Because we had limited start-up funding and because we realized that starting worship services was the expected method to start a church, we determined to hold our Grand Opening on November 4th – just three months after moving.
Once we set the date, we worked really hard to get ready for the first service and to let everyone in our community know that we were starting soon. We prepared two bulk mailings, newspaper advertising, door hangers, and signs. We held a sports clinic, picnics in the park, and completed a door-to-door survey. We embraced an approach that attempted to get as many people as possible to our Grand Opening!
We also made certain that we had good signage, greeters, ushers, nursery workers, sound equipment, bulletins, children’s curriculum/workers, refreshments, sound equipment, welcome packets, giving envelopes, banners, plants, special music, and someone to count the offering.
Just a few weeks before our Grand Opening, Bob Logan (my mentor) said to me, “Dave, just prepare yourself to have a premature birth.”
I was shocked by his statement. We were doing everything we could to be ready for our opening Sunday. We even had a dress rehearsal the weekend before. (This was really helpful because the custodian arrived 90 minutes late to let us into the school. This would have been a disaster on our opening Sunday.)
On November 4, 1990, we had 202 people show up for our first worship service! (I counted everyone that was breathing – including the custodian.) I had little understanding of all that was involved in following up with first time visitors and how to go about seeing a crowd become a community. The truth was – we had a better turn-out that first weekend than most people expected. The following Sunday over 125 people returned. Now we were in the weekly rhythm of worshipping on Sunday. The “church” was born!
When to Start Worship Services
Today, I train and coach church planters. In our training events, we focus on developing plans to start churches by first making disciples. I emphasize the importance of actually engaging in the process of disciplemaking before you set your date for a Grand Opening.
In fact, I recommend that you don’t actually start worshipping on Sundays until after you have baptized new believers.
The date for worship services to begin should not be based on the calendar. Rather, as you focus on making disciples who make disciples, wait until you’ve multiplied disciples and disciplemaking groups before gathering to worship.
Set healthy benchmarks in place that must be attained before planning your worship services.
Benchmark #1: Three Disciplemaking Groups = Start Monthly Worship Service
Benchmark #2: Four Disciplemaking Groups = Two Worship Services each month
Benchmark #3: Five Disciplemaking Groups = Weekly Worship Services
What are the advantage of setting benchmarks like these?How will you resist starting services before you reach your benchmarks?