CHURCH PLANTING & Least livable: 50 worst US cities to reside in. Time For #ChurchPlanters to step up to the challenge?

by Samuel Stebbens and Evan Comen, USA Today, 6/13/18.

…Quality of life is subjective, and difficult to measure. Still, there is a wide range of quantifiable factors that can impact quality of life in a given area. Affordability, safety, job market strength, quality of education, infrastructure, average commute times, air quality, and the presence of cultural attractions are just a few examples of factors that can influence overall quality of life.

24/7 Wall St. created an index with measures in eight categories — crime, economy, education, environment, health, housing, infrastructure, and leisure — to identify the 50 worst cities to live in. Not confined to a single region, the worst cities span the country from the South to the Midwest and from New England to the Pacific coast.

Read the list here: https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/economy/2018/06/13/50-worst-cities-to-live-in/35909271/

NEED-MEETING & 5 ways to determine community needs

by Michael Fries, LifeWay, 4/16/18.

… We’re partnering with a local church to plant an autonomous congregation in our city, and we’re also planting additional campuses of our own church. In doing so, we’ve had to develop ways to pinpoint where to plant in our city.

1. KNOW THE SOCIAL MAKEUP OF YOUR COMMUNITY.

Learning about your community is simple. While it’s possible to spend a fair amount of money for detailed demographic reports, you can also learn valuable information while spending next to nothing.

Begin with the U.S. Census Bureau website. Use its free tools to identify what is happening in the immediate areas around your church and in the larger area that makes up your community.

2. KNOW THE RELIGIOUS MAKEUP OF YOUR COMMUNITY.

TheARDA.com is a useful tool that allows you to research the religious affiliation of your area based on city name, zip code and other search parameters.

3. MAP THE MEMBERS OF YOUR CHURCH.

Missiologist Keelan Cook has made mapping a fairly simple process. His mapping tool uses Google Maps to let you quickly identify the geographic makeup of your congregation. You can access his tool at bit.ly/keelancook.

Once you have uploaded your membership database into the tool, it will produce a digital map that will allow you to identify your members’ areas of concentration.

4. MAP THE CHURCHES IN YOUR COMMUNITY.

It may require a bit more time to accomplish this task, as you will need to enter the addresses of every local church into a database. Then you can upload them into the tool mentioned above and produce a digital map pinpointing every church in your community.

Too often churches overlook this step. They simply look to identify pockets of need without carefully considering who else might already be working in those areas.

5. IDENTIFY GROWTH AREAS.

The final step is setting priorities based on growth projections.

Population movement is significant in evaluating the need for a church plant. Expanding areas need more churches, and congregations in those areas have greater potential to grow.

If migration patterns and growth areas are not easy to identify, this information can often be found by contacting your city manager or chamber of commerce.

These steps will help you develop a database of target areas and a methodology of church planting. But the value of studying your community goes beyond knowing where you should plant a church and what kind of church to plant.

Read more at … https://factsandtrends.net/2018/04/16/church-planting-blueprint-5-ways-to-determine-the-needs-of-your-community/

CHURCH PLANTING & Death maps show where despair is killing Americans.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: In my coaching and mentoring of church planters, I have found them increasingly open to going to hard-hit urban and rural areas. This map shows that some of the most needy areas are in rural Appalachia. One of my former students (who shadowed me for a year to learn consulting) Jay Wise, pastors a church in the middle of the red zone. Read this article to understand more … so you can pray for Jay and consider supporting ministers who labor in these challenging environments.

“Death maps show where despair is killing Americans“ by Maggie Fox, NBC News, 3/14/18.

Researchers have mapped out deaths from alcohol, drugs and violence across the U.S. and found troubling patterns of despair that have worsened in recent years.

While deaths from alcohol abuse, suicide and violence are down, they are more than outweighed by a gigantic 600 percent increase in drug overdose deaths, the team at the University of Washington found.

Their county-by-county breakdown of mortality data going back to 1980 paints an extremely detailed picture of where society is failing the most Americans.

“Every county experienced an increase in deaths from drug use disorders, but that burden of drug use overdoses was particularly acute in certain communities,” Laura Dwyer-Lindgren and colleagues wrote in their report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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Death rates from drug abuse have increased by more than 600 percent since 1980, county-level data from the University of Washington shows. University Of Washingtonh

Drug deaths cluster in Appalachia. A map showing the rate of increase is even more dramatic, showing hot spots of worsening drug overdoses in Appalachia, Ohio, Indiana, Oklahoma, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

Read more at … https://www.nbcnews.com/news/amp/ncna856231?__twitter_impression=true

CHURCH PLANTING & Starting a Plant in a Internet Cafe: The Sol Cafe in Edmonton, AB

By Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., Jan. 15, 2006. This is an excerpt of the chapter on this innovative church plant I wrote for the Abingdon Press book titled: Inside the organic church: Learning from 12 emerging congregations.

Chapter 2: Sol Café, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

We’re a “coffee-stop,” an “information booth” along a spiritual highway.

“Worship leading is … ‘curating” (providing opportunities for engagement and free association). – Sally Morgenthaler, worship leader and consultant

First Encounters:

It looked like any other Internet café, with little indication a church gathering was about to take place. Feeling adrift, I made my way to the coffee bar. “I guess I’m the church greeter,” began Winston, the barista. “I usually don’t act so forward but you looked lost.” As a church growth consultant, I visit worship gatherings every weekend. But he was right, an unobtrusive beginning to this worship gathering had disoriented me. I didn’t know the bewilderment was so obvious.

“We usually don’t tell people a worship gathering is starting,” continued Winston. “We just let them get comfortable, have a coffee, and engage in conversation. Then the worship unfolds slowly … at an unhurried pace. We want to usher people into a spiritual encounter, we don’t want to announce ‘Hey, its worship time: in or out!’”

I wondered out loud if people get offended once they discover a worship gathering is unfolding. “Rarely,” replied Winston. “Most of the time people like the music, the unhurried atmosphere, patrons sharing their stories. It is a great way to do church, and it impacts people who have never been to church. They are slowly led into a church experience. It’s not dropped on them all at once.”

True to the forecast, the evening progressed deliberately forward, but at a leisured pace. People laughed, talked, introduced themselves, and generally turned this Internet café into an extended family. Instrumental music was played at first, but soon some people were singing along. Over time more joined in, and even reticent attendees soon sang. At first the songs had a reflective timbre, but as the evening progressed so did the songs’ Christian content, until finally I noticed many visitors were reflective and pensive. This unhurried evening would eventually culminate with a short interactive sermon.

The gathering that evening was warm and sociable. “And we get even better attendance when its colder,” reflected Matt Thompson one of the leaders. “Edmonton is cold in the winter,” he continued “and the Sole Café provides a warm cup of coffee, good conversations, and time to reflect on life.” Though usually frigid in January, this day in Edmonton Alberta resembled a spring afternoon. Yet good weather did not seem to deter a good turn out at the Sol Café.[i]

Dashboard:

Church: Sol Café

Leaders: Debbie and Rob Toews (now employed as the director of a Christian retreat center), Jacqueline and Winston Pei, Anika and Steve Martin, Matt Thompson, Dave Wakulchyk.

Location: Whyte Ave., an urban neighborhood in Edmonton, Alberta.

Affiliation: Christian and Missionary Alliance of Canada

Size: 30-55

Target Audience: college/postmodern thinkers, metropolitan residents, urban artists, immigrant families, blue collar families, people in their twenties into late-thirties.

Website: thesolcafe.com

A Fusion of Rhythms:

Shared Rhythms

The Rhythm of Place

“We wanted to create an atmosphere where people could come and just sit around,” reflected Rob Toews, the founding pastor. Jokingly he continued, “a pub was another option, but we didn’t think the CMA[ii] was ready for that.”

Sol Café had begun in the basement of a nearby Christian and Missionary Alliance Church. However, the leaders felt that the catacombs of a local church would not adequately impact the postmodern thinkers in the neighborhood. “The church facility was a safe bet. It was available, and it wasn’t costly,” continued Rob. “But it also wasn’t very effective.”

Rob and another leader used a large portion of the denominational support to purchase a local Internet café. During the week they ran it as a business. Rob worked 2-3 shifts a week, selling coffee and conversing. Eddie Gibbs describes such risk taking as a characteristic of the organic church, where, “uncertainty becomes an occasion for growth, not a cause of paralysis. It is a church prepared to take risks, which learns from its failures and mistakes.”[iii]

As Gibbs forecast, mistakes followed risks. “The café was supposed to support the church, but the finances to support the staff weren’t there,” recounted Rob. “And the people we were reaching were too young or too underprivileged to make significant contributions. But the location was excellent for our mission … just not for our finances.[iv]

Read more by downloading the chapter BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – OC Chpt. 2 Sol Cafe.  But, if you enjoy the book consider supporting the publisher and the author by purchasing a copy.

And, find more examples of innovative and cost-effective church planing models here: https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2018/02/07/church-planting-cost-effective-alternatives-to-the-customary-planting-strategies/

[i] Sol Café’s leaders appropriated their name from the book “A Cup of Coffee at the Soul Café” by Leonard I. Sweet and Denise Marie Siino (New York: Broadman & Holman, 1998). They also modified to fit the bilingual culture of Canada.

[ii] Christian and Missionary Alliance of Canada, the denominational affiliation of the Sol Café congregation.

[iii] Eddie Gibbs, Church Next: Quantum Changes in How We Do Ministry, (Downers Grove, Ill.: 2000), p. 235.

[iv] Subsequently, Rob Toews had to take a fulltime job at a Christian retreat center. “I think we will survive, but it will be difficult,” observed Rob. “We are on our own now. No support from the denomination, which can be a good thing. It will make us learn and adapt.”

And click here to download a flier from the Sol Cafe explaining a bit about their ethos and genesis: thesolcafe.

CHURCH PLANTING & Cost-effective Alternatives to the Customary Planting Strategies

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 02.07.18.

I’m a big fan of church planting and I’ve planted a church myself. And, from first-hand experience I know that church planting can be a fiscally draining process. Therefore I’ve been exploring other planting strategies that are less expensive.

Here are some innovative ideas I’ve discovered:

CHURCH PLANTING & Church has no walls but many doors, accessible to seekers and skeptics

by Leadership & Faith Editorial Board, Duke University, 1/31/18. https://www.faithandleadership.com/church-has-no-walls-many-doors-accessible-seekers-and-skeptics?utm_source=NI_newsletter&utm_medium=content&utm_campaign=NI_feature I coach churches in this conservative, Episcopal diocese in Texas and am amazed by some of the creativity by our high liturgy brethren.

CHURCH PLANTING & Why the “Lean Start-up Movement” changes everything,

Video by the Harvard Business Review, 1/16/18: “Why the Lean Start-Up Changes Everything”

CHURCH PLANTING & Gentrification: More than hipster mobility, it can do greater good.

by Sam Gringlas, National Public Radio, 1/16/17, http://www.npr.org/2017/01/16/505606317/d-c-s-gentrifying-neighborhoods-a-careful-mix-of-newcomers-and-old-timers

CHURCH PLANTING & The “Ripple Model” is More Effective: Make It a Ministry of All Healthy Churches

An article in which I suggest a church begins to multiply campuses and/or sites, or by partnering with a dying congregation, launching venues in public spaces, etc.,  https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2016/09/18/church-planting-the-ripple-model-is-more-effective-make-it-a-ministry-of-all-healthy-churches/

CHURCH PLANTING & Starting a Plant in a Internet Cafe: The Sol Cafe in Edmonton, AB.

This is an excerpt of the chapter on this innovative church plant I wrote for the Abingdon Press book titled: Inside the organic church: Learning from 12 emerging congregations.

Chapter 2: Sol Café, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

We’re a “coffee-stop,” an “information booth” along a spiritual highway.

“Worship leading is … ‘curating” (providing opportunities for engagement and free association). – Sally Morgenthaler, worship leader and consultant

First Encounters:

It looked like any other Internet café, with little indication a church gathering was about to take place. Feeling adrift, I made my way to the coffee bar. “I guess I’m the church greeter,” began Winston, the barista. “I usually don’t act so forward but you looked lost.” As a church growth consultant, I visit worship gatherings every weekend. But he was right, an unobtrusive beginning to this worship gathering had disoriented me. I didn’t know the bewilderment was so obvious.

“We usually don’t tell people a worship gathering is starting,” continued Winston. “We just let them get comfortable, have a coffee, and engage in conversation. Then the worship unfolds slowly … at an unhurried pace. We want to usher people into a spiritual encounter, we don’t want to announce ‘Hey, its worship time: in or out!’”

I wondered out loud if people get offended once they discover a worship gathering is unfolding. “Rarely,” replied Winston. “Most of the time people like the music, the unhurried atmosphere, patrons sharing their stories. It is a great way to do church, and it impacts people who have never been to church. They are slowly led into a church experience. It’s not dropped on them all at once.”

True to the forecast, the evening progressed deliberately forward, but at a leisured pace. People laughed, talked, introduced themselves, and generally turned this Internet café into an extended family. Instrumental music was played at first, but soon some people were singing along. Over time more joined in, and even reticent attendees soon sang. At first the songs had a reflective timbre, but as the evening progressed so did the songs’ Christian content, until finally I noticed many visitors were reflective and pensive. This unhurried evening would eventually culminate with a short interactive sermon.

The gathering that evening was warm and sociable. “And we get even better attendance when its colder,” reflected Matt Thompson one of the leaders. “Edmonton is cold in the winter,” he continued “and the Sole Café provides a warm cup of coffee, good conversations, and time to reflect on life.” Though usually frigid in January, this day in Edmonton Alberta resembled a spring afternoon. Yet good weather did not seem to deter a good turn out at the Sol Café.[i]

Dashboard:

Church: Sol Café

Leaders: Debbie and Rob Toews (now employed as the director of a Christian retreat center), Jacqueline and Winston Pei, Anika and Steve Martin, Matt Thompson, Dave Wakulchyk.

Location: Whyte Ave., an urban neighborhood in Edmonton, Alberta.

Affiliation: Christian and Missionary Alliance of Canada

Size: 30-55

Target Audience: college/postmodern thinkers, metropolitan residents, urban artists, immigrant families, blue collar families, people in their twenties into late-thirties.

Website: thesolcafe.com

A Fusion of Rhythms:

Shared Rhythms

The Rhythm of Place

“We wanted to create an atmosphere where people could come and just sit around,” reflected Rob Toews, the founding pastor. Jokingly he continued, “a pub was another option, but we didn’t think the CMA[ii] was ready for that.”

Sol Café had begun in the basement of a nearby Christian and Missionary Alliance Church. However, the leaders felt that the catacombs of a local church would not adequately impact the postmodern thinkers in the neighborhood. “The church facility was a safe bet. It was available, and it wasn’t costly,” continued Rob. “But it also wasn’t very effective.”

Rob and another leader used a large portion of the denominational support to purchase a local Internet café. During the week they ran it as a business. Rob worked 2-3 shifts a week, selling coffee and conversing. Eddie Gibbs describes such risk taking as a characteristic of the organic church, where, “uncertainty becomes an occasion for growth, not a cause of paralysis. It is a church prepared to take risks, which learns from its failures and mistakes.”[iii]

As Gibbs forecast, mistakes followed risks. “The café was supposed to support the church, but the finances to support the staff weren’t there,” recounted Rob. “And the people we were reaching were too young or too underprivileged to make significant contributions. But the location was excellent for our mission … just not for our finances.[iv]

Read more by downloading the chapter BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – OC Chpt. 2 Sol Cafe.  But, if you enjoy the book consider supporting the publisher and the author by purchasing a copy.

[i] Sol Café’s leaders appropriated their name from the book “A Cup of Coffee at the Soul Café” by Leonard I. Sweet and Denise Marie Siino (New York: Broadman & Holman, 1998). They also modified to fit the bilingual culture of Canada.

[ii] Christian and Missionary Alliance of Canada, the denominational affiliation of the Sol Café congregation.

[iii] Eddie Gibbs, Church Next: Quantum Changes in How We Do Ministry, (Downers Grove, Ill.: 2000), p. 235.

[iv] Subsequently, Rob Toews had to take a fulltime job at a Christian retreat center. “I think we will survive, but it will be difficult,” observed Rob. “We are on our own now. No support from the denomination, which can be a good thing. It will make us learn and adapt.”

And click here to download a flier from the Sol Cafe explaining a bit about their ethos and genesis: thesolcafe.

Find more on innovative and cost-effective alternatives to church planting here: https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2018/02/07/church-planting-starting-a-plant-in-a-internet-cafe-the-sol-cafe-in-edmonton-ab/

CHURCH PLANTING & Plant doesn’t have a building, only a cellphone app, linking members to church’s many parts: house groups, Taco Truck, roadside Ash Wednesday service, etc.

Commentary by Prof. B.: Having planted a church and coached perhaps hundreds of others, I believe that the current planting models are often overly dependent upon expensive strategies. Therefore I welcome this case study of a church with many ministries but no building. Instead they link the community to its many activities via a cell phone app. I coach a nearby church to this one and the pastor there told me that she thought this new model of church planting would be expanded through out her diocese (she is a bishop). Here is the article written by an editorial board at Duke University on this potentially replicable church planting model.

Church has no walls but many doors, accessible to seekers and skeptics

by Leadership & Faith Editorial Board, Duke University, 1/31/18.

…Taco Church was part of the newly launched St. Isidore Episcopal, a “church without walls” focused on small group discipleship and community service. The church didn’t have a building, and it didn’t want one, Steele said. Instead, it had a cellphone app, linking members to the church’s many parts.

As Steele explained, St. Isidore was one church embodied in many different ways. It wasn’t just Taco Church. It would eventually become three house churches, a pub theology group, a free laundry ministry, a food truck and more. It was all quite unorthodox, except the liturgy and theology, which were decidedly Episcopalian.

The Rev. Sean Steele leads Ash Wednesday services for commuters in a Houston suburb.

… This Easter, a little over a year after his first Taco Church, Mraz and his 6-year-old son were baptized in a service he helped organize as a member of the St. Isidore leadership team.

Finding new possibilities

As many mainline Protestant churches shrink and shutter across the United States, St. Isidore is finding new possibilities by marrying a denomination’s traditions with a decentralized structure drawn from the emergent-church playbook. It’s a mission church and “research and development” effort launched by Trinity Episcopal Church, a 1,500-member parish in The Woodlands, a suburb north of Houston.

“I am not trying to do something old in a new way; I am trying to do something brand-new in the old way,” said Steele, the entrepreneurial 38-year-old priest behind the experiment. “Many [church planters] feel they need to jettison the tradition. I actually think we need to be more church, not less.”

Steele holds tightly to Episcopal liturgy even as he brings it into novel settings such as breweries and laundromats. St. Isidore is aimed not just at unorthodox places, he said, but also at unorthodox people, like the formerly Daoist chicken farmer who now runs the pub theology group.

“I’m trying to think about the people who aren’t going to a church on a Sunday morning,” Steele said. “I’m not interested in getting Christians that are already Christian.”

St. Isidore (link is external) is a church with many entry points, many thresholds that even seekers and skeptics can easily cross, Steele said. St. Isidore is the patron saint of the internet (link is external) — part of the glue that holds Steele’s church together — and, as Steele likes to joke, the saint’s name conveys what the church is about: “It … is a door.”

What are the thresholds to your church? How can they be made easier to cross?

The Rev. Gerry Sevick, the rector at Trinity (link is external), hired Steele straight out of seminary in 2012 with the understanding that he would eventually plant a new church or start a missional community.

“There’s a population out there hungry for spirituality and hungry for a community of faith,” Sevick said. “While they’re skeptical about a traditional church, they are willing to explore an alternative way of being church…”

A St. Isidore member invites drivers to the roadside Ash Wednesday service. 

Church for the unchurched

…Starting in January 2015, Sevick gave Steele 10 hours a week to focus on research, dreaming, planning and working with a church-planting coach — a luxury possible perhaps only at a large multi-staff parish.

That March, a lay staff member mentioned half-jokingly that she wanted to do outreach with a free food truck. Steele jumped at the idea and started the fundraising; the food truck manufacturer became a major contributor.

The first ministry group, Pub Theology, began as an experiment in August 2015. Like similar gatherings nationwide, it attracted an eclectic mix of believers and nonbelievers across several generations. Some of them also joined other St. Isidore activities as they launched, while some just came out for the Tuesday night beer-and-discussion gatherings.

Taco Church began around the same time after Steele noticed that the group of guys he encountered at his neighborhood gym every day often shared surprisingly intimate conversations. He saw a community of trust and mutual interest that felt sort of like church.

Steele asked whether they would be interested in getting up an hour early on a Wednesday to meet across the street at Taco Bell.

“We’ll just start gathering together and praying together, and we’ll see how it unfolds,” he told them.

Four guys showed up the first time. Steele wanted to help the men recognize that their community already was blessed and that they could set it apart as sacred. Now about 10 men gather each Wednesday, including a lawyer, an event promoter and a dishwasher who was homeless for two years before he found housing with Steele’s help.

After working through a series of check-in questions, the group studies a parable. They share wisdom across generations, poke fun at each other and break bread — specifically, breakfast tacos and some Chick-fil-A sandwiches sneaked in for variety.

A few months in, one of the members asked the others where they attended church…

House churches, empowering laity

In the fall of 2015, Steele interviewed more than a dozen families from Trinity and elsewhere to find the group that would form the first house church. They began meeting in October to talk about core values and how to lead house churches. From the beginning, he wanted to empower lay leaders, whom he said churches often render impotent.

After St. Isidore was officially commissioned in January 2016, the first house church, aimed at families with young children, began meeting at the Steeles’ home. A second house church launched the following month. For several months, people would visit but not stick around. Steele, though, was patient.

Read more at … https://www.faithandleadership.com/church-has-no-walls-many-doors-accessible-seekers-and-skeptics?utm_source=NI_newsletter&utm_medium=content&utm_campaign=NI_feature

Speaking hashtags: #Kingwood2018 LEAD 558 multiplication

CHURCH PLANTING & Why the “Lean Start-up Movement” changes everything #video

Harvard Business Review, 1/16/18: “Why the Lean Start-Up Changes Everything”

New ventures are searching for a business model, not executing one. Download a customizable version of this video slide deck here or watch here:

For more, read “Why the Lean Start-Up Changes Everything.”