Mail House Hell...

I found out today that the new mail house we used for a small direct mail piece messed up yet again. This is the 5th, that's right the 5th!!! place we have used. All of them have messed up at least once and as a result the postcards were late. This time I am cautiously optimistic that it will still get out by the weekend. Ugh!

There has to be a better way??? Does anyone out there have a Central Florida company that is good?

Weekend Re-Cap 2.24.08

This past weekend at Church of the Suncoast we wrapped up our “How Wise People Build Wealth” series with Baptisms and Child Dedications. It was a great time as always. I love the hope and promise of new life baptism represents and it was obvious as you listened to the stories of those men and women that took the plunge. This time we did things a little different by asking them to share a quick word or two about why they were doing this. It was great to hear them tell a little piece if their story. I think it will motivate others who are on the baptismal fence to jump into the water. It is hard to believe it but we have now baptized 26 people in our short 22 month history! Go God!!!

We also dedicated two little guys that I can’t wait to see how they will grow up into mighty men of God at the Suncoast. We also had 25 kids on Sunday between the Mangroves and the Beach. Rita is doing an awesome job leading those two environments.

The music on Sunday rocked!!! The band was really hitting on all cylinders this time. They always blow me away at what they can do in one 45 minute practice a week!

For the first time in a long time I goofed up big time on the order of the service. I threw it to the offering before we did the communication card time. Oops. We still got a lot of cards, but I’m sure we missed a few first time guests from my mistake. The tech team was on the ball though and made things seem on track and the ushers were right there ready to go. Other than that we had a great service.

We also wrapped up the month of February with a 19% increase in attendance over this same month last year. God has been faithful to grow us as we have been faithful to create the environment for Him to work.

"On an Island Out Here..."

Yesterday I talked to a church planter that is struggling. I don't know all the ends and outs of his deal, but he said this to me, "I feel like I am on an island out here all alone." I have been there and could relate to him. He told me that they had been having about 30 people on the weekend and that he was having to work full time somewhere else and do the church thing part time. That's tough! My heart goes out to guys that are in that spot.

When we started Church of the Suncoast back in April of 2006 we were in a little day care. We had 67 at our first service and grew that to the 30's during that first summer. It felt terrible! It felt like if God was in this then it would look very different. But, we held onto the vision. Here are a couple things that came to mind as we talked:

If you are in that spot you have to turn everyone there into a launch team. You throw a date on the wall and tell everyone this is the day we are going to re-launch this church. You cast a big vision, go for the big ask... you ask them to step up and give and serve. You spend some money on marketing and new equiptment, maybe a new location... and you go public with your church once again. We have done this three times now and you will constanly be doing this no matter how big you get. You are always re-launching your church! Some say every six months you need to do this!!!

The second thing that came to mind was you have to get plugged in with other like-minded church leaders in your area. Here in the Tampa Bay area we have the Innovative Network of Churches. It is a group of mostly church planters that know the ups and the downs of starting a church from nothing. You have to get plugged in or you will die on the vine.

I also told this guy that I had one of these moments in Jan. of this year. We were nearing the end of our time at a bad location we got forced into. We were getting ready for our current school, and there was a Sunday I was just done. It just sucked. Since then we have doubled our numbers and have seen a 1/2 dozen people give their lives to Christ. It turns around that fast! That is why you need other people to keep you going!

Tell me what you think? Leave a comment:

Baptism Video

Weekend Podcast

Church of the Suncoast

Location, Location, Location...

In real estate they always say the three biggest things are location, location, and location...

I would argue that it applies even more in the church world. I acknowledge that some reading this might be in a fixed location with brick and mortar walls. Maybe this applies in starting a campus in a new area??? But, location is everything.

Recently, Church of the Suncoast made our big move back to the area where we started the church in 2006. We got kicked out of a school we were using and that sent us scrambling for some place to meet for 5 months. God opened up the doors on another school but it was in a different area and not a good location at that.

We have had five Sundays now in our new location (Rushe Middle School) and the attendance numbers have gone up by 20% and we have seen over 45 new faces in February alone! We have done some marketing of course, we have a billboard now, but most of this has come from people seeing our signs out and checking us out the next week. The new campus in right off the main highway and it is in a brand new neighborhood. The bottom line is the location.

We have moved four times in our short 22 month history. And nothing has convinced me more of this reality than this move. Location matters!

1) Start a new campus...
2) Move your church if you meet in a poor location...
3) Send people to start a new church in a better location...
4) Sell your church and go portable for a season until you can build again...

Don't let your address keep your church from reaching it's full redemptive potential !

INC Gathering 1 - 2.11.08

From the Innovative Network of Churches Tampa Gathering:

Devotional thought (Danny)
Reorientating your life – Mark 12:30
Love God – pursue him with all our being. Not just strength or mind or heart, but our full being. Or else you will follow him through relationships. Or through legalism or being a workaholic. If we are not balanced our church won’t be.

Relevant Environments on a Shoestring (Hal)

Main Service__________
Physical environments are painted in earth tones for a multicultural church. The people on stage, greeters are painted as well. Black, white, Latino, male, female…

Movie theater church uses what they have, the screen!

Black curtains everywhere! Can create a totally new environment.

Playing with chairs and partitioning off the room can help with smaller crowds.

Younger age church keeps things dark. Also changes the lobby based on the service they are doing. They also use a full stage set.

“Jet set” fabric from JoAnn’s fabric for stage dress.

Church uses large printed materials for each series on stage.

OAI in Tampa will print banners of any size 10x20

Children’s Ministry_________
Can use black curtains with strong magnets in classrooms with drop sealing

Can also get a bounce house from Wal-Mart for $125

White PVC fence from Home Depot to break up a nursery room.

Sam’s Club for kids room furniture.

Musicians – How do you get better ones?
You have to get into the stream of musicians. If your main person is talented then they will follow. If they are not then you might need to change lead person.

Search for some musicians:

How do you transition from level one people to second level people?
Give current person a chance to step up. If they can’t you need to help them move on. They might hinder the new person from doing their job.

Plateauing – How do you get going?
Start looking at your systems? Are you really as bad off as you think? Look back at the numbers. What is your percentage of growth? What is your growth engine going to be? What motivated people in the beginning / before?

INC - Innovative Network of Churches

Growing Healthy Churches Tampa Network is now: Our next gathering is this Monday
Feb. 11th
@ the Italian Club in Ybor City, FL
We will be talking about your pressure points
How to create engaging environments on a shoestring budget
(Bring some ideas)
Lunch will follow at the Green Iguana

Read this Rant

For the complete article:

This is from church planter Gary Lamb from Revolution Church.

Allow me to rant…
Every church planter I meet says they are starting their church to reach those that are disconnected from God. Many of them grew up in church, became Christians at a early age, and don’t even have a relationship with someone far from God, but they are going to reach those far from God. I listen to a lot of podcasts, watch a lot of videos from other churches, and it breaks my heart to know they are doing a lot of things and a lot of things well, but reaching those far from God is NOT one of them.

I have learned that most church planters REALLY don’t want to reach those far from God, they really want to do church in a cool way. There is a difference. Just because you have great video, loud music, dress casual, and use movie clips doesn’t mean you are reaching those far from God.

I honestly believe most planters would freak out if they started having to deal with the issues that come from reaching truly unchurched people. It is messy, ugly, scary, and actually can keep you from growing because it scares the hell out of those who grew up in church.

We had a person on our staff a couple of years ago who came here because he wanted to be part of a church that reached unchurched people. The first time his wife sat next to a couple of lesbians, he was rethinking that. This guy was a nice guy, but he couldn’t handle the ugliness that comes with reaching those that are far from God. He literally walked around the church on Sundays with a look of terror in his eyes. He didn’t want to reach lost people, he wanted a church where he could come and wear whatever he wanted and impress other Christians because he was at an church with a little edge. It wasn’t long before he was running for the hills. He couldn’t handle the messiness of reaching those with problems. The sad thing is he isn’t alone. Most guys can’t handle it.

When I say it is messy, I don’t think most guys understand what I mean, so allow me to walk you through my week that just got done. This is a pretty typical week at Revolution and the side 99% never see.

I have a bottle of pain pills worth about $400 on the streets sitting in my desk that one of our people’s spouse brought me after finding them. The name on the prescription isn’t the name of the person who brought them because they were bought on the street.

I had another one of our people lose their job for stealing thousands of dollars from the company they work for.

I have a addict in our church who has relapsed and in the process is about to lose EVERYTHING and he doesn’t even know it.

I set up an intervention for an addict that will take place this week. This is his last chance and he doesn’t even know it.

Last night I was at the ER until 3 in the morning because one of our people took a razor blade and slit both his wrists, his neck, and took around 80 sleeping pills. He’s alive, but I have to say it was the most horrific thing I have ever seen in my life.

All of that was just from this week. That is the life of reaching those disconnected from God. None of those people care how “cool” our church will be tomorrow. All they care about is we have created a place where they can come with all their crap and feel loved and connected.
I’ll be honest and tell you that there are times when pastoring Revolution freaks me out. There are times when I think it would be easier to do what most guys do and plant a church that really is a place for other Christians to come hang out and talk about how we are reaching unchurched people instead of doing it. I think that would be easier, but we would not be charging the gates of hell with that mindset. There are enough guys around doing that and doing it well.

Canton didn’t need another church. Canton didn’t need another church with loud music, casual dress, and “relevant” teaching. Neither do most of the towns where guys are planting. However, Canton did need a place that was loving the unlovable. It needed a place that was willing to get it’s hands dirty and deal with the messy crap that takes place in the lives of those far from God.
When a guy wants to tell me they are starting a church to reach the disconnected, I always ask them if they are sure they want to do that. I don’t think they understand the cost that comes with it. It literally can almost kill you at times.

BUT, if they do understand the cost, they will realize it is nothing compared to the reward of seeing lives changed with the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is worth whatever cost there is. I would put everything on the line to continue to do what we do because the payoff is so huge.
Most guys won’t.

end rant.


Tell me what you think about Gary's rant... Leave a comment.

Lunch with the Pastor

Over the past six months at Church of the Suncoast we have started something called "Lunch with the Pastor". I know of several churches that do this of all sizes. The largest that I know of is about 1,000 people. I'm not sure if it is scalable past 1,000 people, but it might be one of those things that get you there.

Here is the basic idea behind our version. About once every two months, at strategic times like the opening of a new series, we announce that anyone who is new to the Suncoast and would like to learn a little more about us, our vision, about me is invited to a FREE 20-minute lunch in the back of the room. (We used to do it off the main room, but have found it attracts more people if they don't have to leave the place they are comfortable with already.) This lunch is open to anyone new. We don't really make it just for first or second time guests. It is for people who are ready to take their next step. This is one of our stepping stones for the rest of our environments. It's another rung on the assimilation ladder so you really want to open it up for everyone. Don't worry you won't go broke feeding people!

We have a group of people who set the area up during the service behind our black curtain partition as people exit the caf├ętorium. We get box lunches from Panera Bread for about $8 each. We end the service and we jump right into that lunch. Maybe only a 3-minute delay for people to get their kids. Our greeters even stand around the area and ask new people to join us. We will give everyone about 5-minutes to eat and get settled and then I begin. Here is an outline of what we talk about:

Welcome – 1 minute
Introduce the Management Team (staff) – 1 minute
Tell Our Story – 7 minutes
Share Our Vision – 2 minutes
Share Our Purpose – 1 minute
Share Our Strategy (the environments) – 2 minutes
Share Our Values – 1 minute
Suggest Some Next Steps (like keep coming) – 1 minute
Ask Them for Questions – 2 minutes
Answer Some FAQ’s – 2 minutes

We try to keep it to this. We advertise only 20-minutes and we want to honor that!

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