Matt Boswell on Starting a New Church (Really Fast!)
Date: October 10th, 2011
What would you do if you thought you had about 80 people willing to attend church services but you had no meeting place, no money, no legal status, and no name? Do you think you could pull everything together in a week’s time? That is what Matt Boswell and a small team of individuals did with Redemption Church (the eventual name) in Duvall, WA. In fact, they went from 0 (money and members) to 562 attendees in just six days. No name, no money, no organization…no worries! We talk with Matt about all the organizational details that went in to this endeavor, highlighting what challenges face any start-up religious organization, but putting it into a super-charged dash to get things up and running before any momentum was lost. Matt goes into detail about the first hour of planning on a Monday morning, showing how this small group meeting in Lisa Bailey’s living room had to figure out: 1) structure; 2) mission; and 3) marketing. The structural logistics included getting a tax identification code and insurance so that they could secure a meeting space for the coming Sunday. We talk about the importance of a building, and with only a few vague ideas about where to meet Matt goes through the process of securing the local high school auditorium and additional rooms for the kid’s ministry. Obtaining insurance became critical because without insurance they could not easily rent a space. Determing on a name that reflected the mission of the church is also discussed, and Matt covers how important a name is to the identity of the church. We talk about why “Redemption” was chosen and why a more “churchy” name (as compared to more secular alternatives) might have an impact on how the congregants view themselves and who would attend services. The idea of missional identity is also discussed as Matt shares why he sees it as important that the church be in the community and not separate from it, a somewhat easy task during the first week since they didn’t have office space and resorted to coffee houses and pubs to conduct meetings. And meeting spaces are not the only thing that is important, but it became imperative to get lots of other “stuff” — e.g., Communion plates, audio equipment, toys and crayons for the kids’ ministry, and coffee pots. It is revealed that several individuals, businesses, and other churches rally to the assistance of this wayward congregation prompting some insights into the nature of religious competion — meaning not just a zero-sum game for parishioners, but a positive-sum game of people helping and learning from others. We then cover the issue of how to get the word about that there is a new church in town and where it would be meeting. We discuss whether “marketing” is an appropriate term to be used with religious organizations and determine that it is. Matt shares how they leveraged social media like Facebook as well as “being in the community” to inform people about the endeavor. And we find out that it does work as 562 people showed up for the first Sunday of the church’s existence, far exceeding expectations. Other great stories are told about popcorn buckets, electrical outlets, and what happens when you are a half-hour before services start and somebody realizes there is no grape juice for the Communion. We speculate a bit about the future and promise to check in at a later date to see if the success continues. Few sociologists get to see the very beginning of a new church, and this podcast allows you to peek in on the frenetic process. A rare treat, indeed! Recorded: October 4, 2011 (only 8 days after the first organizational meeting and two days after the first service, so the memories are still fresh).
Disclaimer: This is the congregation that the host of Research on Religion currently attends (though he had no influence on any of the decisions discussed in the podcast).
Special thanks to Match Coffee & Wine in Duvall, WA for hosting the interview.
Redemption Church (Duvall, WA) official website.
Redemption Church on Facebook.
Bradley Wright on Christian Stereotypes.
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