Editor’s note: Read part 1, part 2 and part 3 of Tom Arthur’s series on launching satellite campuses.
My church has a big goal: Launch seven satellites in seven venues on seven days of the week.
We’ve had our first “preview” for the first satellite that will meet in a diner on Monday nights, an idea we picked up from reading “Launch: Starting a New Church from Scratch,” a book by Nelson Searcy (an alum of Duke Divinity School and former director of Saddleback Church’s Purpose Driven Community).
Here’s what we’ve been learning as we think along with Searcy.
1. Churches that launch big thrive. That’s Searcy’s overall thesis and that’s why he talks about “launching” a church rather than “planting” one (a slower process implied in the metaphor).
I’m sure many of you just read those two sentences and had some kind of biblical/theological warning system go off. Hold your critique just a little bit longer.
2. You need a launch team to do a big launch. The launch team’s goal is simple: Launch weekly and as big as possible. They’re not there to do much of anything else except plan and execute the launch. That’s not to say they’re not studying or praying but that they are doing these things as part of the process of launching. The launch team disbands to make way for other leadership once the launch is up and running.
3. A good launch team needs to do “previews” leading up to the launch. In our case, we are doing three. The purpose of the previews is to work out the kinks in the worship service and to build the launch team by connecting with guests who come to the previews. These previews are primarily word-of-mouth events. Launch team members invite their friends and family who we then invite to join the launch team in preparation for our weekly launch.
4. “Big” is relative to your context. We’re launching a satellite in a diner that has about ninety seats. Big for us would be to have about thirty or forty people who are new to our church show up at the launch service, mixed in with another ten or twenty who are already connected to our church. This brings the total size of “big” to about fifty or sixty people.
It’s a bit odd to say that launching “big” means convening a worshiping community that will be fifty to sixty people. It’s pretty hard to replicate a thousand member megachurch. But that’s not our goal. I’m hoping it will be much easier to replicate fifty to sixty people -- but seven times over.
All we’re really doing is going back and resurrecting an old-school Methodist idea: Build “societies” that are connected by a circuit rider. Although we are taking it one step further by integrating all the “societies” with a common leadership team (thus, no need to replicate a trustees committee, finance committee, staffing committee and so on).
So, we put into practice Searcy and the old-school Methodists, and the first preview went pretty well. We had about fifty people there and about ten guests, several which I’ve been able to meet with since then. We’ve added two people to our launch team (and possibly a third) for a total of twelve. We recognized some kinks (how do you do offering in a diner?) and realized some other things are not as big of a deal as we thought they might be (waiters and waitresses walking around throughout the service).
About thirty people from our Sunday morning service came and worshiped with us and caught a vision for what we’re doing. One woman who came later told me, “I didn’t get this idea until I saw it.”
Those are thirty people who are now “associate” members of the launch team, spreading the word and inviting their friends.
Tom Arthur is pastor of Sycamore Creek United Methodist Church in Lansing, Michigan.