In my first post about my church’s experiment with satellite campuses, I suggested that mainline church-planting efforts have a problem: it costs too much to launch a new church from the ground up (commonly called a “parachute drop”).
Yet the experience of conference church developers I’ve talked to suggests that launching in a partnership with already existing churches tends to be more successful and costs less than launching alone.
The new church developers of the North Central Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church recently joined together to create a video that highlights this reality:
The history of the West Michigan Conference New Church Development Committee has been that it costs $250,000 or more to launch a parachute drop church. I’ve heard of some parachute-drops in other conferences that have cost as much as a million dollars!
There’s got to be something better.
My own church, Sycamore Creek Church, in partnership with the West Michigan New Church Development Committee is branching out into satellites. We recently applied for a grant from the committee for a little over $22,000. This includes some media and sound equipment, money for hospitality and a lot for marketing. This number depends upon us finding a business that will allow us to meet in their space for free (otherwise the cost will go up with rental space). The idea is to have a win-win situation for a local restaurant, pub or coffee house. We get free space that people who don’t attend church are already used to meeting in and they get new regular customers.
So goes our plan. Of course reality is harder than planning. Our first plan included meeting at a local franchise coffee house. I’ve been personally going to this coffee house for about a year. The owner of the business was interested in making our plan happen, but the franchise ended up not allowing us to play live music. Only pre-approved pre-recorded music need apply.
So we’ve have three choices: meet in this space without music, meet in this space and creatively use their pre-recorded music (an intriguing idea), or look for another space.
We haven’t totally thrown out the first two options, but we’re leaning toward looking for another space.
The other day, a team member who happens not to be Christian (more on that in a future post) and I spent four hours on a Saturday afternoon driving around town looking, imagining and dreaming about where we could meet. The funny thing about this is that we both saw things within two-to-five miles of where we both live that we’ve never seen before. We saw restaurants, churches and buildings we’d never noticed, and we came up with several possible leads on a new place to meet.
When was the last time you took an afternoon drive in your neighborhood alongside a non-Christian just imaging how to reach out to new people in your community? I’m guessing you’ve never done it. I never had.
But preparing to launch this satellite has opened my eyes to the community around me in a way that being the pastor of a more established church has not.
Try it sometime: Make a date on your calendar, drive around your neighborhood and dream.
Tom Arthur is pastor of Sycamore Creek United Methodist Church in Lansing, Michigan.