Multiplication Center

Building a church startup ecosystem in your city (Part 3)

August 3, 2014

Gnip Summary–This blog post (part three in the three-part series) 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.


Building a community of generosity Back in June there were two events that typify the generous spirit of our community. First was the public celebration of Gnip’s acquisition by Twitter. Instead of having a private event Techstars, the lead investor in Gnip, wanted to hold a public celebration. Feld wrote: “So, instead of having a closed, inward facing closing dinner for Twitter’s acquisition of Gnip, a bunch of us in the Boulder tech community are throwing a celebration on the evening of June 4 at the Boulder Theater to welcome Twitter to town. We’ll have food, drinks, entertainment, and lots of mingling with folks in the Boulder Startup Community.” It was an amazing evening capped with the presentation of a check for $500K by Gnip to The Boulder Community Foundation, as part of Techstar’s commitment to give back to the community that helps companies thrive. unreasonable Ten days later at the Unreasonable Institute “Pitch Night,”  I was part of an audience of 1000 that included 100 financial investors, 50 mentors (including John Elstrott—Chairman of the Board for Whole Foods, Chip Heath—author, Libby Cook—Co-founder of Wild Oats, et al), and a dozen social entrepreneurs who spent five weeks in a sorority house in Boulder where they were assiduously mentored, connected and resourced. “In the past 4 years, 82 ventures from 37 countries have attended [the Unreasonable Institute] in Boulder. Collectively they have raised over $42 million in funding, grown their revenues and teams by over 2.5x within a year after leaving Unreasonable, and have impacted over 2,000,000 lives.” Wow! What I saw in each instance was an incredible generosity of spirit towards helping others. It was “the best people giving themselves to the best people to change the world.” A few days later I was sitting in the Café Barrone in Menlo Park…a stone’s throw from the Stanford Campus. I had just met with Josh Kwan of Praxis—an amazing accelerator for social entrepreneurs very similar to the Unreasonable Institute. After Josh left I stuck around to answer a few emails, within listening distance of two young entrepreneurs sitting next to me. Although this was their first meeting, the one successful entrepreneur said, “I’m here to help you…I want to help you. I know a lot of great people in this community and I want to help you in any way you need.” I couldn’t help but be struck by the amazing generosity of the tech and business community. On Friday I bumped into my friend John Winsor (CEO of Victors & Spoils–the disruptive game-changing ad agency). After a brief reconnection chat I mentioned that my entrepreneur son Jeff, who lives in Costa Rica was looking for a long distance mentor. He’s got a great business idea and was looking for some stateside sounding boards. So without hesitation John agreed to help Jeff. What generosity! But what about the church startup community? I’ve made a lot of references to Brad Feld but justifiably so. Each week, Feld, even as busy as he is creates a block of time where he holds “office hours” where he’ll give 30 minutes of his time to anyone. Brad leaves everyone with an “assignment.” Just doing the assignment qualifies you for another 30 minute block. What a spirit of generosity and an extension of Feld’s philosophy to “give before you get.” (By sad contrast, unlike the tech community, we who worship a generous and creative God, see our community as a limited pie—a zero sum game that if one church gains, another church has to lose. Can we get over that? The San Francisco Bay area has over 5 million people who do not identify with any of the 236 religious organizations.

What if

  • We had the leadership to create a similar culture of generosity in the church startup community?
  • There were leaders who would hold a public celebration when a new church start-up broke the 200 barrier?
  • There were those from every domain who gave 1% of their time (1.68 hours / week…or even a month) to do something to help church startups? Web designers, artists, musicians, creatives, business people, entrepreneurs, et al, all can play an incredible role in church startups—if they are in relationship with kingdom entrepreneurs.
  • Leaders from the different domains sponsored monthly meetups for different streams of church startups (ethnic churches, multi-site churches, etc)
  • Generous leaders started a church startup accelerator modeled after Techstars, YCombinator, The Unreasonable Institute or Praxis. It’s an opportunity waiting for the taking.

In my conversations with planters and people in the community there seems to be a lot of receptivity to the concept of creating a church startup ecosystem along with a willingness to play a role. I like to think (paraphrasing Paulo Coehlo), “When you are doing what God wants you to do, all the universe conspires to help you.” What could you do? Do you sense that God might want to create such a vibrant, life-giving culture of church planting in your city? Here are some next steps

  • Identify all current church planting initiatives in your city and get their input on what a vibrant startup community might look like
  • Identify mentors—pastors, tech / business leaders and entrepreneurs who might come alongside kingdom entrepreneurs and give one hour a week / month in mentoring, coaching, encouraging kingdom entrepreneurs
  • Identify potential funders and resource people—those who are interested in creating a church planting culture in your city
  • Determine what activities (meet-ups, conferences, office hours, lunches, , etc) are needed to support the broader church planting culture along with those leaders who may want to convene them.

How will you be involved? Does the idea of creating a church startup ecosystem engage your heart? What if all over the US and Canada there were those who were engaged in creating a culture…an ecosystem that supports the thriving of all church startups. To build a church startup ecosystem will require the engagement of all those who have decided to follow Jesus. Whether you are an entrepreneur, a businessperson, a church planter, a pastor, leader, prayer warrior, or encourager, we need your input regarding what is needed to build a church-planting ecosystem along with the grassroot role you might play.

For now…

  • Read The Startup Community and The Launchpad: Inside YCombinator and ask yourself, “How can we do something like this in the church startup community?”
  • Follow the links on these past 3 postings. And ask yourself “Why not?”
  • Introduce this conversation to your friends and associates. What kind of feedback are you getting? Do you sense that this is a wave God may be causing?
  • Decide what you will do to advance the conversation…and the cause

Leadership Network’s invitation Leadership Network has led many church multiplication initiatives over the past several years. We are currently offering two church multiplication opportunities for your church. Check them out here. Multisite Next Level (for churches wanting to expand to over 10 locations) beginning in November, 2014 Multisite Breakthrough (for churches wanting to expand to over 4 locations)

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