In the upcoming issue of Outreach Magazine they interviewed a number of people to discuss innovation in the church. Since I spent some time answering all these questions and only some of them are in the article, I thought I would go ahead and post my response to their questions in full here. This is the second part of the interview.
OUTREACH: Tell me about the impact you’ve seen/experienced–metrics (if you have
them), inspiring anecdotes, personal experience.
DF: In some cases we have
seen significant impact and in other cases we are just beginning to see what I
believe will be a huge impact from these innovations. I’ll comment on each:
- Multi-Site to Poly-site: In addition
to the “regular” sites that we have, Community has also reproduced a
site that is meeting in a 55+ gated golf community. This site is one of
our most healthy locations: we are seeing people become Christ
Followers at the age of 75-85. This location is on a good growth
curve, and has 20% more people in small groups than at their weekend
services! We also have a growing and dynamic site that is in the Pilsen
neighborhood of Chicago; a community that is made up of first
generation Spanish-speaking Mexican immigrants. In the coming year we
are looking forward to starting another Spanish-speaking site and
beginning to experiment with 3C Communities. 3C Communities will be sites of our church that do
not meet at a church facility. They will meet in “third places”;
offices; health clubs and other locations where our leaders can
assemble them. We are estimating that at least 35% of the current
population will never under any circumstances enter into a church people. These 3C
Communities will go to them.
- Network to Networks: Two years ago we had four churches in this young church planting network. Last year we had eight churches in the NewThing Network. This year we have doubled again and now have sixteen churches and are going international. As the network continued to expand it was becoming increasingly obvious that a movement will not be made up of a single network. So, this last year we reproduced two more networks and now NewThing has three networks led by apostolic leaders. What is inspiring is seeing the ownership of this network shift from one church and a few leaders to many churches and many high-capacity leaders. All of our new churches have plans to go to multiple sites (many this year) and all are involved in reproducing other new churches
- Partnership with under-resourced public schools: We have become a church that knows you
can’t call yourself a church unless you care about the poor. We still have a lot of growth to do in this area, but regularly we challenge our congregation to give of their time and resources to be involved in the lives of people different than themselves. Our relatively resourced and primarily Caucasian church has partnered with the public school system in a neighboring community that is almost 90% Hispanic and where nearly 70% of children are considered low-income. Through the schools, we have built relationships with teachers, administrators, students, and parents. From the beginning our focus has been on relationship building and “community development” rather than simply providing hand-outs and donations. We provide such things as tutoring, ESL classes, and community events such as a Christmas Gift Mart, parent mentoring programs, teacher support, and internship opportunities for students. We have taken the approach of SHOWING the love of Jesus before PREACHING the love of Jesus. As wedevelop relationships in the community with other churches, non-profit organizations, the city government, and the schools, we are building a base of support for a church or site we will plant in the community. Before the church opens its doors, it will be seen as a church that is highly invested in the community. We challenge people to start by helping at a big event and then moving to more regular, consistent service, and even to the point of relocating their families to
under-resourced communities . . . to do as Jesus did and live incarnationally among the poor. We’ve seen parents empowered to get involved in their children’s school, students make academic progress they wouldn’t have made without extra support, people who have seen faith in God as a rigid set of rules start to question what it means to have a personal relationship with Christ.
OUTREACH: What were the challenges and risks involved in innovating
in one of these areas? How did you overcome them?
DF: The risks and challenges
almost always involve: fear, finances and finding the right leadership. Here are the details as they apply to
- Multi-Site to Poly-site: It is definitely a harder work and there is a greater rate of fatality when you start sites that are not the same as the “successful” site you are already operating. We
even had one site that failed. But we have always believed that if we don’t have some sites that fail that merely means that we are not trying enough new things. So you overcome the fear of failure by assuming that part of the price of innovation is failure. And as followers of Jesus we are not called to success, we are called to risk and as a leader that sounds like innovation to me!
- Network to Networks: The greatest challenge in moving from a single network to reproducing networks is relinquishing control and putting your trust in other leaders. We knew that control is really only an illusion and that our dream would never come true if we held onto the illusion of control. And then God sent us some great leaders in Dave Dummit (242 Community Church) and Greg Lee (SunCrest Christian Church) an we asked them to step up and lead one of our networks. We are just beginning to see the benefit of this; but it is clearly the right strategic move if we ever hope to see a movement of reproducing churches.
- Partnership with under-resourced public schools: The biggest challenge we faced was
people’s fear: fear of working with people that speak a different language; fear of physical safety; fear of committing time and money to such a needy area; fear of moving out of
comfort zones. We have had to provide people with lots of different opportunities to get involved at all different levels. We make it very easy for people just starting out on this journey of working with the poor and culturally different to just show up and experience an activity
in a large group. Making that first step is the hardest and then we have lay leaders whose primary role is to coach and guide people as they want to move deeper and deeper into a serving life-style.
(more to come…)