So: what if things don’t go as planned? First of all, they won’t. That’s the nature of plans, and especially of startup plans. This plan is a starting point from which course corrections and new plans will be derived as reality unfolds. Think of it as the center line in the middle of a thirty degree arc. We need to be ready to swing fifteen degrees to the left or right as obstacles arise and new lessons are learned, while maintaining overall fidelity to the essential spirit of the vision.

Secondly, it is important for the General Church and for everyone involved to recognize not just that one in three church plants “fails”, but that there are good and bad forms of failure. A “bad” failure results in the General Church and/or one or two major donors continuing to carry the load of financially supporting a static or shrinking church for perpetuity. A “good” failure results in the end of the current project, an objective assessment of what went right and what went wrong, followed swiftly by a new startup incorporating the lessons learned.

It should be recognized, also, that all kinds of error will involve numerous successes with eternal ramifications. Such intermediate outcomes more than justify the risk of loss of startup capital, time, and energy. For example, the “No Exit Café” no longer exists in the natural sense, and yet there are people all over the country who spent time with that church plant and are forever changed by it, including several who are currently members of still existing congregations elsewhere in the body of the General Church. Did that church make mistakes and eventually close its doors? Yes. Did it permanently advance the cause of the kingdom of the Lord God Jesus Christ? Yes.

Theologicaly, we are a process-oriented church that teaches and believes that the Divine plan for humankind in this world involves iterative cycles of long periods of error, assessment, and hard work, regularly alternating with short periods of victory and rest. This means that we should not focus on being error free so much as on properly processing our errors so that we may “fail forward” in a way that allows the Lord to improve us. Western educational systems unfortunately train us to fear failure and error, to always seek to get “the right answer”, or else to not raise our hand at all. Any truly creative process, on the other hand, requires a willingness to experiment, to stumble, to try crazy things now and then, and to jump in with full knowledge that you may well delete the first chapter of that novel or the opening scene of the movie, once the whole thing is complete. We—the General Church of the New Jerusalem, New Way Church, and the Lord’s church worldwide—will be more successful if we are willing to take risks for the sake of bringing new things into the world in the Lord’s name.

That said, how do we know when it is time to stop the current experiment, evaluate, and begin again? By checking key measures at predetermined times. Measuring too soon and too often will stifle the project and crush the spirit of those on the ground in Austin, while measuring too infrequently or too late will not help correct the course if things are good but turning bad. So it is our intention to work with the General Church, the Board of Advisors, and with our other supporters to cooperatively review the status of the church at certain key points leading up to launch, and then afterward on a semianual basis until New Way Church is firmly established as a free standing, self-supporting church with healthy prospects for surviving and thriving for generations to come.

At each of these checkpoint times, key measures will be evaluated against the established plan, budget and expectations. Based on these reality checks, components of the plan will be adjusted in either minor or major ways, as appropriate.

The following are the key checkpoints:

Date/Event Evaluation Contingencies
Sep. 20, 2010
(After 1st Comeback Event)
Connection card returns, actual expenses vs. budget. Adjust location, worship format, worship style, budget.
Nov. 1, 2010
(After 3rd Comeback Event)
Connection card returns, worship participant numbers, volunteer numbers, actual expenses vs. budget. Adjust location, worship format, worship style, worship environment (greeters, signage, etc.), launch date, budget.
Dec. 21, 2010
(After 5th Preview Service)
Connection card returns, worship participant numbers, volunteer numbers, actual expenses vs. budget. Adjust location, worship format, worship style, worship environment, launch date, marketing, budget.
Mar. 21, 2011
(Approx. one month after Launch)
Connection card returns, worship participant numbers, volunteer numbers, actual expenses vs. budget. Adjust worship format, worship style, marketing, newcomer integration, budget.
May 11, 2011 Connection card returns, worship participant numbers, volunteer numbers, small group participant numbers, contributor numbers, total contributions, actual expenses vs. budget. Adjust worship format, worship style, worship environment, marketing, newcomer integration, stewardship plan, budget.
Nov. 14, 2011 Connection card returns, worship participant numbers, volunteer numbers, small group participant nubmers, contributor numbers, total contributions, actual expenses vs. budget. Adjust worship environment, marketing, newcomer integration, stewardship plan, budget.
Ongoing semiannually until self-supporting in 2014 Connection card returns, worship participant numbers, volunteer numbers, small group participant nubmers, contributor numbers, total contributions, actual expenses vs. budget. Adjust worship environment, marketing, newcomer integration, stewardship plan, budget.

[This is from the Launch Plan for New Way Church in Austin, TX. Last Friday I talked about Church Daughtering as a key strategy. This post on Contingencies concludes this section of the plan. Next I will publish the start of the People section.]


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