Yesterday I heard a dynamic church planter, Greg Ford, share his story about the new church he planted in the Columbus, Ohio area called One Church. His vision is to ignite a movement to reach a disconnected culture. Greg spoke at a Church Multiplication Network event held at Journey Church. As a leader with our local church planting network, NEO360, and the lead pastor at CVC where we're currently investing in 9 church plants, it's always encouraging for me to hear great stories from visionary church planters like Greg.
Greg was serving as a youth pastor in Toledo when he and his wife felt called to plant a church. They took a trip to Columbus and simply drove around to see if God would place a burden for a place on their hearts. In Columbus they began praying in various communities. Community 1? No connection. Community 2? No connection. Community 3? Connection! They could sense God tugging on their hearts. They could see themselves there. So, they moved to the New Albany-Westerville area where they knew no one.
Greg said, "If you want to develop a care strategy, the first thing you you have to do is to care." From his experience, he shared some practical ideas for church planters and leaders to show they care.
1. Find a job where you can make connections that show you care.
Once the Fords arrived in Columbus, Greg needed to establish an income. He sought a job at a fitness center. He said, "I sat for an hour waiting to see the manager. I told him, 'If you hire me, I will be the best employee you've ever had. I will greet your customers, learn their names, serve them well.' He hired me on the spot. And then he assigned me to work the front desk starting at 4:30 am. I said, 'Great!' Inside I thought, 'Really?'" Greg became the guy the customers met at the front desk at the gym. Now, many of the attenders and members of One Church are people Greg met at the fitness center.
2. Have 10 lost people/couples over to your house to hear their stories.
Greg said, "When I was in Toledo, all my time was spent at the church. Lost people - sinners - got on my nerves. But if you want to plant a church, have 10 lost people over to your house to hear their stories. Hear why they don't go to church. You'll learn that they are real people with heart-touching stories. You'll start to care." Greg said, "Set a target audience. We love everyone. But we have to have a target. Our target is the 28-30 year old professional who is disconnected from church and who has young kids. The more laser-focused you are, the better return you are going to get."
3. Find ways to develop relationships within the community.
Greg reiterated, "Developing a care strategy starts with care. Learn people's names. We run a fitness class at church. We have volunteers to coach football. We go to kids' birthday parties. There is no substitute for relationships. Become friends with the people in your community." Greg reminded us that reaching disconnected, lost people will mess your church up. They will cuss when thanking you for your sermon after a service. It will create all kinds of Catch 22 situations. They will volunteer to lead a small group and you will find out later they are cohabitating. You'll have to deal with lots of messy situations. But that's really a good thing because that's when you will know you are reaching your target audience.
4. Meet at a local school for worship.
Greg said, "Schools are a great place to meet. Everyone knows where the schools are. If you meet at a high school, you will get a lot of parking. Schools give you opportunities to reach out." One Church asked, "How can we serve the school where we meet?" They bought an expensive cleaning equipment item for the custodian to use to clean the floors. The custodian was so grateful that he was literally moved to tears. The church serves the school in other ongoing ways, too, like enlisting volunteers to pull weeds from the flower beds at the school.
5. Become friends with the local pastors.
Greg visited with as many pastors as he could in the community. He wanted to let the pastors know that he wasn't competing with them. Instead he told them, "We want to collaborate with you." Greg continued, "If someone comes to the church and you can see that it's not a good fit for them, you can recommend another church that fits their worship style or philosophy of ministry. We help people connect with other churches in our area." He challenged church planters, "If you are sleeping in on Sundays before you launch, you're not smart. Go to the other churches in your community before you launch. Build relationships and rapport with the pastors. And when you visit their churches, give to their offering."
6. Have staff meetings and do office work in public spaces.
Greg encouraged us to work out of places like Starbucks. "We have ongoing relationship with the customers and the staff. If you sit down next to us, you are going to be talked to. We've met person after person at Starbucks. We also meet in the conference rooms of the business guys at our church." People now attend One Church who first heard about the church at a local public space in the community.
7. Join other organizations and efforts in the community.
One Church got involved in the local Chamber of Commerce. Greg wasn't sure what he could offer. But people from the Chamber came to the church and watched how they ran a high impact service. They wanted to learn from the church. Now, the church does the graphics for the Chamber of Commerce. Greg said, "When you are first starting to pick up traction as a church plant, the worst thing you can do is throw your own event. Ask, 'What is the community is already doing and how can we help them win?'" One Church joined the sand volleyball league and developed relationships that way.
I am grateful to Greg for coming to NE Ohio to share his story. May God continue to grant His favor to One Church and to all His new church plants in Ohio and beyond.
Question: How do you show your community that you care?