Mark Landreth-Smith has planted loads of churches and currently leads the Bridge Church in Newbury. In this Broadcast he talks about how to do Sunday meetings in church plants.
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You Must Decide Who Your Sunday Meeting Is For
- If your Sunday meeting is for the unchurched, you might do things very differently than if your Sunday meetings are for God and the people of God. The things you say, the preach, and the response to the preach will be different if you're aiming for solely the unchurched.
- Mark's family of churches places a high value on making the Sunday morning meeting about God and for the people of God to meet and worship Him.
- But you also want to be very sensitive about the visitor.
The Sunday Morning Begins with Your Welcome
- The welcome starts right outside in the car park, if you have the luxury of having one, not in the building. If you're able to have somebody outside to give a warm and friendly welcome to let people know they are happy that they've come out that morning to church. Not just to direct traffic, but direct people.
- Having great coffee, tea and cake is important. You are creating that warm environment.
- Be inviting without being intrusive, don't be too upset about the 'revolving door' in the church. Some will come and stay and others will leave, let welcome be no different for anyone.
A Good Room Layout
- You want to create an intimate family atmosphere, a community.
- Make sure your layout is an informal one, try to avoid the theatre style of rows all facing forward. Don’t be afraid to experiment with circles or crescent layouts.
- Allow space for children, buggies and wheelchairs. Make sure that it is a relaxed environment that doesn't feel squished.
- It is difficult if you're renting a building, but try and make sure the room is warm, be prepared during the cold winter months.
The Worship Session
- When you're starting out small, don't go for the big band. To have one person on the guitar or keyboard is absolutely fine.
- Make sure that the worship band has practiced.
- Initially in a church plant, try to check the content of the songs and range, as well as setting out clear expectations of the time they have.
- You should have an expectation during the worship time, the Bridge Church places very high value on the place of the Holy Spirit.
- Be open to the gifts and have an atmosphere of faith.
- Help your worship leader to be open to and expect the interventions of the Holy Spirit. Do not be afraid of pauses in the worship or a space of silence in order to reflect.
- Early on, teach the church about the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
- Worship is not just a front lead thing, it's a church engagement.
- If you allow the Spirit to move, there could be times of holy chaos. The role of the anchor brings some stability. Make sure the anchor is engaging and knows how to explain what goes on in the meeting, and also knows the timings of the meetings.
The Role of Testimonies
- 'My Story' is a short testimony given by somebody at the Bridge Church to talk about their journey with God. This is powerful, and genuinely builds community as people get to know not just the worship leaders and preachers but also members of the congregation.
- Regular testimonies are helpful for newcomers and people who aren't familiar with church because stories are relatable.
Notices and Offering
- Try to make sure notices are short. Point them to paper updates and the website where they can keep up to date with events.
- Whatever you say in the notices say with faith, clarity and vision.
- When it comes to the offering, be unapologetic towards it but use it to cast vision. You may want to set it in biblical context and make it clear that the offering is worship.
- This is an important element of the morning; a typical style is expository teaching. Giving clarity to the text.
- Try to make sure that the speakers are articulate and can leave people with clarity.
- Know the one thing you're wanting to say and leave people with in that preach.
- When the church is small, you have the opportunity to be more interactive. You can sometimes ask for responses or ask questions. This creates a realness of the journey the church is on and a family atmosphere. This gets tricky when the church gets bigger however.
- Make a decision for how regularly you want to have communion.
- Make the communion a meaningful time; solemn yet joyful, and special for people.
- Some churches take communion every week; some churches take communion every month and focus more on taking it in small groups.
- Making prayer special for people is key, you need to decide what context you want people to pray in.
- Soak your Sunday meetings in prayer.
- The Sunday morning is a time to teach people about prayer and to pray, before or after the meeting, before or after the preach.
Feedback and Follow-up
- Welcome and follow-up are the key drivers in terms of church growth.
- After the meeting, there are opportunities to meet with people who are new to the church. You can also do this through texts and emails to tell people who were new that week how glad you were to have them there.
- Feedback is also crucial, engage in conversations about how things went with the wider team and congregation.
- Be looking for ways to improve for the next Sunday.
- It's not up to you. Jesus is building His church.
1. Because you have planted several times, are there any things you've started doing differently in the later plants?
- Engaging and releasing women into ministry and leadership much quicker and sooner was very beneficial and helpful. To have a broad and mixed team is fantastic.
- To understand that different towns and different locations have a different culture. Understanding those different cultures and having a sensitivity towards them is crucial.
2. When you started in Newbury, were you working full-time for the church?
- Mark was blessed in order to be launched out and be full-time to give his attention to the church.
3. How many people did you have when you first started your Sunday meetings?
- When Mark first came to Newbury he had 2 other families as well as his own.
4. Describe the facility that you started in.
- The very first time the church met was in the conservatory of one of the families just mentioned. This was fine to begin with, but the church moved to a rented community centre in the town when it grew.
- The church was in the conservatory for a matter of weeks, and Mark took the step of faith to go to a rented facility. In fact, the church is now in their 5th or 6th different facility.
5. What recommendations would you give to a church meeting in a home setting?
- There are some great advantages with meeting in a home in terms of the warmth, comfort and intimacy you have there. You can get to know one another much better there initially.
- You can spend your first year in the book of Acts, drinking plenty of coffee and praying just as well in a home setting as you can in a rented facility.
- You can still worship effectively. You have the sense of real intimacy, as well as the sound being much nicer in the smaller space.
6. How do you get an energetic vibe in a rented facility when there is only a few of you early on?
- The leaders do have the responsibility of bringing momentum, and generate much of that passion, excitement and faith.
- People will find the leader's passion contagious, and will rise in faith and expectancy.
- When you've got a small group, you can afford to have a bit more fun and have a lovely intimate unapologetic environment to laugh together, which you can't get away with when you expand to 250 say.
- Enjoy the pleasure of being small.
7. Did you do an official launch when you moved from the home setting to a rented facility?
- The church did not go for the big launch. There is great merit in doing a big launch and leafleting and generating interest however.
- It depends on the personality of the church, some leaders just go for it, and allow the word to be spread naturally.
8. How do you get word out about a church in a home setting, and what would evangelism look like?
- The key to this is relationship. Christians know other Christians, so encourage them to invite their friends and family.
- Within a few months Mark's church was able to gather a good core of people simply through word of mouth.
- Bringing friends and family to the small group is a form of evangelism, and encouraging life transformation work.
9. How do you get around the rhythms of the church, like summers when people go on holiday for example?
- These are very real challenges. The summer can cut the congregation into less than half. These rhythms of church life are very important to recognise.
- Christmas is similar. People expect to be invited to things. In its new plant context, Mark's church attended an Anglican church which did the Christmas event much better than they could in their small context.
- Don’t feel the pressure that you have to do something really big as a new church plant, but think more informal and more neighbour focused. Invite people in the community round to the house for Christmas drinks.
10. What did your kids work look like in your early setting?
- When it was small the church didn’t have enough children to have a ministry and let the children go out. But it was important to have something for them to do. Mark's wife introduced a 'children's sack' which allowed them to engage in the worship with instruments, and resources to use during the preach which was geared toward what the adults were learning.
- Over a few months they began one children's group, which was a challenge due to the wide range of ages.
- It is important to support the parents and engage the children even in the early days.
11. For those who don't have much time allocated for church work, what advice would you give for keeping the standard of preaches high, but lower in how long it takes to put it together?
- It is about team, as much as you can give away the mechanics of the meeting, do. As far as you can, give yourself to the preaching of the word.
- Guest speakers are also really important to take the weight off of limited preachers.
- It is an opportunity to raise up others, share the preaching responsibility.
- The process of bringing someone into preaching is to have a preaching school. On a Saturday morning give someone 20 minutes to give a preach and sit down and talk about it.
12. Some churches have a rota for the welcome team and to make sure new people can be followed up, how do you do it?
- At first it was just Mark. But recently he has given the welcome and follow-up responsibility to someone who can do it much better, they usually text later in the day with new names and points about them if they have been okay with giving the church their information.
- Do follow-ups later in the week to say how happy you were to have them, if there is anything the church can help them with and it will be lovely to see them again.
At several point in the Broadcast, Mark made reference to an article written by Colin Baron - you can read the article here.