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Why San Francisco Church Planting Is Like Launching A Startup

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The San Francisco Bay Area is home to the least church-going population in the United States 61% of the population does not attend church and one-third of all residents claim no religious affiliation but there's a group out to change that The exponential conference recently came to the Bay Area for the second year in a row The gathering is meant to catalyze evangelical Christian leaders to start new churches It's called church planting and the goal of the conference as the name suggests is the exponential growth of the religious community This is kind of the trade show for church planting exponential is that It's the largest gathering of church planting and church planters in the world that we know of It's American entrepreneurialism and capitalism displayed through Evangelical Protestant Christianity The conference takes place across seven cities and the Bay Area event drew some prominent figures At the intersection of the church and tech communities like Pat Gill, CEO of the 60 billion dollar software company VMware next slide also without faith I'm the full-time minister of VMware and I have 23 thousand souls that are under my leadership Gelson Gary donates nearly half his annual income to charity, much of it directed to church planting organizations One of my goals in the Bay Area would be that we're as innovative in our technology and startups as we are innovative in our church planting and startup churches sometimes this means starting a new church from scratch and sometimes it means creating spin-offs of a successful congregation My vision would be double plane 2,000 new churches in the Bay Area over the next decade But these churches may look different than you'd imagine, forget ornate architecture and stained-glass windows Just as everyone's become accustomed to billion-dollar companies starting in garages and dorm rooms these startup churches also meet just about anywhere You'll hear stories and people starts in their living room a lot of them meet in schools a lot of them will be is they get larger in office parks The Exponential conference was held in an office park in San Jose at Echo Church Echo started in 2008 and since it's expanded to three locations Lead pastor Andy Wood is in his 30s At services he hosts young Christian rock bands, complete with dramatic concert lighting A part of the benefit of being in more modern buildings is that we're able to take the experience that somebody might be having as they're working at Google or Apple or Facebook and they're listening to music that sounds similar to what they hear on the radio and they're hearing messages that even have similarities to Ted Talks and there's a commonality that allows there to be a greater level of openness doumoto would you stay with us come on Echo Church even offers online services every Sunday for those who can't attend in person Welcome to Echo Church, we are so glad you're here today People are already living so much of their lives digitally so rather than fight that wave we want to enter into that space to say okay, if somebody's spending you know massive amounts of time on their phone well we we want to be able to provide hope in that place where they're already living Other congregations are doing much the same Menlo Church for example offers their sermons in podcast form It underwent a major rebrand in 2015 and now boasts a slick website and active Twitter and Instagram presence and about 6,000 weekly worshipers across six campuses Church planters have also found common ground with Bay Area residents over a shared entrepreneurial spirit Phrases like return-on-investment and product market fit flow in conversations with church planters You know it's not coffee and donuts it's okay what's the business plan what's the milestones what's the schedule You know what's the demographics why are people gonna come to your church what are your messages and that kind of urgency matches the environment to the Bay Area When Wood started Echo Church he created a 10 to 12 page strategic plan that he presented to potential funders We would go to different pastors and churches and leaders and pitch our vision to them and share with them the need or the opportunity for them to partner with us financially and invest in this new endeavor we were able to raise over a million dollars to get this new church off the ground which church is typical and that it usually costs over a million dollars for a new church plant to reach sustainability in the Bay Area however there's a number of organizations that essentially provide venture capital for new congregations Gelsinger is the chairman of the board at one of these groups called Transforming the Bay with Christ which aims to convert 1 million people over the next decade In order to do so, it hopes to raise $15 million for what it calls its startup church funds It's easier to create something new than resurrect something that's dying and when a church is on a decline there are usually reasons for it some of the research shows that 40-50% of people that attend new church plants are from an unchurched background We want to delight our customers we want to serve people and have people centered design at the focus of what we do The difference of course is that if these startups succeed there's no acquisition or IPO We just said everybody who invested in our church that there's a reward in heaven There's an eternal reward for investing you just have to die to vest your stock

Source: Youtube

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