What to Do Following a Preview Service (Part 2)

I apologize for the length between this post and my last, but wanted to finish my series on what to do following preview services.  In case you missed the first post, you can read it here. Here is a review of the four key things a church planter should do following each of their preview services:

  1. Celebrate
  2. Follow-Up
  3. Analyze
  4. Correct

In this post, I will address the step of “Following-Up”. As is true with most church plant services, at each of your preview services, you will have guests.  Throughout your preview services, you will most likely also have supporters attend.  Each of these two groups are different, but still very important.  In this step, I will address the need to communicate and follow-up with these segments of your preview service attendance.

First, we’ll look at the latter group, the supporters. These are individuals that believe in your church plant invest time, finances, or possibly both but do not necessarily feel led to be part of your church.  Those in this category will most likely attend a few of your preview services, your grand opening and then be gone.  Regardless of the frequency of their attendance, though, it is still crucial to follow-up with them.  I would recommend a nice hand written note and possibly a person phone call thanking them for coming.  This is not a means to ‘butter them up’ but rather to show appreciation for their support, both with their finances and their presence.

Second, is the most important group long-term, your guests. These are individuals that are from your community and are ‘checking out your church’.  I can’t stress how important your follow-up is for this group.  Here are some steps to having effective follow-up for your guests through your preview service phase:

  1. Establish a workable plan for follow-up
    • Create a process that shows guests you value them, appreciated their attendance, and hope to see them again.
    • Do not let this process rest completely on the senior pastor.  This needs to be delegated out – if it is resting on the senior pastor, the chances of it being done in a timely fashion diminish.
  2. Execute the follow-up plan.
    • Make sure this process is workable in a short time period.  Although preview services are usually once a month, don’t take that whole month to follow-up with them.  This should be done within that week.
    • I will not necessarily say what you’re follow-up plan should be, as that can differ depending on your community, I would strongly echo Nelson Searcy’s advice in Launch by saying include a ‘Comeback Event’.  These events are easy-invite events that you can encourage guests to attend and meet others who are part of your new church.  Events could include bowling, a cookout, Monday Night Football, etc.
  3. Evaluate your follow-up plan.
    • This partly ties in with the 3rd item I will be discussing in my next post of ‘Analyze’, but still felt it important to mention here.
    • After you execute your plan, get your key leaders involved with this process and evaluate if it worked.  If something’s broken, fix it.  What better time to identify a broken process then in your preview service phase.  If you fail to do this, you will launch with ineffective systems in place.
    • Here’s a few questions to ask in this step:
      • Are guests returning? Why or why not?
      • Is our process workable with our situation?
      • How can we fix what’s broken?  How can we improve what’s working?

In my next post, I’ll address the 3rd thing a church planter should do following a preview service, Analyze.

What to Do Following a Preview Service… (Part 1)

In 2006, Nelson Searcy released his first book entitled “Launch“.  It is one of the most practical church planting books on the market today.  One of the concepts he fleshes out in the book is the idea of holding ‘Preview Services’ once a month leading up to the grand opening of a church. We have since adopted this process for our MCM church plants.  In the book, aside from holding monthly ‘comeback’ events, it does not provide a lot of info regarding the follow-up of a preview service.  With that said, I would like to take the next few posts to explain the process I have our planters go through following each of the preview services.  Here are the four key things that are done the week or two following a preview service:

  1. Celebrate
  2. Follow-Up
  3. Analyze
  4. Correct

In this initial post, I’ll discuss the ‘Celebrate’ portion of this process. Church planters will often have various people supporting them in different ways:  a prayer team, a team of people financially supporting them and possibly a church family that is mothering the church plant.  The celebrate step is really about sharing with each of those groups, including the launch team, the wins of the preview service.

This is an opportunity to ‘shine the light on the flower not the dirt‘.  The services are called ‘Preview Services’ becauase they won’t be perfect.  It’s a work in progress, but it’s important for a lead planter to keep in focus the progress and wins that do occur.  Tell a story, a stat or an exciting thing God did in the service.

I have this step first, because it can often be the one we push aside the quickest.  Celebration can happen in a number of ways:  on a blog, through an email, in a video, or maybe at a service for the mothering church.  How ever it is done, following each of the preview services, it is key to celebrate the victories with both supporters and the launch team.  This will set the church up for greater success as the planter establishes what a win is and the fact that their team is capable of one.

Element Church & Monthly Services

Yesterday our 8th church plant, Element Church, had their first monthly preview service. It was a great initial introduction to the community; the worship team was incredible; and we had 148 in attendance! During the service, I couldn’t help but think how amazing it was to see the group of 7 we started almost a year ago with now ministering to almost 150! Rich and his team were well prepared and laid out at a quality welcome mat to the community. I’m excited to see what God has in store in the coming months!

Now, some might ask, with such a great first preview service, why not launch now? Great question! The idea of monthly preview services has been explained in Nelson Searcy’s book, Launch, and to understand it, you have to first understand the main premise: The larger a church can launch, the quicker it will sustain itself, the greater the impact it can have. With that said, these services are geared toward accomplishing a few things:

  • Allowing the launch team to refine their process and work out the kinks in service planning & implementation. Without fail, there will always be a few things to correct and fix. Having a month between services allows the team to have time to correct these issues. The goal here is excellence.
  • It gives time for the leaders to focus on building teams, which in the long-run will impact the size and sustainability of a church plant. As people from the community come to the monthly preview services, leaders & members of the various teams (hospitality, tech, kids, etc.) that make up the larger launch team can look for possible team members and encourage them to join them in serving. The goal here is team building.
  • These services allow momentum to build toward the Grand Opening. Although a Grand Opening creates natural momentum, having some going in makes it only bigger. It’s like throwing gasoline on a small flame – it makes the flame bigger and more impacting. The goal here is pre-launch growth.

With this model of planting, the launch team still meets weekly. This weekly meeting should grow as the grand opening draws closer. Also, in between monthly preview services, there are ‘easy-invite’ events called comeback events. These might include a cookout, bowling, or other relationally-geared event. If you are looking to plant a church, I would strongly encourage you to check out Nelson Searcy’s book, Launch, and see if his model or portions of his model might work for you!

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