Dispelling the Myth [that we don't have a plan]
I am now acutely aware of the need to provide pragmatic insight into our operational strategy as an urban mission. We are part of a growing effort to pioneer the frontier of urban, multi-ethnic church planting. Considering this lies outside popular church planting methodologies I feel the need to clear up the muddy waters surrounding this type of ministry.
As a pastor one of my most precious resources is confidentiality. Like lawyers and doctors anything a member of my church or the community shares with me confidentially is entirely protected unless there is a threat of violence, crime, or imminent danger. Apart from those exceptions there is nothing that demands confidence within the realm of ordinary conversation.
So, I’m gonna rat somebody out. I won’t use their name or gender to keep this sort of confidential. In a conversation close to six months ago, a person mentioned that they were speaking with a family member about the incredible things that were happening in south Chattanooga. After hearing stories of reconciliation, eye opening experiences, and situational discomfort, the family member asked the money question: "Yeah, but do they have a plan?” Here’s a quick contextual rundown. We are a small congregation in an oppressed, urban neighborhood - we don’t have much money and we will never be financially solvent from tithing. As a result there is confusion on our acknowledgement of this financial reality and what our sustainability strategy is. So, let me dispel the myth that we don’t have a plan...
We have a plan. We are executing the plan. We’re not naive or off in la-la land. We have a plan.
Every new organization from entrepreneurial start-up to mega church transitions through three stages of development: survival, stability, sustainability. To be sure, the goal is to achieve sustainability and ride off into the sunset of success. For the sake of clarity I’m gonna break this down into two sustainability strategies: Homogenous American Church Plant and Bridge City Community Urban Mission.
Homogenous American Church Plant
[Year 1] Orientation to new city/community. Recruit launch team and core group. Outreach and marketing to recruit for membership to new church.
[Year 2] Launch regular and ongoing worship. Continue marketing and outreach to grow weekly attendance and offering.
[Years 3-5] Growth of church plant reaches a critical mass of 200+ people ensuring sustainable ministry.
Bridge City Community — Urban Mission
[Year 1] Orientation to new city/community and its history. Recruit launch team and core group.
[Years 2-3] Launch regular and ongoing worship. Develop awareness and trust in the community. Discern questions that need to be asked regarding systemic cycles of poverty and injustice.
[Year 4] Begin answering questions asked - transition from survival to stability.
[Years 5-11] Begin addressing systemic challenges in the community. Congregation grows but not to point of critical mass. Qualitative > Quantitative metrics and measures.
[Years 12-20] Community development begins to affect systemic challenges and real community transformation takes root and is ongoing.
All of this was new to me and nothing in my seminary training prepared me for this journey (outside of a strong theological framework to work from of course). The unfamiliar is uncomfortable. It was for me, certainly for my supervisors, and perhaps for you as well. I have since discovered great comfort in the unfamiliar territory of urban mission work. My supervisors continue waver on the legitimacy of our efforts as measured by the metrics of financial solvency. My hope is that as you continue to support Bridge City Community that you see our mission, vision, and methodology more clearly now.
Our 15-20 year sustainability model is a longstanding one within the Christian Community Development Association and was shared with me by my ministry coach, Mark DeYmaz. Mark is founder of Mosaic Church in Little Rock and the Mosaix Network. He also wrote a short document, Real Community Transformation, where this is described in greater detail. But, if you’re like me then you like pictured over words so I’ve attached a graphic laying out the plans described above.