After our four preview services which we did every other week we officially launched Church of the Suncoast the Sunday before Easter in 2006. We had 67 people that day. That was what we were able to grab from the community since all the well wishers were back at their churches.
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.