all our neighbors and family!
We arrived at the Discovery Point the Saturday night before to literally unpack all the light, sound, video and other equipment along with the "adult" chairs (70 white plastic lawn chairs) and hook it all up for the first time. It took us 6 1/2 hours!!! And it still did not all get done. I went home that night dead tired and did not sleep at all. I got up about 5:00am that Sunday and headed over to help finish up the final touches... hanging black curtains, getting the coffee going, putting out all the welcome gifts, checking the sound for the band...
(Speaking of band here is what we did. There was a drummer, one electric, one acoustic, and me actually singing!!! This was basically the core of my old student ministry band. For other weeks during the previews we had guests worship leaders until our current worship leader came once we moved into the school in the fall of 06. Those were the good old days... or at least the old days)
Finally the time rolls around for our first service (since the room was so small we started with two services at 9am & 10:30am) The little day care filled not once but twice and when the dust settled we had 110 guests, family members, team members, and well wishers. Then we tore it down, put it in a 16ft trailer, put that in a storage unit, and spent the next two weeks getting ready to do it all over again. We also had a "Come Back" event at my house where we cooked out and just got to know each other... it went... so so.
During the four previews we did we had crowds all right around 100 and then we finally launched the Sunday before Easter with 67 actual people (gone were the family and well wishers and borrowed volunteers - a great idea to get the key people you need). That first Easter we had 95 and a couple salvations and baptized the first person in our churches history!
Next time I will talk about people moving, growing the church to 30, and making the big move!
In the book I mentioned last time (a must read for all planters) the "Art of the Start" there are a couple chapters about raising money and one on bootstrapping (which is basically how to start something without all the money you think you need). Guy talks about raising money from friends, family and fools.
So Cheryl and I set out to find as many of each as we could find. Between the two of us we had some of each in four areas of the state. Titusville, West Palm, Orlando, and Tampa. We compiled a list of everyone we knew and I mean everyone. We had about 150 names by the end of the list. Then we sent out a series of letters first asking them if they would be a prayer partner and if so fill out a card we enclosed. Then we asked them to gather in each of those areas for a vision meeting where we would lay out what we hoped to do...
The first vision meeting was in my home town and you know that Scripture about a prophet is without honor in his own country? Wow, is that ever true. We secured a spot at my home church where my parents had gone to since 1969! I was baptized there! Cheryl and I were joined by two of my students from my student ministry in Tampa and all of us were eagerly waiting for the people to come. We had a video presentation, snacks, drinks... we had nice background music playing and we waited, we waited, and we waited some more. NO ONE CAME! Really! It was just the four of us and my parents. I was crushed to say the least. In my first fund raising trip I was at negative $100 for the gas and food.
But, at the next few gatherings in West Palm, Orlando, and Tampa we scored just under $20,000 to start the Suncoast (I think my family put in at least 5,000 of that). That might or might not sound like a lot to you. But, when you consider we had to buy everything, do promotion, pay the rent at a meeting facility, and I was leaving my job and we would only be on Cheryl's salary... $20,000 went really fast!!!
At the final gathering in Tampa we had four families and two students (11 people) express an interest in helping us get this thing off the ground. Now this is the tricky part. We were asking people to come help us for 6-months and then they could return to the old church. I don't think you should try to go behind the back of another churches leadership and steal people. I asked if we could ask people for a few months and it was OK'd. We kept this out in the open and as of today only one of the families is still with us as is one of the students who's family didn't go to that church to begin with. Some lasted 6-months, some a year... But those were the scaffolding people God used to get the Suncoast off the ground and once we got the walls up they left. I wish I could say it was a totally smooth transition but the bottom line is people are sometimes at your church for a season to help you for that season and then they move on. I have tried to not hold onto people too tightly even though it is tough because there is always emotions in play. I am grateful for everyone God has used to help build this church from a handful of 11 people to over 120 in weekly attendance in our first two years.
Next time it is lights, camera, action for the preview services.
The network I got plugged into was the ground level of what became the NEXT networks and conferences led by Ron Sylvia in Ocala. Hal Mayer was the coach for my network and I got to ride up with him once a month. The trips up and back from Ocala were almost as valuable as the coaching. I got to ask questions. I got to find out what Hal was going through in his first year of planting. It was great.
At the time of the network I had just told my pastor I was leaving at the end of the year to start a church so this would have put us 6-months out from our first service. The timing of the coaching network could not have been better. I changed our purpose statement during that time after reading a book by Guy Kawasaki called "The Art of the Start". If you are thinking about starting a church this book is a must read. It has nothing to do with starting a church but everything to do with starting something from nothing. During the coaching network I also learned just how I was going to start a church from nothing. Sure I had some ideas. Even some good ideas amazingly. BUT, nothing prepares you for starting a church like coaching. It forces you to put feet to your vision and flesh out the practicalities of starting a church.
So the fall of 2005 was spent still 100% committed to growing the student ministry I started and then handing it off, PLUS making trips to Ocala with Hal, PLUS working on the biggest unknown for me and my wife... How the heck were we going to pay for all this? How do you raise money to start a church???
That is what we will cover next time :-) You can't wait can you :-)
The story of the Suncoast really starts in my journey through student ministry. I was working at a church over in Tarpon Springs doing student ministry and from the start we built that ministry for kids that didn't go to church. Over the 3 1/2 years my wife and I were there we went from a little group of 9 kids to a ministry that had 75 students showing up for our Sunday night program. During that time I got to try things and work out what it meant to do church for the unchurched. I had a passion to see students find out about Jesus in a real and relevant way. It was a huge learning time and when my wife and I moved out to Land O' Lakes and started to get to know the community something happened in me and I just knew we could take what we were doing with students and make it work for the thousands of new people that were filling the once empty fields with new houses.
I wish I had recorded my thought process better into why I wanted to make this move and start a church. I look back now and it almost scares the heck out of me. But, something happened and I started going to school on how do you plant a church. I met with a former pastor I worked for in West Palm Beach, Stan Coleman at South Palm Community Church. I met with Chan Kilgore who started CrossPointe Church in Orlando. I met with Erick Brookins who started Coastal Community Church in Port St. John. And then someone told me about a guy starting a church in Westchase named Hal Mayer. So I sent him and e-mail and he agreed to do lunch with me. I honestly have no idea what he thought the first time we sat down and ate pizza. I have some ideas but he was gracious to me at the ripe old age of 26 and told me what to look at and then invited me to get in a coaching network that met at Church of the Springs in Ocala.
This whole time God was doing something in my heart. He was giving me courage, vision, and a calling to start something that would not be like church as usual. We don't need anymore churches. What we need are places that get that the church is not here for the already convinced, but here for the community of people that don't know God's amazing love.
More on the coaching network next time...
14 first time guests
Baptized two Grandparents of the
1 child we dedicated
That is a go God day! Church of the Suncoast you guys rock my world with your inviting, passion, and sacrifice. You had a part in all of that. Thank you for helping to create a church environment that gets me excited.
- OR -
Great book. A must read for every person that leads a church or helps lead a church. Our staff will be going through it soon as a team. WARNING this book will mess you up and might frustrate you enough to make some real changes to your / my church. If you have read "IT" I would love to hear what you think... so leave a comment.
And, here are the notes:
FINANCIAL WARNING SIGNS
1. You begin living on CREDIT instead of CASH
2. Paying the MINIMUM due
3. You’re unable to GIVE or SAVE
4. You’re unable to pay TAXES
5. EXTRAVAGANT spending
6. Always looking for GET-RICH-QUICK ideas
BIBLICAL STEPS TO IMPROVE YOUR FINANCES
1. Commit to becoming DEBT FREE
2. You start paying God and yourself FIRST
3. List all you OWN and list all you OWE
4. Have a SALE
5. Get on a BUDGET
6. Pay off your DEBT from smallest to the largest
7. Add no NEW debt
8. Share my plan with my CREDITORS
Good Morning, Here is my question to you: "What can I do to help you in your area of service?" For example....this last weekend Jill came in early to learn set-up. She suggested that I take pictures of the tables and different areas. WOW....great idea! So much eaiser than me trying to explain it and if I am not here so much eaiser for the person filling in. Thanks Jill.
Also, I care about you guys. So if you ever need prayer during the week e-mail or call me. I will keep it confidential if you want or I can send it to the rest of the team so you have a large group praying for you. I know that last year when Bill lost his job it was so important to me knowing I had a group of friends that were surrounding us in prayer. Alright...here it is....the "list" for Sunday.
Nicole, Carmen, Speers, Allenbaughs, Victoria, Sandra
AJ, SJ, DJ, Robert and Tracie, Keith and Maggie
As always....e-mail or call me if there is a problem...
(Great post, a must read for all planters / church leaders)
One of the lessons I’ve learned while being in the ministry for the past 17 years is sometimes what people say isn’t exactly true…things such as… (WARNING…you will probably only like this post if you are a pastor or a staff member of a church!)
What They Say: “I’m looking for a church that preaches the Word!”
What They Mean: “I’m looking for a church that preaches MY view of the Word. I think the BLANK translation should be used…I think BLANK should be talked about a lot while BLANK should be ignored. And if you ever stop preaching my view of the Word I will leave and tell others that you don’t preach the Word!”
What They Say: “Lot’s of people have been coming to me and saying they don’t like is…”
What They Mean: “I basically only have three friends…and all of them think exactly like me. The other night we were enjoying a time of self righteousness because, after all, we are right about everything…and were also slandering you (in the form of prayer requests) and thought it would be wise to approach you with our pet peeve. We’ve actually talked to no one else about this but said “lots” because we wanted to validate our dysfunction.”
What They Say: “I’m leaving the church.”
What They Mean: “Beg me to stay. If you will just ask me I will share with you several ways you can compromise God’s vision that He’s given you, thus becoming nothing more than a people pleasing pastor who is more interested in popularity than obedience. If you don’t bow to my demands I will remind you that I tithe and that the church needs my money, reducing you to a mere preaching whore…one who is paid for a service for the pleasure of another person.”
What They Say: “I want a church that is more focused on discipleship.”
What They Mean: “I want a church where everyone knows me and how important I am! I don’t want to reach people who are different from me, be it economic class or race or even musical preference. I already know WAY more than you do…but I somehow equate spirituality with knowledge rather than application and I rather enjoy feeling intellectually superior to those who don’t know as much as me.”
What They Say: “Don’t take this personally…but…”
What They Mean: “I am about to lower the BOOM on you…but you can’t get angry because I told you not to take it personally. Even though you have dedicated your life to this and pretty much invest every ounce of energy you have to this cause…and I think about it once or twice a week…you need to receive my attacks, even when they are personal…and you cannot retaliate because, remember, it’s not personal.”
OKAY, that was fun! I typed it all with a smile. Trust me…I’m not mad or frustrated with anyone…I just thought a pastor or two MIGHT get a smile out of this. :-)
Attendance bounced back some from the past two weeks. No records but something to build on. We had a great summer then the fall hit and it was like what happened.
Cheryl and I are both really tired. We both have been dealing with some "people" stuff and that is never fun. You should never be allow to have two of those at one time in a marriage.
I am starting to get over my cold.
The band did a great job today: "No One Like You" - DCB "Song of the Redeemed" - Hall "Mighty to Save" - ??? "Not to Us" - Tomlin
Did a really emotional video that told a story about a really tough trip I took as a high school student with my church. Look for the video later this week. Be warned it is emotional. Saw a few guys with a tear...
Set up and tear down went crazy good. Hour & 1/2 for set up and hour-15 for tear down. You guys rock! Great to see some new peeps on the teams.
Our team for one of our children's environments had something come up so our Children's Dir. & her husband had to jump in. They do that a lot. Wish that didn't happen. We need more volunteers!!!
Had some college kids back on break so that was cool. Good to see them.
Came home and watched the race at Dega... Dale Jr got wrecked... SUCK!
Hope you had a great Sunday and hope the kingdom was expanded in your area because of you and your church!
John is often called the disciple that Jesus loved. Or the beloved disciple... BUT, did you know that the only Gospel that says any of this is in John's own Gospel?
So here is my thought. It is OK to tell people God loves you and that you guys are tight. Why don't you practice that today!
I post this for two reasons. First, if you have had this happen to you know that you are not alone. Sometimes you just can't figure the numbers out. It doesn't mean you have failed the last time out. One week doesn't make a trend.
Second, I would love to hear what you have maybe learned about wild swings like this. What kinds of things should you look at when a wild swing in attendance happens? Leave your comment here or e-mail them to me at email@example.com
Go God we had two people make decisions for Christ!!!
11+ first time guests!!!
At a recent INCTampa gathering someone raised the question about environments for people to go “deeper in”. I have a few random thoughts on this if you have the time to read on:
First I think we need to redefine what “Christiandom” has defined “deep” as. They say deep is learning. It is information. It is the passing of knowledge. My good friend Hal Mayer says, and I believe the Bible actually defines deep as:
"Who are you serving and who are you influencing for Christ."
Jesus hated the religious people who walked around with their heads full of the Scriptures but their hearts were cold towards others.
I love what Perry Noble has to say about this: “I’ve heard it…you have too…”Christians” saying, “I just want to be fed!” It blows my mind! This would be equal to you and I going to an all you can eat restaurant and crying because no one would bring us any food. Food is all around in this environment…but if the person is lazy and self centered, wanting to be waited on hand and foot, then they could possibly starve to death when food is merely a few feet away.
Today as Christians we have WAY more information than we could ever apply. However, I think many people use “going deep” as an excuse as to not actually apply any of the knowledge they claim to be soaking up. I believe it breaks the heart of God when arrogant people claim intellectual superiority out of pride and stupidity rather than just seeking Jesus and trying to honor Him on a daily basis.”
He goes on to say, “Deep is not merely knowing information…because…judging by that standard Satan is actually deeper than most Christians…he KNOWS Scripture, but doesn’t apply it–which is dangerously similar to those in the camp of wanting to know more but not do anything…” I could not have said it better.
Second, I think we need to change the way we see the Bible. For too long we have taught that the Bible is a text book to be studied. I think that misses the mark of what God intended Scripture to be. I think we should get back to maybe something a little old school. Preach the Bible as the Word of God. It is communication!!! Living and active communication, not something stagnant like a history book.
We have to remove the stigma surrounding the Bible as something too hard to understand. Are there parts I don’t understand, heck I don’t get a lot of it, but then again I don’t get a lot of the stuff my wife communicates to me. But that doesn’t keep us from communicating. We have to get people into the Bible on their own, to feed themselves, and remove the exclusive rights people think pastors have on the understanding. People don’t need pastors telling them another Bible study on the architecture of the temple. People need to find the Living God in the pages of their own Bibles.
Finally, (and this was another point that came up at INCTampa) we need to tell people that it does “feel” different as you mature in your faith. Just like in any relationship the warm fuzzies will come and go that is why a relationship with Jesus is built on commitment and obedience. As you move away from the table from being fed to actually feeding others it will “feel” different. This is normal and not something that should send us running for the days when we gorged ourselves on the regular spoon feedings.
Here is deep for me. When I see set up guys arriving at 6:50am to set up a middle school so others can have a great environment to experience God. Deep for me is children’s volunteers giving up a Sunday worship experience for diapers and poopie little bottoms. Deep for me is the guy who begins to crack open his Bible on his own early in the mornings and really make his relationship with God personal.
Yes we should teach people. And we do at Church of the Suncoast. We don’t back down from any topic on Sundays but we preach for life change not information. I could care less if a guy knows about the color fabric in the Tabernacle if he is serving others at the local church and influencing the people around Him for Christ. That is DEEP and I believe Biblical.
But with that said I have to stop and take a look back at the summer that was 2008 at Church of the Suncoast. Here are some random thoughts:
- We saw two people take their first step with Jesus this summer! That is what it is all about.
- We baptized three people in June!!!
- We also did the One Prayer series with over 2,000 churches across the world. It was an amazing sense of unity as the church stood together.
- Our church participated in the One Prayer offering and nearly $2,000 was given above and beyond the normal giving to help start churches in four developing countries.
- Our numbers this summer were crazy for summer time. We tied our highest month ever in June, broke it in July, and tied it in August.
- Our attendance was up 25% over last summer.
- We had 146 people on July 4th weekend!
- We had another week of 137 at the beginning of August.
- Our August numbers were up, get this, 37% over last year.
- AND, our July numbers were up 40% over last year.
- My wife and I got to take a vacation again this summer which was great.
- We have added a 1/2 dozen new volunteers to our children's ministry.
- We had a guy actually break his leg doing set up, a first for me in ministry.
- Our offering in August was terrible. Not sure if it was back to school or what?
- We had a couple people leave and that always hurts.
So as I look back at both the good and bad I know God's hand was in all of it. I can see how good / growth will come from the negative stuff and I can see how much He blessed us and I know with the momentum we have had the fall will be incredible. I'll let you know next week some of the things we are doing for our fall kick off on September 14th. Be praying for the Suncoast!
I always talked to first time guests (even if it was 2 or 3, or none!)
I always talked to skeptical seekers (even if they weren't)
I always talked to singles (even if it was one person)
I always talked to people far from God
The point is even when we might not have had, or might have had only, a few "theys" I spoke like we had tons. This does several things I have learned by default:
1) It makes "them" feel comfortable
2) It tells people who we expect to have
3) It tells people who they should bring
4) "They" eventually come if you speak to them
It goes back to the old Field of Dreams principle... If you speak it, "they" will come!
Tell me what you think. Leave a comment:
I think my wife was the one that picked up on this from the greeting staff but here is how it works:
3 - Face to face sit downs a year with each volunteer you lead.
2 - Trainings with alternate dates each year.
1- Big celebration "Thank you" event a year.
This is a great system to me because it is easy for the staff and easy for me to hold them accountable on. I will keep you posted on how it goes this fall.
Share your volunteer tips or what you would like to see from a church staff. Leave a comment.
In this talk we gave out stickers that said "Beware of My Mouth" that we had printed at Kinko's for $60. They were able to turn them around in 3 days on a small run of 150 stickers.
BUT, yesterday was a great day. Here are a few of the highlights:
- The weekend started off with a bang Friday night at our back to school family fun night. We had a huge 20 ft tall water slide and life size Wii. It was a blast. Tons of kids!
- Even though we were down a few guys on set up we still got it all done with a few minutes to spare and everything worked just fine.
- We had 137 which was great. 41 kids!!!
- Andre and Troy filmed a video drama with Tom and Lauren and it was hysterical! Great job!!! I will post it later this week.
- The band did an awesome job during the opening set. God was totally in it. God goosebump moment.
- We wrapped up our "Bod for God" series with communion.
- We also had a retired nurse taking blood pressure for people after the service and tons of people stuck around for that. (We need to give people a reason to stick around more often).
- We also are collecting book bags for the kids at our school where we meet and one couple dropped a check for $500 to help pay for ones we don't collect to get to 100. Another couple offered to do the same!!!
- Had 7 or 8 first time guests.
Go God!!! I can't wait to see how the momentum over the summer translates this fall once school is back in the swing of things.
PODCAST - Click Here to Listen to Me too.
I think it is important to critique yourself as a communicator. If I am ever going to improve then I have to find ways to critique myself.
I know for some guys they immediately pull some people together after a service and watch the video. I would love to get to that point one day. But, right now I don't know if I could deal with it or if we could find a location or people willing to do it. There are still a core of us that do way too much on Sundays. I do too much. I think I would be a real grouch right now???
Other people I know ask one trusted person for three good things and one bad thing or thing to change right after they give a talk. That is not bad, but you don't get to actually critique yourself.
What I do is listen to our podcast from our website maybe once a series. I would like to make it once a week, but I am not there yet. I also, usually weekly, check out about 5-minutes of my talk from the video we shoot each week (when it works). This helps me see how I was positioned on the stage and my different mannerisms. A LOT of communicating is body language so that is important to look at I think.
I would love to hear what you do as a communicator. Leave a comment and keep the conversation going.
Untitled from Brian Moon on Vimeo.
First our worship guy was out of town. Not a big deal band wise, but he does so much more than just sing and play. He all but does the entire stage set up for us. So we had to jump in and cover that. No big deal.
We also were down a guy for set up so it took us the entire time to get things done. Never fun when you have to rush and never have a moment to take a breath before the peeps show up.
Our monitors were not working up until the middle of band practice. So the band was struggling to hear themselves since we never got to mix them right.
Our left projector decided to stop working and it was not the bulb so we just had to do without it. That is the first time that has happened in two years, but WOW did it make me mad. I just told everyone to cover their left eye the whole service...
Our sound guy was out so we had to get someone new up to speed with our stuff. There just is not enough time to do that in 45 minutes you know. He got the mains mixed well, but I'm sure I drove him crazy saying, "A little more drums..."
Our new computer we had built to run both Mac stuff and Windows stuff still did not work, the HDTV's did not like the video card setting. So, we had to use my old laptop which is on borrowed time I think.
We missed a couple cues during the transitions of the service...
AND, about 20 minutes into my message my mic goes out. The new battery just died it turns out. So, it was a fun Sunday.
Here are some go God's though:
With another great crowd we are now averaging 125 in July!!! Who said summers are bad?
We also had about 20 or so people stick around for Lunch with the Pastor which was our largest crowd yet.
Hope your Sunday went better. Hope this makes you feel like, "Hey, everyone must have those weeks..." If you have a "fun" Sunday story I would love to hear it. Leave a comment.
For about a year now we have been doing a deal for "new" people called "Lunch with the Pastor". This week we are sending out invitations to all of the first time guests over the past six weeks for the first time. Here is what they look like.
First we have been exploding with growth this summer. Over the past three weeks we have been averaging 127 people on the weekends with a high of 146 on July 4th weekend!!! Go figure, go God! That is a 54% increase over our first summer and a 19% increase over our second summer as a church. We also had a $12,000 offering and we baptized 3 people last Sunday. Here is what I am learning from all that. I don't know anything. I know we have been really improving our services, we put up a controversial billboard, we made some small changes to our assimilation process, but nothing really dramatic. There is no smoking gun for why things have blown up this summer, why God sees us more blessable now...
Second we are doing a new series called "TXT". The question we are asking is "If God sent you a text message would you read it?" From there we have been looking at why people should read God's text message to us the Bible and how they can get into it since many of our people have never explored the Bible on their own.
Click HERE for the podcast of TXT Part 1.
Another thing that has been weighing on me is the use of rented facilities for the weekend services. Don't get me wrong we have been blessed to meet at the best location in our area and we are grateful, but you are still at the mercy of the schools leadership. For instance a huge portion of our picnic got killed on Wednesday leaving us only a few days to make plan B up. Working with schools can be a great marriage. My friend Hal Mayer at Church at the Bay has amazing use of their middle school and in turn the school gets new lights, gifts for the teachers from time to time, extra CASH for the school... so it can work. I just don't know if it can work in Pasco County. The district gets all the money in Pasco, not the individual schools like in Hillsborough. So there is no benefit for the schools to let us in and no reason to help us out. I would like to get into Northpoint Villiage in some way. It would be nice to have something we could lease for 3 to 5 years and not have to be at the mercy of the school board.
SO... be praying about that.
Thanks for reading my thoughts and I hope I am around for another 200 posts and that people still care enough to read. God's best!
BUT, this is what I am excited about! This Sunday I get to finish out the One Prayer series with my one prayer, "God Makes Us... Open to Change." Stay tuned for the podcast on Monday. We also are dunking some people in baptism and collecting an offering to start churches through One Prayer. God is up to something for there to be this much hassle going on you know! Say a prayer for this weekend at Church of the Suncoast. (And for my computer)
I want to throw a question out to other church leaders and planters. Do you take God on your vacation? Here is what I mean and if this sounds awful then I'm sorry... this is just my own transparency.
As a church leader it is easy to get burned out on the "things" of God. We are God's spokesman in our communities, we are always reading and studying to present God's Word on the weekends, we are always praying for God to bless this or work in that situation. If I am not careful my walk with God can become tiring because I mix my job and walk together so much of the time. So, when I go on vacation I usually leave God back at the office too. Now, I am not saying I act like God is away, or that I don't pray before a meal, but I didn't have a single quiet time alone with God. I didn't read my Bible once even though I did take it this time... because I mix my walk with God and my job up I tend to take a "God" vacation too I have noticed.
Does anyone else ever feel like this? Leave a comment below, I would love to hear what others think.