To answer this question about launch teams, we have to begin with the end in mind.
One of the exercises I work through with church planters helps them explore what their expectations are for opening Sunday. Here are the specifics:
First, estimate how many people will be in attendance on opening Sunday. This is a tough one. Often times, church planters will push back and say that “it’s God that grows the church. How can I possibly know.” I affirm that theology. However, for planning purposes, you need to have a picture of where you’re going. What’s the vision? Some facts can help.
Churches that are started following the best practices of assessment, training, and coaching are more likely to survive and thrive. In terms of dollars, a typical rule is that for each $1,000 spent during the pre-launch, you can expect approximately 1 person in attendance. NOTE: This is a general rule. Thus, if your budget is $300,000, you should plan for at least 300 in regular attendance at launch. It’s very typical for a church planter to dream big. The most common number I hear for opening attendance is 500.
Here is the key to determining what you really think attendance will be:
First, sit down and do a budget for the new church. You will need to project how much money will come in from local offerings. Take your expected attendance number and multiply it by the expected dollars per head. It’s normal for new churches to be in the $10 to $12 a head figure for the first year. Budgets vary widely on location and target audience. I often see church planters dream and say there will be 500 on opening Sunday but will adjust that number down to about 250 when budgeting. You want to be realistic. Take into consideration how much funding you have, whether or not you have a group of people starting the church with you from day one, the amount of staff you will have, etc.
Second, create a list of all the different ministry teams the new church will have on opening day. Be sure to think through every area such as set-up and tear down, communion prep, offering count, A/V team, community service team, small groups, etc. For each of those ministry teams, list out each role involved and how many people will be needed for an effective team. You’ll quickly see that a lot of people are needed to support your vision.
The number of people that should be on the launch team is a number big enough to support that vision. C. Peter Wagner wrote that a minimum of 50 is needed for a healthy launch of a new church. Two years ago, I did a survey of new churches that backed those findings up. There is no perfect science. However, I can tell you from experience that you do not want to start a church without the support of a launch team.
A small launch team will result in sacrifices to your vision. When we started LifePointe in Charlotte, we did not have a launch team of 50. Though God blessed us greatly with an opening day attendance of 288, it was a big stress on the staff and launch team to support a congregation of that size. Fortunately for us, many new people stepped up to the plate over the next year to help keep us sane. Still, things fell through the cracks. If you are building a launch team, I encourage you to pour the majority of your effort into it. Don’t spend 9 months during pre-launch planning your first worship service. Spend 9 months during pre-launch connecting with people and inviting them into the unfolding of God’s story within your community.
About Doug Fol
A self-described “church planting junkie,” Doug Foltz serves as director of planter care for Stadia as the director of planter care, where he helps church planters clarify and implement their vision. He stands alongside church planters, leveraging his 15-plus years of church planting experience with more than 50 new churches. In 2004, Foltz moved to Charlotte, N.C., to help plant LifePointe Christian Church. Currently, he lives in a rural town in Illinois and speaks nationwide about church planting.