Research proves that the best way to reach unchurched people for the Kingdom of God is through new church plants.
This is the statement that changed the course of my life in the summer of 2010.
Like anyone going through a significant life transition we found ourselves asking the Lord “What’s next?” As my wife and I began to sense God’s calling into church planting life, we were hesitant to say the least. Limited financial resources, no place to have church services… besides, doesn’t our community already have enough great churches that haven’t yet been filled? After many weeks of wrestling with God on the matter, we said “Yes” to the call and determined to start Solid Rock Family Church (sRfc).
As we sought the Lord, we began to realize that He was actually calling us to be more than church planters. He was calling us to be church launchers. We determined in our hearts that the Lord wasn’t calling us to start a small church in a basement but He was calling us to make a big splash; to do something that would shake our community and reach amazing heights.
And so it was that the Lord directed us to our local movie theater. The Parkwood Cinema is one of the most visible, well known properties in our city. From the 1st moment that we called the theater management to explore the idea of having church services there, we have sensed God’s favor upon the idea. Here’s a few of the highlight from the past 2 years:
1. People, people, people! God has sent an abundance of unchurched people thru our doors. In our first preview service in November of 2010 we had 70 people. In February of 2011 we launched into weekly services and had 140 in house. Last Sunday we had 240! Family upon family that were not attending church have come, gotten saved ( over 50), water baptized (over 30) and are now serving Jesus faithfully. We began meeting in 3 theaters – 1 for adults and 2 for kids. We’ve since expanded to 5 theaters (1 adult and 4 kids) and have had to upgrade to a larger adult auditorium. The next phase, which is right around the corner, will be to add a second adult auditorium. Praise God!
2. An Amazing Facility! The theatre management has blessed us with dirt cheap rent and have accommodated us at every point of need. We had no idea that 7 months after we started sRfc the theater would pour over 3.5 million dollars into the facility and turn it into a state-of-the-art location at no cost to us. We can boast the most comfortable seats in town! It’s got an inviting lobby, modern décor and ample bathrooms. God was blessing the church with the world’s resources – pretty exciting stuff as a pastor!
3. Financial Stability! From day one the church has lacked nothing. And yet Solid Rock hasn’t done one second of fundraising in order to get off the ground. It’s literally been sustained solely off weekly offerings. Before we ever held one service God had laid it on the heart of several individuals to begin tithing towards sRfc. A gentleman in the area has loaned us thousands of dollars in sound equipment, all free of charge. A local business discounted us 50% off a drum kit. About 8 months into our existence a donor stepped forward and offered to pay our rent for 1 year! God’s financial provision has enabled us do things that many new churches can’t such as Billboard advertising, substantial mission’s giving, and nice 1st time visitor gifts.
4. The Spirit Moving! Perhaps most exciting of all – God’s undeniable presence in our services. The Holy Spirit is liberating, transforming and equipping His people thru sRfc. WHOLE families are coming to Christ – from grandchildren to grandparents and everyone in-between. We’ve had more 1st time visitors than can be counted comment on how they “sense the Holy Spirit moving in this church.” As a pastor this is what you long for – what you seek the Lord for.
Here are some tangible things we’ve done that we feel have helped sRfc to succeed. Understand that everything here is qualified by a firm grasp that the Lord builds the house.
- Visitors are a GIFT from the Lord, so let’s treat them as such. We try and view EVERYTHING we do through the lens of “How might this impact someone who has never been here before.” We’ve invested in things like quality signage. We place smiling faces in strategic locations to create a welcoming environment. Our regulars are taught that EVERYONE is a greeter and should be prepared to make a newcomer feel welcome. We’ve invested in a quality and attractive spread of food and beverages. A 1st time guest will make an overall judgment based on the first 5 minutes they are on site. Have they felt WANTED at the church – by the pastor and the people? Having these components in place makes my job easier and allows for newcomers to encounter God.
- We want you back! That’s the message we try and send to first timers from the moment I say the final “amen” to close the service. We offer them a gift if they’ll stop by our Welcome Table. We give them the option between two practical, usable gifts with the church logo. By doing this we’ve just made anyone who uses it a walking advertisement.
By Tuesday each visitor has received “thank you” e-mail. We include a link in that e-mail to a short 2 minute survey. When a visitor realizes that you care about their opinion of things it goes a long way toward helping them feel wanted. www.surveymonkey.com is great website to create these surveys for free.
By Wednesday we’ve mailed out a hand written card to each visitor as well. In it we send them a voucher for a free pizza from Little Caesars (a $5 value). By sending it out on Wednesday they get that card on Thursday…which is right about the time they are thinking about the upcoming weekend again. Now we’ve placed our name back in their path just 72 hours before our next service, increasing the chances they’ll remember to return.
3. Advertise, advertise, and advertise again. McDonalds and Pepsi pour millions into spreading the word about new products and keeping their name before consumers. In my opinion too many churches have cut the advertising budget too quickly or dramatically. In St. Cloud, we’ve found billboards work. They aren’t necessarily cheap but they have proven effective.
We’ve also done on- screen advertising at the movie theater, radio ads, newspaper, yard signs, and a booth at the county fair. Each of those has worked to varying degrees – but nowhere near as well as the billboards.
We’ve learned a lot in 2 years and this really just scratches the surface. But thankfully we serve the God who has promised us in James 1:5 that “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who give generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” That’s what we’ve done. And God has provided – EVERY STEP OF THE WAY! If He’ll do it in an unprepared youth pastor – He’ll do it for you.
Pastor Ryan Conrad
Solid Rock Family Church