Summary–This blog post puts forth the case that building a church-planting ecosystem in a city, typified by generosity of time and resources, that involves pastors, mentors, entrepreneurs, coaches, funders, along with supporting events and activities is better than any individual church planting effort.
I work in a very creative and entrepreneurial city. Boulder Colorado is a magnet for entrepreneurs and business startups. Little wonder Inc. Magazine recently named Boulder as “America’s startup capital.” Bloomberg’s Businessweek named Boulder “the best town for startups.” Even The New York Times fawned over Boulder as a great startup community. And why not? Every 72 hours a new company is started in Boulder. Richard Florida who introduced us to “The Rise of the Creative Class” says that Boulder is at the top of his list in “the 3T’s – technology, talent, and tolerance”—the seedbed of innovation. More than any other city, Boulder has more creative innovators and entrepreneurs (with its modest population of just under 100,000) per capita than any city in the world.
6,600 companies…52 churches
In the past five years 6,600 companies have started in Boulder while during the same period of time 52 church planters have left our wonderful city. Why is it that in the same city business and tech entrepreneurs can thrive while kingdom entrepreneurs have left town with their dreams broken. (I contend that church planters are, in fact, the entrepreneurs of the kingdom. On a Spirit-led whim, equipped only with vision and mustard seed faith, they have left the security and predictability of an existing church to build something that doesn’t exist with resources they don’t currently have. They have much more in common with business entrepreneurs than they do with the Pastor of Small Groups or Director of Missions in your church.) The answer may not be found in the heart, skill, assessment, or motives of the planters but in the ecosystem of the city. With the best soil, even a mediocre seed can germinate, grow and bear fruit. When the soil is hard and rocky with little nutritive value only the best, most adopted seeds can prosper. The soil is to seeds what the ecosystem is to startups.
- Your city as a place where church planters are recognized and valued for who they are—entrepreneurs of the kingdom
- Your city being a magnet for the best and brightest church planters, artists, creatives, and musicians from around the world
- Your city as the place where multiple models of church planting, from simple church to mega-church to multi-site church were not just welcomed but wanted
- Every immigrant community giving birth to multiple churches
- Church planters openly sharing ideas, insights, best practices and failures with each other so that the collective whole of church planters were becoming increasingly wiser and smarter
- A community of generosity, where pastors of thriving churches, business owners, entrepreneurs, Web designers and marketers joyfully give of their time, finances, and staff to see start-up churches thrive
- A community where church plant success was celebrated by all the church plant community and where church plant failure was collectively mourned but the leaders were celebrated
- A connected community of church planters where no planter was isolated to figure things out by himself or herself
- A culture where everyone is a mentor and the best mentors are connected to the best church startups—where “the best people are given to the best people to change the world” (guiding principle of mentorship at The Unreasonable Institute)
- Every church in your city engaged in church startups at some level
- Regular “boot camps” for new church planters where they can be introduced into the larger church planting culture and be guided and mentored by other kingdom entrepreneurs
- Regular meetups and mixers around the Bay Area where the whole church planting “stack” (planters, mentors, sponsors, funders, and advocates) can convene and be collectively resourced
- Business leaders providing incubator space or convening space for church startups
- Planters coming to the Bay Area for the cause but staying for the community
- YOU making a difference through startup churches
To get greater traction in church planting (currently around 4,000 churches / year in the US) we need to think beyond planting churches to creating an ecosystem that supports a vibrant church planting culture. It is the good soil that helps all seeds take root and grow.
Building an ecosystem that attracts and supports church planters and fosters a thriving culture of church multiplication is more important than the success of any individual church plant, church planting denomination or organization.
If any of the above “imagine statements” sound too far fetched…too “pie-in-the-sky,” too utopian to be taken seriously, try this: Every time you read the words “church-planter” in the above “imagine statements” substitute the word “entrepreneur” and what you have is NOT an “imagine statement” but a reality in Boulder, San Jose, Burlington, Austin, Raleigh, Boston etc. For the tech community each of the above “what if” statements is a “what is” statement. If it can happen in the tech startup community why can’t it happen in the church startup community? Why should the tech community have all the fun?
Why should the entrepreneurial church planting community settle for anything less?
This is the first post of a three-part series on creating a church start-up ecosystem in your city.