So now we get to the stuff that led up to our first preview service. In January I had our launch team of 11 people meet in my living room four times I think to talk about who was doing what and how we were going to pull this thing off. We also did some attempts at servant evangelism (which is basically going out and giving something away with an invite card or doing something nice and leaving an invite card. We gave out water by the side of the road and did a FREE car wash with the help of my old student ministry guys small group). January also consisted of doing several work nights where we built "Kirby" our portable sound booth and built our staging out of 18 inch scaffolding and plywood.
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!