Church, Manchester, Faith, Punk

church planting strategy

Popcorn, a comedian and a posh town in cheshire

I am thinking a lot about Popcorn at the moment.

My friend Tom described Christ Church Manchester as being a little bit like Popcorn. We chuck a lot of seeds in the pan and turn up the heat. Some seeds pop quickly, some take a while and some don’t ever pop.

It sounds a touch flippant but I think it’s a good description of the season we are in at the moment. CCM:City started because I wanted to have a go, CCM:Withington and CCM:Salford started because leaders joined us who wanted to plant and loved our philosophy. CCM:Levenshulme was attempted because I wanted to have a go. It didn’t pop. Not yet.

So the latest seed is being thrown in the direction of Alderley Edge. Every Wednesday 5 or 6 of us meet in Alderley Edge to pray. We pray that a site of CCM will be planted. I love it and slowly but surely contacts are being made and ridiculous plans are being hatched.

However, most Wednesday evenings before I drive into the posh Cheshire countryside I find myself wondering what on earth I am doing! Why Alderley Edge? Why now? Why me?

What makes us decide that we should try to plant a new site in a new place, often when we have hardly any people there?

Faith. That’s all.

It’s a gut feeling that God might be moving and I want to see what could happen. I don’t have many people, in fact we have one gentlemen who lives in Alderley Edge, three people that come over from Silklife Church in Macclesfield because they want to stand with us and I have Jamie from CCM:City (Jamie’s a hero). We have a few other contacts and we shall pray that they find there way back to God and into the church.

What’s the plan? Ummm….the details are a little sketchy but I am going to use this small mission community to do a big attractive event.

We desperately want to see some fruit, so we are going to shake the tree and see what we get.

I was sat in a church planters training event recently and the speaker said that attractional church models were pointless. He felt that big events that attract people were a bad idea and in some way anti mission (I am simplifying his point to make my argument look better). As I listened to him talk I knew that I disagreed. Lots.

So in December we are going to do a big shiny, attractive Carols and Comedy event.  We will take the CCM:City band, a comedian, a lorry load of mince pies and invite the whole town.

What could possibly go wrong?


9 Twitter tips for church leaders

For reasons you cannot understand you feel compelled to plant a church.

So you move to a new town, city, village, country or planet to start your brand new church and you decide it’s time to drag your sorry ass into the 21st century and use that Social Media thing your mum told you about. You sign up to twitter and start slamming out Spurgeon quotes. Stop. Stop right now.

How should church planters and church leaders use twitter most effectively? Let me tell you.

1. Understand what twitter is and what it is not.

Twitter is like a loud pub. Music is playing. There is fight in the corner. Someone is definitely drunk.

Imagine you are in this pub. You sit with a group of friends and you discuss the issues of the day, your interests, your hobbys, your successes and your failures. Your friends respond, comment, console, provoke, laugh at you and laugh with you. Sounds like a normal night out. Right?

Then a new guy wanders into the pub. He sits at your table and then starts shouting quotes at you. Weird.

Another guy walks in. He sits at your table. This guy has a book to sell. He spends the evening repeating the nice things people have said about his book and ignoring the rest of the pub. Everybody moves to a different table.

Twitter is a community. It is a place to hang with people you already know and make brand new friends.

2.Follow people in your city

When I moved to Manchester I follow marketing firms, designers, bloggers, journalists, promoters, writers, local politicians and leading business types. I got a quick inside track on the culture of Manchester.

3. Tweet people

Get into conversation. Simple really. There are people in my church that I met on twitter.

The best part of twitter is when someone new responds to a tweet and you meet someone completely new. The world just got a tiny bit smaller.

4. Don’t just tweet quotes

A few quotes are OK but if you fill my twitter feed with quotes and retweets (RTs) of other peoples quotes then I am going to unfollow you. If you just tweet Piper, Driscoll and Spurgeon quotes it does make you seem a little narrow minded. Tweet your interests outside of church stuff.

5. Work at it

Longevity is the key. Keep checking your followers and follow back the people you are interested in. It’s also worth glancing at who they follow or are followed by.

6. Watch your tone

Rick Warren says “Arguing with people on the internet is like a wrestling a pig. Everyone gets covered in mud and only the pig likes it”. I honestly don’t bother seriously debating or arguing on twitter. It has no nuance or subtlety and you often end up looking ridiculous.

Twitter is largely a liberal place (certainly in the UK) and so I think very carefully about what I tweet or retweet. If I  hold a particularly counter cultural opinion then I want to be able to explain it to people clearly, compassionately and I want to hear their opinion. That is not easy on twitter.

7. Don’t tweet angry

Just don’t. Trust me.

8. Don’t retweet compliments

It is hard to explain how vain this looks. Instant unfollow.

9. Enjoy Twitter

You will find plenty of people like you and you will find people who are completely different to you.

@tsimmonds


How to lead nobody

Someone leading without anyone following is just someone taking a walk.

This is almost true. Jesus is our model for leadership and at times he was completely isolated.

Church planters start by effectively leading nobody. We can sometimes find ourselves in this position for a while. There comes a point when people start signing up to the new church and it feels like you are getting somewhere. It feels like they have bought into the vision and are ready to be led into the great unknown.

The reality is a little different.

Sometimes I encounter this expectation that leadership is a deeply idealistic position where people follow your vision, your ideas, your preaching, your theology or your gifting. To start with I don’t think this is true. When a church is small enough for everyone to know the leader (1 – 100ish) then relationship is what matters. First of all people need to like the leader, only then will they follow.

Lately I have discovered myself living a strange existence. I have been spending a lot of time convincing people that I am likeable (tough sell), whilst be myself and only needing the approval of Jesus not men.

Most people joining the church don’t care that much about our theology, our worship, our small group structure or our vision. They just want to feel like they can belong. Only once they have found there place in the community do they worry about the other things.


When Vision is Pointless

This time of year does funny things to my mind.

I am sitting and waiting. This means my brain goes into overdrive. My sleeping patterns get messed up, my routine gets funny and I spend a lot of time staring into the middle distance.

Early September is the calm before the storm. In the next few weeks and months we at Christ Church Manchester will grow. I believe it. Will I regret this bold statement? I don’t think so.

We will grow in number. People will add purpose, community and complexity to us. I cannot wait to have these guys and girls with us.

This time two years ago all the vision I had was to get to Christmas in one piece. The reality of planting a church is so very different from all the books that tell you that you need a clear vision of what your church is going to look like.

I had a vision, and I still have vision, but when you can count your core group on one finger then vision seems a little pointless! There are only so many times that person want to hear “the vision”. I quickly realized that my vision was to get one more person, and after that another person.

Two years in and the world is different. People don’t look at me with pity when I explain what we are about and what we want to do. Some people even talk about joining us.

So we are faced with an exciting future.

If you are the sort of person that thinks praying is a good thing then could you throw a quick prayer up for us?

Pray that
• CCM:City actually does what we think it might do!
• CCM:East also takes a leap forward
CCM:Salford will soon spring into life so pray for Tom and Emma
• CCM:Levenshulme gets beyond the “Crazy idea stage”. We need a breakthrough here.

Thanks for reading.


A hyperlocal city church?

In my last post I discussed the emergence of hyperlocal blogs and the affect they have had on mainstream media.

At CCM we have begun to talk about how we live as a multi site church. We have considered what our philosophy of church is, we have debated many different models and slowly we have realized that we just need to embrace who we are.

We are an entrepreneurial church. We love the new and we love to dream of the future. We are also a hard working church with many fully committed volunteers who give time, energy and money way way beyond the call of duty.

We have realized that we cannot rest on our laurels and that we must keep battling to see Jesus kingdom move forward.

We feel convicted to start many sites of Christ Church Manchester across Manchester and we want to see churches planted across the North West of England.

The sites of CCM will be focused on a locality (that can be a geographic area, a people group, a cultural group or combination of all) but will play a part in the whole city. The city church will be colored by the local and vice versa.

CCM:Levenshulme has a facebook page, a venue and a time to meet! All I need now are some people…


One hour church plant

So Sunday looms large again! We don’t live and die by our numbers because I would have died a long time ago. In fact I feel genuinely at ease about the whole deal. What’s the worst thing that could happen? I’d look stupid and lets be honest I have plenty of experience of dealing with that already.

I was in a leaders meeting yesterday evening when Colin Baron started telling a story about a previous church plant he had been involved in. Colin is my boss and leader of Christ Church Manchester. When Colin says JUMP I pretend I didn’t hear him.

Anyways, one day Colin gets a phone call from a Christian leader in Manchester with a simple request “Colin, you are the only person I know who could do this, can you plant a church for me and can you do it tomorrow?”. One hour long meeting in a Mexican restaurant latter and the church is planted. Ten years later and the church is doing well with a strategy for reaching Manchester.

So what is the point in living and dying by the weekly turn out? In 10 years we will still be here, with 5 people or 500.

There is no actual pressure at all. We are the church. We are meant to be here.


Work, Pray, Live

So here is another flyer . I know flyers aren’t that interesting but they make me happy. Publicity material needs to walk the line between representing who you are and who you want to attract. These flyers are slightly more towards the latter.

We will have another 2000 of these puppies in the next week or so. We are going to give all of these out as well.

So that’s 4000 flyers to distribute. Blimey.

And here’s the back!

CCM:City is this.

CCM:Chapel is this.

CCM:Chapel is this.

Pumped. Monumentally.


Trying not to Vomit

So Sunday evening sees us rebooting The Chapel as CCM:City.

We decided that to effectively reach Manchester Christ Church Manchester needs to be a multi-site church. Some churches go multi-site because they have filled their venues. We, on the other hand, are going multi-site because we need to reach out! We need/want more people. A church that doesn’t want more people is a little weird.

As usual, I am monumentally pumped! We are doing (and planning) some ludicrously cool stuff in Manchester and I often feel like I am merely a spectator on someone else’s journey.

So CCM:City boots off on Sunday at 6pm. Not being there would be foolish.

What else are we planning? Well how about open mic nights every Sunday evening after church? Or a monthly Dubstep night? How about some punk gigs? What about some indie-schmindie gigs? That will do to start with.

Pause. Deep Breath. Try not to vomit.

(By the way, one day the worship at CCM:City will occasionally sound like this  – http://open.spotify.com/user/timsimmonds/playlist/6v9x37X0ctQqguzXSubp3X)


Why Numbers Suck

Counting attendance at meetings, visitors, regulars, and irregulars can become a stick to beat yourself with or a cause for celebrating your own brilliance. I swing happily between both extremes. Somewhere in the middle there is a happy medium where the numbers help you develop strategy, plan, dream and pray.

However, numbers don’t tell you the stories. They don’t explain why, by some freak occurrence, one week all your regulars will just stay at home and you are left with six people looking awkwardly at each other. Or why a month later the same thing happens but all your new people turn up in one go and there is suddenly 20 people praising God with everything they have.

Numbers don’t tell you about the night where we had two harden heroin addicts at one end of the room and a group of nice Christian kiddies at the other end.

Numbers don’t explain how adding two key people suddenly gives you access to 20 other people or how hosting a BBQ makes a dozen people for involved.

Numbers don’t explain how stupid you feel when you have spent 8 hours preparing a sermon for 10 people, or how thankful you feel when you decide to wing it (i.e. you run out of time to prep!) with 20 people and God moves.

Numbers don’t explain the feeling that you may be doing something completely irrelevant and worthless because nobody shows and those that do look bored. Or how four weeks later you finally allow yourself to think that you may be on to something.

Numbers don’t explain the feeling when people who met each other via The Chapel become mates and start forming community.

Numbers suck, stories rule.


A year in numbers

I like to count. I like to track growth and decline. I like being able to see when and why we grow or shrink. This is fun when you have a full room, and it sucks when there is only six of you (that was a low in every sense of the word).

So The Chapel started at the end of September 2009. Since then we have had over 60 first time visitors, roughly 30 – 40 people come along regularly and the last two months have seen us average around 20ish (biggest night was 24) people on a Sunday evening. We started in September with a handful of people who were committed to The Chapel, this group changed over the year.

It feels like we have scaled the heights and plumbed the depths, however I doubt that we have done either. The strange thing about looking back is the odd feeling that it is only going to get more exciting, difficult, joyful and excruciating in the future.

I have learnt a whole bunch about pioneering, planting, security, ego, how much I suck and what having faith actually means. I will unpack a bunch of that over the summer.