I received these questions as a comment to my post from earlier today about church planting. I decided to answer them as another post since many do not read comments.
1. Since you started with mostly unchurched people, when did you establish an elder team? Also, from whom did you use for this?
We received great advise from several churches, including Rob Bell’s church, that as founding pastors we should not give away the vision to soon to elders who may not own the same vision yet. We waited two full years before we officially had elders. Right now, three and a half years later, we have three elders, my co-pastor, one of our core members, and me. We plan to add elders in the next couple years as God leads us to the right men. These also will need to be men who, in addition to the normal Biblical requirements, will have been with us long enough to understand and own the vision of our church.
2. How many did you launch with and what environment did you gather in? I’m curious what you did for worship when you launched. Being an attractional church, good music seems to be an important key.
We began with 22 core members (11 couples) and 3 full-time staff members (and their families), who were prepared to work bi-vocational if needed. We met in my living room and in smaller meetings for five months, but other people heard about what we were doing and wanted to be a part before we officially launched. We then borrowed a coffee shop operated by another church and met there on Sunday nights doing training two months before launch with a group that had grown to about 50 people. In the month prior to launch, we moved to another churches facility on Sunday nights where interest continued to build and we had over 100 people joining us for training.
We added music when we moved to the training period at the coffee shop and in the church facility. We didn’t have a full band, but we did have a style similar to what they could expect to see once we launched.
3. How important was your focus on small groups from the beginning? What percentage of your membership regularly gather in small groups during the week?
We have tried to be prepared for every environment before we launch it. We aren’t afraid to make people wait until we get things right. Therefore, we “practiced” groups with the original group of 50 or so people who were with us for the first official training in the coffee shop. We divided into four groups and after going through about 12 weeks together we found leaders from within these practice groups and officially launched ten initial groups. Right now we have average about 70% of our Sunday attendance involved in groups, when you include adults, youth and children. (We do signups a few times a year and will again this Sunday, so that number is an average over time.)
Keep the questions coming. Love it!