Archive for category Strategy

Crowd to Core

The growth model will focus not on the core (the dedicated leaders within the congregation), but on the crowd (newcomers and potential newcomers). Traditional church planting focuses on core development, followed by slowly sending the core out to invite new people from the crowd to the congregation. But the problem with this approach is that the core tends to develop a powerful sense of identity that inevitably feels at least unconsciously threatened by the growth of the congregation.

This newer approach views the preexisting dedicated members not as a core to be nurtured, but as a potential leadership team to be immediately empowered and turned outward toward the crowd. Focus then becomes quickly identifying new potential leaders from the crowd of newcomers and carefully progressing them into positions of responsibility at a higher rate than in traditional church settings.

So rather than first meeting for worship in living rooms and doing pastor-led doctrinal studies, we will go immediately to worship in rental facilities, with small groups led by volunteers.

For six months leading up to the public launch date, we will have monthly “preview” services. A preview service is a regular worship service at which everyone is “practicing” for when we invite the general public on launch day. However, after the first one to three preview services (once the roughest edges are knocked off) we will begin inviting personal friends and doing some early advertising. With each service we will build momentum by increasing our connected outreach efforts.

Everyone who attends a preview service is then invited to a “comeback event” two weeks later. These six comeback events are social events at the pastor’s house, at a park, and in other locations. Here the vision for the church is cast, community ties are built, and all attendees are invited to help put on the next preview service.

All this leads to a large marketing push combined with a big invitation program for the launch day, which kicks off regular full operation of the church with weekly public worship gatherings and small group meetings.

[This is from the Launch Plan for New Way Church in Austin, TX. Yesterday: Church Systems. Next time: Street to Kitchen.]

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Church Systems

We will be using a heavily adapted version of Nelson Searcy’s church systems model. This model organizes a church according to interlocking systems, much like the different systems of the human body. As part of this model, we will be running a semester-based Small Group system, a “big day” driven Evangelism system, and a top shelf Assimilation system using trained greeters, contact cards, and short and medium term personal followup communications.

[This is from the Launch Plan for New Way Church in Austin, TX. Yesterday: why Mac Frazier. Tomorrow: Crowd to Core.]

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Mac Frazier

The Rev. Glenn “Mac” Frazier was ordained as a minister of the New Church in 2006, and raised to the degree of pastor in 2008. He has served as an Assistant to the Pastor in Pittsburgh and in Bryn Athyn, and as visiting minister to Erie, North Ohio, Charlotte, and Chapel Hill. He has also served as consulting pastor for Pulse (the General Church’s revamped young adult program), and has been an ongoing contributor to Office of Outreach efforts, including writing for New Church Connection magazine and assisting with the development and associated training for spiritual growth campaigns. He has also served as a clergy representative on a couple of General Church board committees and teams.

Before answering the call to the priesthood, he was an executive at the web business development company he co-founded in 1995. Refinery grew to be an industry leader by the time of its sale in 2007. Mac’s principle role in the company was the building and leading of the consultant group within the company that advised clients on new projects. During this time, he not only had experience running a startup, but consulted on the plans of numerous other startup ventures funded by major corporations.

Mac retired from active involvement in the company in 2003 to take a little time off before entering theological school. During this hiatus he authored an opinion and current events blog that was cited numerous times in the online edition of the Wall Street Journal.

Mac married Gillian Leeper from Atlanta, GA in 1995. Together they have four children, ages four to twelve.

[This is from the Launch Plan for New Way Church in Austin, TX. Yesterday: why Austin, Texas. Tomorrow: Church Systems.]

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Austin, Texas

The city of Austin has been a top growth city in America for many years running, and has continued to grow, even during the recent economic downturn. In response to their ongoing explosive growth, Austinites began a campaign to maintain the distinctiveness of local neighborhoods under the slogan, “Keep Austin Weird”. Since then, this has become more generally the motto for the city at large. Austin is religiously diverse—among other things, it is home to the largest Hindu temple in North America. Culturally, Austin prides itself in being cosmopolitan, free-thinking, and tolerant of multiple viewpoints. It would be a mistake to think of a church plant in Austin as a church plant in Texas. What most people think of as Texan culture is a mostly suburban/rural phenomenon in the Austin area. Austin has as many tattoos and piercings as it has cowboy hats and shiny belt buckles.

Austin is also a young city. The average age for New Way Church’s initial target area (a four mile radius centered on the Gateway mall), for instance, is 36. The most significant demographic age group in this area are the “survivor” generation of 28- to 48-year-olds, which makes up 39% of the population here; the U.S. average for this group overall is only 29%. Austin overall is culturally very young. The presence of the University of Texas in the center of the city, with its 50,000 students, has a significant cultural impact, as do the multiple annual music festivals that draw international crowds.

The U.S. Lifestyle group (from a system of 6 demographic groups and 50 subgroups used by church psychographic research company, Percept) most significantly present in the area is the “Young and Coming” group. Young and Coming households represent 52% of this area’s population, 16% of which are of the Rising Potential Professionals subgroup; for comparison, the U.S. average for the Young and Coming group is only 15%. This area is also a highly educated one, with twice as many college graduates per capita than in the general U.S. population.

Given the large amount of transplant growth, the overrepresentation of people on the cusp of starting families, and the overall atmosphere of intellectual and philosophical experimentation, Austin represents fertile ground for church planting. In particular, this place has what has sometimes been termed “New Church Friendly Demographics”; it has been on the unofficial church planting “to watch” lists of a number of church growth thinkers in the General Church for years.

An additional reason for planting in Austin is that it is a good match not only for the New Church, but for this particular New Church planter, the Rev. Mac Frazier. When doing outreach work, it is important to find a good match between the target culture and the background of the founding pastor. In this case, Mac is coming from a background in high-tech entrepreneurship, and is intimately familiar with the culture, worldview and lifestyle of tech workers and managers that make up a significant percentage of the target demographic in Austin. Austin is a high-tech town; Dell is headquartered there and IBM has a major presence there, among other high-tech employers in the area. During the height of the tech boom there were regular commuter flights between Austin and the Silicon Valley—dubbed the “nerd bird”—because the growing cadre of web workers and growing Internet millionaires preferred the more laid back and progressive lifestyle of Austin.

[This is excerpted from the Launch Plan for New Way Church in Austin, TX. Go to yesterday’s except for an explanation of why we need More Societies (i.e. New Church congregations). Tomorrow: why Mac Frazier would make a good church planter for this plan.]

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More Societies

For a more complete argument in favor of the ongoing planting/launching of many small to medium sized congregations, see my presentation, “10 Reasons”. But here are just a couple of the reasons the New Church needs to launch many more congregations.

Most systems, (social networks, commercial markets, entertainment media, etc.) naturally tend toward a long-tail distribution pattern. Only when there are artificial barriers to distribution (limited shelf space, for instance) does this natural distribution pattern get truncated in a way that favors the investment in “blockbusters”, “best sellers”, “top 40 hits”, etc. The church world is no different. Church is essentially a local cultural phenomenon, and is becoming more so. These days, with new generations growing up with greatly increased expectations with regard to choice, variety, and customization brought on by the long tail effect of digital distribution, we will see a move away from megachurches akin to the de-urbanization trends caused when a society moves from industrialism to post-industrialism.

Going forward, young people will choose faith communities the way they would like to ideally choose restaurants: “fresh, seasonal, local”. In church terms, this means they will prefer congregations that are vibrant (as evidenced by an active engagement with the world), culturally relevant (and aware of current trends and issues), and distinctly local. Denominational affiliation has been increasingly meaningless, or even detrimental to church growth in the Christian world, and there is little reason to expect it will be different for Swedenborgian churches.

For these reasons, the optimal growth strategy for an organization like the General Church is to invest so as to maximize not the size of congregations, but the overall number of culturally varied congregations. Provided that such congregations are large enough to be self-sufficient, the portion of the Lord’s kingdom that the General Church represents will grow best when spread across as many different cultural niches as possible. This strategy also diversifies risk.

Other advantages of pursuing a multiple-congregation growth strategy include: diversification of risk and increased cultural variety within the body of the General Church. In fact, it is this last that is potentially most beneficial.

The General Church is a stuck system, largely due to cultural inertia. We can strive to change the established culture of the existing groups in order to grow them, or we can add new groups that have no pre-existing church culture. The latter takes less effort (and does less damage) than the former, yet still adds significantly to the overall cultural transformation of the body of the worldwide movement.

Consider also, this, from Heaven and Hell:

It is worth noting that the more members there are in a single community and the more united they are in action, the more perfect is their human form. This is because variety arranged in a heavenly form makes perfection, as explained above in 56; and variety occurs where there are many individuals.

Every community in heaven is growing in numbers daily, and the more it grows, the more perfect it becomes. In this way, not only is the community perfected, but heaven in general is perfected as well, since the communities constitute heaven.

Since heaven is perfected by its numerical growth, we can see how mistaken people are who believe that heaven will be closed to prevent overcrowding. Actually, it is just the reverse. It will never be closed, and its ever increasing fullness makes it more perfect. So angels long for nothing more than to have new angel guests arrive there. (HH 71)

Earlier in the same work, it says this:

Variety in worship of the Lord from the variety of good in different societies is not harmful, but beneficial, for the perfection of heaven is therefrom. …Unity, that it may be perfect, must be formed from variety. Every whole exists from various parts, since a whole without constituents is not anything; it has no form, and therefore no quality. But when a whole exists from various parts, and the various parts are in a perfect form, in which each attaches itself like a congenial friend to another in series, then the quality is perfect. So heaven is a whole from various parts arranged in a most perfect form, for the heavenly form is the most perfect of all forms. That this is the ground of all perfection is evident from the nature of all beauty, agreeableness and delight, by which the senses and the mind are affected; for these qualities spring and flow from no other source than the concert and harmony of many concordant and congenial parts, either coexisting in order or following in order, and never from a whole without many parts. From this is the saying that variety gives delight; and the nature of variety, as is known, is what determines the delight. From all this it can be seen as in a mirror how perfection comes from variety even in heaven. For from the things that exist in the natural world the things of the spiritual world can be seen as in a mirror. (HH 56)

From this it is perfectly clear how each society of the church can be further perfected through the addition of new members. It then does not take much of a stretch to see how the church as a whole will be greatly improved through the addition of new congregations.

[This continues the serialization of the Launch Plan for New Way Church in Austin, TX. It continues the Rationale section, started last week. Tomorrow: why Austin, Texas.]

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