“WHAT I WISH SOMEONE WOULD HAVE TOLD ME”
When God gives you a vision for ministry, and it begins to materialize, you start to get pretty excited. When others catch on and join in, the mission feels unstoppable. When the enemy tries to derail those plans, man, it can be discouraging.
What if we were prepared for the battle so that we could strategically avoid and overcome those obstacles that threaten the vision? While God has all the power we need to be victorious, He gives us an army because we’re stronger together.
That’s what happened when Don Champion felt the call to start Highmark Church in Fishers, Indiana. He assembled his troops, set up base, and began to accomplish his mission.
Then, a pandemic.
His church plant had to adapt and overcome. And they have. Now he’s sharing his lessons with us so that you, too, can be prepared for the calling on your life.
SOMETIMES, IT TAKES TIME
When David was anointed by Samuel, he didn’t immediately assume the title of king. God’s plan took time to unfold for the young shepherd. The same is probably true for you. You may know your calling long before you see it root and grow.
Isn’t God cool like that?!
When the core of Highmark Church began to discuss planting, it didn’t happen overnight. God was stirring Don’s heart for a change that took time to materialize. He knew he couldn’t make the vision a reality without the community. And when he began to share this vision with others, they didn’t immediately put the for sale sign in their own yards in Minneapolis.
Instead, Don learned:
1. Your past experiences can equip you for God’s big plans in the future.
For Don, this was his background as a leader for a large church network in Minnesota. He already knew the tactics needed for church launching. For David, it was tending to his father’s flocks. Shepherding people can be a lot like watching over sheep. Each leader learned and grew into the role God had for them.
2. When God is leading, it’s always worth the risk.
While the Champions had family in Indiana, a core group was needed to help make the launch possible.
“We just started shoulder-tapping as many people as we could, building new connections,” Don remarked.
When Highmark launched, there were 70 people who were all-in.
3. Have the “What-if” conversations.
ArtSpeak’s own Andrew Arrol and Shelby Gansler were a part of one of those “What-if” conversations. (Andrew and Shelby are a married couple.) Don began asking them if they could see themselves joining the vision. God had, of course, been working on their hearts. In time, they knew it was God’s plan for them as well.
A STRONG CORE CAN SUSTAIN IMPACT
300 people attended Highmark’s first service. A few weeks after launch Sunday, that number had halved. This was something Champion had been prepared for.
"Hey, you're going to see about half of that attend your church." That was what Don had learned from church planting. “Like, week two, we're like, ‘We broke the trend, we broke the percentage.’"
Statistically speaking, a church plant’s first service has an impressive attendance that is followed by a significant drop. (As a former pastor, I know what that feels like.) Still, God knows what you need.
The core group of Highmark began to find their roots. Lives became intertwined to model the community God’s word demonstrates.
When the pandemic hit, this fledgling church had to think on their feet.
“We’ve got to make a lot of changes… and we’ve got to introduce things as a church plant that we haven’t,” Don told his team in the wake of global quarantine. They weren’t ready. There were equipment needs and online streaming wasn’t even a thought for the young church.
Because the core team was committed to God and to each other, they forged ahead. And nothing is a surprise to God. The team consisted of people with the gifts and talents to make Highmark’s virtual presence into a place for real community.
CONNECTIONS BEGIN BEFORE CHURCH
Not everyone’s going to be moved to walk through the doors when they hear the words, “You should come to church.” You’ve got to overcome some skeptical perceptions in a world of unchurched, de-churched, and everything in between.
Traditionally, most people come to church for the first time because they’ve been invited by someone who cares. The same relational equity is needed in a virtual church community.
Here’s how Highmark is nailing it:
1. Baby steps are still steps of faith.
Beginning the conversation on social media has allowed Highmark to meet people where they are. It’s part of their communication strategy to know what their audience’s hopes and fears are. You plant the seeds of community when you listen and encourage one another.
2. It starts with a groundswell.
Those initial connections are nurtured through continued conversations online. It’s more than just, “come to church”. They’re asking questions about and investing in their audience’s lives.
3. Online “Micro-Connections” develop a deeper sense of community.
While many churches have successfully held in-person life groups, developing this connection online gives those who aren’t able or ready to physically gather a place an opportunity to deepen connections with others.
DON’T RUSH THE PROCESS
You wouldn’t walk up to a visitor in church and ask them to reveal their deepest, darkest sin. That might get you in trouble!
You take one step at a time on the path of discipleship.
The same goes for developing an online community. Try developing an online growth track that allows seekers to work at their own pace. This could consist of video segments or emails that nurture someone’s faith.
It’s easy to get excited when someone engages. However, this could be a little too ‘in your face’ for someone who hasn’t yet developed relational equity. My friend, Don, learned this early on and has adapted to giving seekers breathing room for their relationship to grow. In doing so, Highmark Church has discovered real community can be found online.
ARE YOU READY TO CHANGE LIVES THROUGH ONLINE COMMUNITY?
Although there’s a perception that social media doesn’t allow for authentic connections, there is opportunity for real relationships to exist online. These connections can grow into a community of God-loving disciples. At ArtSpeak Creative, we accomplish by clearly defining who you are, who your audience is, and how to walk with them towards those shared hopes and dreams. Online community can be a reality.
If you’re looking for help with your online strategies, fill out the form below and we’ll reach out to you!