In business, most are familiar with the adage that it takes money to make money. If I’m going to build a million widgets and sell them for a profit, then I need x number of dollars to build the widgets before I can expect a profit. Without the appropriate—often substantial—upfront investment, turning a profit becomes more difficult. For example, if I know the widgets will sell for $5.00 each, my profit will be directly impacted by the amount it takes to produce them. I know I can keep the costs low if I produce more, but I can’t produce more unless I have the significant upfront investment in the first place.
I spend a lot of time with church leaders who are starting new things and are frustrated with the turnout. Whether it be a church plant or re-start, new youth ministry or college group, it takes people to make people.
I am convinced that the potential for critical mass is directly related to the initial turnout. If you have 30 people at your opening service, don’t expect 300 anytime soon. Because crowds beget crowds, put the laws of exponential growth to work for you. This most likely means you have to work that much harder before your first gathering, but it most certainly means your work is working for you in subsequent services.
I was recently invited to a conversation with church leaders about a new model for urban church planting. Among many of the ideas and concepts discussed, one takeaway included a three tiered approach to establishing the core congregation. It included a leader, a support team (20-30 people), and a congregation (90-120 people) all before the first service even takes place! Yep, it may take a year or more to establish a group of this many people, but without it, you’re going to limit your potential right out the door.
As with business, the initial investment is often the most difficult. It takes patience, persistence, and in the case of church, people! Are you up for it?
Disclaimer: I am certainly not dismissing the role God plays in drawing people unto him, nor do I discount the potential for miracles. God has a way of trumping all of our best plans. He also has a way of taking our best efforts and blessing them even more.