Moving from the stuff that got me to start a church with my wife Cheryl and the dream stage of the last two posts here is where the rubber started to hit the road. How did we get the cash to start this thing AND how did we actually do it.
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.