In this post I'll discuss the five indicators that we determined must be present for us to begin weekly worship. In no particular order, here they are:
- A Big Enough Core Group: We defined the core group as the individuals for which Downtown Church was their primary place of worship. Our definition was further constricted to people we thought would show up on a cold rainy random Sunday in November. For most churches, weekly worship attendance is the most accurate indicator of congregational vitality. But that measure is hard to apply to a new church that is meeting at night once per month and moving around. Because we were meeting on Sunday night, some people were able to worship at their home church in the morning and double up by coming to church at night. Conversely, many people couldn't worship with us at night because the 6:00pm start time is a nightmare for people with kids. So, we had to be extra careful determining how our worship attendance reflected on the size of our core group.
- Location: I'll admit this much. We got lucky finding a worship site that fit our identity. We are a picky bunch, and when you are starting a church downtown, location does matter. We scoured the city looking for a place to find home. Along the way we tried out a number of different sites. And unless you have a bajillion dollars to build your ideal worship space, you'll have to give something up. Assuming the location was downtown, the four things we thought would make a perfect worship space included: room for growth, storage, space for a nursery, and distinctive architecture (the space had to have a story). 701 Whaley met each of these.
- Musician: For most people, worship is defined by two things - music and preaching. It's very much en vogue for leaders of new churches to complain about the heightened importance afforded the two. As much as I'd like to agree, and my Presbyterian roots certainly compel me to define worship in broader terms, I'm also a pragmatist. Realizing that we'll never see the day when people write in on Monday and ask for less excellent music or less relevant preaching, we concluded that we might want to get these right. Since you are stuck with me as the preacher, the only remaining question was the music. Lance Cooper showed up just in time. In one of those instances that even a sometimes cynic like me would describe as miraculous, Lance's availability and our timetable matched up perfectly.
- Yummy Treats: This isn't really a nonnegotiable but I love to eat and drink excellent coffee. So, food and coffee will be served in abundance prior to and after worship. If you know me, you won't be surprised that savory treats and delicious coffee would be important. We knew where to find them but we didn't have a team of people committed to ensuring that we are able to welcome people in this way. Now we do.
- Children’s offerings that were safe and clean: Since we don't have a bajillion dollars to build something that suited our needs for children's stuff from the very beginning our standard became "safe and clean." If we couldn't guarantee this, we weren't ready to host worship. Losing kids on a Sunday makes it difficult to sustain a new church.