We are on the home stretch! After what has seemed like eternity, we are only 9 days away from our Grand Opening service of our first Rural Church Plant/Multisite venture!
So much planning has happened in a vacuum - not knowing if any idea we've come up with would actually work - and now we are THIS close to finding out what will work smashingly, what will need tweaking and what will fall flat.
Looking back, there are many things that we will do differently with our next church plant/launch - that's another blog post - but it is amazing to see God's hand in getting us this far to begin with.
You don't have to try and convince me about the fact that a church is not a building. I totally believe that. However, there is something to be said for the importance of a building for the church to gather in. We found that importance in our community - in which we were 'outsiders' coming in. By purchasing and renovating a building, we have shown our new community that we are serious about being here. We aren't a 'parachute church' (one that drops in just for services but never is invested in the community it is trying to reach), and we've shown that by the long-term investment into real estate and local trades who have worked in our building.
Also, in our culture, and perhaps more pronounced in more rural communities, a church building and service is still the largest door in which people will find their way into a faith community. Having a building like ours, allows us to have that permanent presence as well as providing the community with another building that can be used for many different functions.
It just might be that through a community function in our space (intentionally made multi-purpose for this reason), that the barriers between attending a church service might get knocked down a bit. For those inside the church, we can forget just how ominous and daunting entering a church can be for those who don't attend one regularly... or at all!
We've now had a "technical run through" of a service - a closed door service where as a team, we walked through all the elements of a regular service, but pausing to answer questions, jot down notes and do general troubleshooting of any technical issues.
This service has hopefully set us up well to do a 'soft launch' of a service on October 11. Again, it will be an unadvertised service where our teams will again have a chance to work out a lot of technical glitches that we just couldn't really address until we were actually doing a service.
The first Sunday was similar to when you first move out of your parents' house and realize that you don't have any of the utensils to make yourself a meal. All the small things you had before, and took for granted that they were there, aren't there in a new place. For us that was things like signs, pens, binders, clipboards, coffee cups, water cooler, mops, HDMI cables. You can't just go and grab an extra one like you can in an established building.
We also found that we had to up our communication game between the two campuses. It's not like we were slacking off or not caring, but there are questions you need to ask that you had no idea you needed to ask before. Things like a program. We THOUGHT our program would only need slight tweaking, but soon realized that so much of it was location-specific to Portage. Also things like announcements, church events, emails, who's leading volunteer teams, etc., all need to be answered.
We're answering them now, but it might be a bumpy ride before we're functioning well in these areas.
We've been faithful in the planting and watering of the seeds God has given us, and now we've got to let God be the one who brings growth to it.
And we believe he's going to do it in unbelievable ways.
I am a pastor in rural Manitoba that is passionate about the church, leadership, coffee and bicycles.