What does it take?
We have been working toward launching a third site for about two years as a congregation. In the last number of months through prayer, articles, videos and conversations, we have been focussing our attention on this possibility in a more deliberate way. We have reminded ourselves of our multi-site strategy for sharing Christ’s love, traced how we are addressing the challenges raised at our Fresh Wind gathering and encouraged prayer, imagination and conversation. We plan on having further dialogue at our annual financial meeting on April 10th at 7pm. We hope to then prayerfully move toward a decision shortly thereafter. Today, I am going to share with you what I believe it would take to launch our third site.
Obviously, the foundation of any kingdom growth is the leading and Spirit-empowered blessing of our Lord. Many hours of prayer have already been experienced as we opened ourselves to hearing God’s heart and pouring out our desires, fears and service before the Father. We are committed to following God’s leading as we endeavour to love people into growth and kingdom life.
Several other foundational building blocks are necessary for a launch. At this point some are in place and some are not. Beyond God’s blessing we need a key leader, a team of people, a specific vison for care and outreach, financial resources and an existing body healthy enough to birth an additional site. Discerning the order and timing of these issues is difficult.
Let’s begin with the element most easily measured: financial resources. We currently have $286,530.07 in our fund set aside for a third site and reserve. The elder’s and board’s anticipation is that we would budget $200,000 for the first two years of the new sites life. This sum would cover all third site direct costs (salary, facility rental, program and equipment) for the first two years. The remaining $86,000 would be held in reserve for potential existing site shortfalls encountered in these tough financial times.
The most difficult building block to measure is the readiness of our current fellowship to participate in launching a third site. The difficulty lies in no small part in the different individual experiences each of us are having. Many of us are enjoying a marvelous season of growth, worship, fellowship and care. Others are feeling a little lost and are acutely aware of some of our fellowship’s challenges. It is difficult for us to have an overall God’s eye view of the GP Church of Christ. Regarding readiness a number of things occupy my thinking. First, I am reminded that the multi-site strategy indicates that we launch additional sites as soon as a church can, not when a church has to due to space demands etc. So, the question for me is can we do a healthy launch at this time?
As I have conversations regarding launching, three concerns frequently arise.
1. finances, see above.
2. A shortage of leaders. This is a critical issue. Our most recent inventory revealed that 38% of our youth and adult congregants are serving in ministries hosted by the church. This figure does not account for folks who express their spiritual gifts and ministry callings outside of the church. In truth, there is always room for improvement and the need for folks to pour their lives out for others will always be with us. As long as we desire to serve others we will always need more servant leaders. On the other hand, we must be wise and not stretch existing ministries too far. To ensure we don’t strip too many needed leaders from our existing sites is our plan to have only 25 people form the core of the new site. We believe this will not overly tax our current sites.
3. Meeting the care-needs of our people. I am not sure we can ever give or get enough love and care.
This is a continuous challenge. The foundation of our strategy for care is our small group ministry. One emphasis this year is “we have to get small to get big.” If I want my heart, my spirit my marriage, anything really, to grow I need to be in some form of a small gathering where I am known and can get to know others. Growth and care is found in the intimacy of relationships. When we compiled a list of people involved in some form of small group/discipleship group or coffee and prayer clusters we found that a little over 100 of our adults participate in such groups. I have been encouraged this year by the ability to get almost all who, via the welcome cards found in the bulletin, express an interest in being part of a small group within a couple of weeks.
In addition to small groups, the elders, staff and a number of others spend a good deal of time providing pastoral care for folks. There is a lot of work to be done in meeting peoples’ need for care. There always will be because sin has broken us all.
One point that is often forgotten, to which Ryan points, is that starting a third site provides another environment small enough to help people get big.
Most of the other questions we have about our readiness arose at our fresh wind gathering. I invite you to view the video in which I outline our progress on these points. Find it on the Chronicle tab of our website (gpchurchofchrist.com) or look for our church communications channel on YouTube (www.youtube.com/channel/CHosX0kIdVX9rlIh1SEuzDg).
In short, my opinion as to our readiness to healthily launch a third site is that it will be a challenge but in God’s strength and our ongoing commitment we could launch in the near future.
The next three foundation blocks, a key leader, a team and specific vision/focus, are so intertwined it is difficult to think of them individually. In terms of a team our leadership believes that this site should begin with a team of approximately 25 recruited members. This number will not be too taxing on the existing sites in terms of people leaving. It will provide enough people to establish a site and drive evangelism as their energies will not be completely spent on internal ministries. Whenever we move ahead to launching the next site a key leader will need to be selected. This individual will be critical to forming the team of 25 and together prayerfully formulating a specific vision for the site.
As I formulate these thoughts the word ‘many’ comes to mind. We have many opportunities, many challenges, many good things and many people to love and grow in Christ. But in the midst of the ‘many’ we have a few things to build upon. We have the love, power and mission of Jesus and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. We have some parameters within which to work as the Lord leads. The third site will be a church not only a “mission point.” It will be an expression of the Grande Prairie Church of Christ with all of our core values and mission. We are suggesting a two year budget of $200,000 which we have already in hand. The launch team will be of approximately 25 people with a heart and drive for evangelism. We desire to launch as soon as we can, not when we have to. Our prayers and conversation now need to include our spiritual and church readiness and when to begin searching for a key leader.
Finally, I want to ask you to come and participate in our gathering on April 10, 7 pm at Highland Park.
We will be reporting on our congregational finances and spending time praying about and discussing how we are doing in the process of launching a third site. This will be an important meeting with lots of information and opportunities for us to share our thoughts and hearts with each other regarding a third site. Please come and participate.