Church planting is a spiritual endeavor from first to last. Systems and methodologies are helpful, but they are just helpful. Jesus is building His Church and all the slick strategies in the world will not replace His blessing and anointing. Run away from anyone who tells you that if you follow his or her steps to planting you are guaranteed to succeed.
However, there are guidelines and realities that EVERY planter must factor into how they start the new church.
One universal reality that must be considered in your prayers and plans for planting is that people are people. People everywhere have hopes, grief, dreams, fears, etc. Except for hardcore hermits, people everywhere interact with each other, and the patterns of interaction are predictable. The technical word for all this is sociology. The wise planter will take a lesson from the marketing world and choose to be informed by sociological realities. It’s best to work with sociological patterns, not against them.
For example, it is no accident that around January 1 our inboxes and commercial interruptions are bombarded with ads for diet programs and health clubs. The reason is obvious. By the beginning of the new year, the average American has recently added some pounds to their weight and inches to their waist and is looking for an easy way to get them off. I’ve NEVER seen a weight loss or health club ad in November. Again, the reason is obvious. We are getting ready to put on some weight, and buying a weight loss program would be a waste of money. It’s not rocket science. Actually, it’s sociology. Weight loss and health club advertisers know that the best time to look for new customers is in January, not November or December.
Savvy church planters study their target communities for relevant sociological patterns they can leverage to start strong. Some are very specific. If deer hunters dominate your target community, it’s probably a bad idea to have your launch service on the first day of deer hunting season. Some are more general. A good rule of thumb is that the Big Three natural church planting seasons are early fall, early in the new year and two to three weeks before Easter.
You read that right. Two to three weeks before Easter. Why? Here’s a quote from my blog post a year ago:
“It is very common for a new church to experience a significant drop in attendance the week after its public launch. I usually tell planters that if their week two attendance is 50% of the launch week, they are doing well. However, if the launch Sunday is on Easter, the week two drop will be even more severe and a real momentum buster.
On the other hand, churches that have chosen to launch one, two, or three weeks prior to Easter have found that Easter becomes a momentum builder. A pre-Easter launch allows the new church to have two events in a short span of time that make it easier to invite unchurched friends and family members. The launch itself, followed in a week or two by the natural Easter surge keeps relational momentum headed in the right direction.”
With sociology in mind, moving your launch day to a few weeks before Easter is a strategy worth your prayer and consideration. Remember, these aren’t rules. They’re just guidelines based on sociological patterns. You may be aware of exceptions. That’s fine. From a sociological perspective, I would rate early fall as the most advantageous time of year for starting a new church. January would be my second choice and just prior to Easter would be my third. My point in all of this is that it makes good sense to factor solid sociological principles into your decisions about when and how to plant. Even in 2013, people are still people!
Now it’s your turn. What are some examples of sociological principles that should be considered when starting a new church in the community to which God has called you?