Category Archives: Gather to Grow

3 Tips for Mobile Ministry

Did you know that 90% of all americans are within 3 feet of their cell phone at all times?

Drew Goodmanson shared that stat last night at the Biola Digital Ministry Conference. It really got me thinking.

Is your church ready for mobile ministry?  Here are a few simple tips to get you started.

Use mobile communication to build, not replace, face-to-face relationships and community.

The church is not a list of people who follow a feed, much less a personality.  Church is people who do life together centered around Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Groups and teams can easily use mobile communications to share prayer needs and answers to prayer, as well as pass along important information.  Given that people respond to text messages within minutes instead of hours or days, as they do with email, it’s also a great way to pass along important information about activities, events and meetings.  This will increase their time together, rather than inhibit it.

Use mobile communication with permission.

The physical mailbox is the place you receive paper you don’t want – I watch my neighbor go to his mailbox, walk to his garbage can and then go back inside empty handed. What you send people in the mail has a lifespan of about 10 steps.  Email has become almost the same thing, and filters mean that I probably see only half the emails sent to me. Yet I probably only miss 1 out of 100 text messages.  Why? Because only people I know, and want to hear from, text me.  So, before you start spamming people’s phones with details about your next meeting, get their permission. Simple tools like this can make it easy:

Use mobile in the right social space.

Edward Hall introduced the concept of Proxemics back in the 50′s.  He refers to public (such as in public speaking), social (with acquaintances), personal (close friends) and intimate (hugging, whispering) spaces. How do we translate this concept of physical space to mobile/digital settings?

I would suggest this:

  • Your church website is public space, a billboard for all to see.
  • Your church Facebook page is social space, an online porch where likeminded people hang out and share activities and interests.
  • Mobile communication, on the other hand, is personal space, a virtual conversation that normally would have taken place face to face, over coffee or a meal.  Using mobile communication in the right space means not violating someone’s personal space by using it to spam people with promotional messages.
  • It also means not expecting it to deliver more than it is capable of – because intimate space requires touching, and you can’t do that with a cell phone.


Core Team or Launch Team?

Jesus sent the disciples out two by two. The pattern he set was that His followers go on His mission together. As a church planter, inspiring others to join you is essential for the birthing of a new church.

What is their role? Are they a core team – people who start with you and stay with you on mission? Are they a launch team – people who start with you, but may not stay with you or ever become leaders in the new church?  Let me suggest you need both.


Create a Core Team
A core team is 12-25 people whom you invited to do life and mission with you.
  • Church is a “who” not a “what.”  The core team is a church from the beginning.
  • Culture is how “we” behave.  The core team are the people who live out the mission, vision and values. Their lives create the culture of the new church.
  • The first activities in the life of a church plant are people intensive.  Who will build relationships? Who will create community? Who will serve their neighbors?  Who will lead people to faith? Who will help them grow? Who will equip the next leaders?   Creating a core team means other people, not just you, are giving their lives to these activities.
In my experience, a team of less than 12 is just too small to engage in all the activities of forming a new church in a way that creates momentum.  I have also observed that a core that is too big doesn’t really function as core.  A group of 50 or more can’t exist for long without significant energy focused internally – which ultimately detracts from the  mission.


Gather a Launch Team
A launch team is a group of 50-100 who are committed to starting a regular gathering that will catalyze both the numerical and spiritual growth of a new church.
  • Starting weekly services is task intensive.  It takes many willing volunteers to create an environment that welcomes people of all ages and engages them in a meaningful way.
  • Anyone can serve.   You don’t need to be a follower of Jesus to set up chairs or make coffee.
  • Everyone can belong. When the launch team is those committed to serve, not those who carry the missional DNA, you can include everyone who is willing – even if they need a cup of coffee to take the edge off their hangover before they setup the chairs.
In my experience, trying to pull together a weekly service with less than 50 people only leads to burnout and will most likely bring a halt to any and all other outward focused activities.  On the other hand, when a launch team grows to be a 100 people its time to go. Waiting to start a service will only dissipate the energy and momentum that has already been created.
Are you in the birthing season of a new church?  Wondering who will do this with you? Consider creating a core team and gathering a launch team.

Are you teaching the whole crowd of Jesus?

Who was Jesus teaching when he gave the sermon on the mount? This is an important question for the church. Is our Sunday morning gathering the same kind of crowd Jesus attracted on that day? Here is what I learned as I looked at the Scriptures about his audience.


Here is who was in the crowd and followed Jesus to the mountainside based on Matthew chapter 5.

  • Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.
  • Chapter 4 describes these people as: ill from various diseases, suffering from severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed.
  • His disciples were there and sat with him.

Luke chapter 6 is more specific about the kinds of people who heard this teaching.

  • His 12 disciples.
  • A crowd of his disciples.
  • People from all over Judea, Jerusalem and from the coast of Tyre and Sidon.
  • This crowd of people had come to hear his teaching and be healed of their diseases.
  • Some were troubled by evil spirits.

What can be learned from this crowd that Jesus is teaching? First, there are deeply committed followers of Jesus in the crowd. He comes down off the mountain after inviting the twelve disciples to join him for his mission. Second, there is a larger crowd of his disciples on the mountain that day. They are already commited to Jesus. The last group in the crowd appear to be the harassed and helpless. They are interested in the teachings of Jesus but also healing from life’s current physical and spiritual pain.

Does your church have all aspects of this crowd present in your Sunday morning gatherings? Why or why not?

The future church, that is on mission to reach people out of the culture, will always have harassed and helpless people suffering with life’s physical and spiritual wounds in their crowd gatherings. Contrary to this, churches that only have committed followers of Christ in their crowd gatherings are missing the mission of Jesus.

There is one big implication in this for us as church leaders. Be aware of the dangerous demands of the deeply committed followers of Christ. They will demand ‘deeper’ teaching, longer singing worship sets and more personal bang for their tithing buck in their crowd gatherings. Their voice will push you as a church leader to meet their needs ‘first’ at the expense of those who are extra-grace-required in the crowd. You must guard the mission of Jesus from these voices and influences.

What is at stake are those attracted to Jesus who are harassed and helpless. They need hope for a new way forward in life. They need to be ‘touched’ by Jesus and healed. Post-modern Americans, who are skeptical of church and religion, need to experience God. They don’t always need rational arguments to be convinced of truth. Longer singing of choruses about ‘the blood of a lamb’ do not heal the harassed. We must move them to truth through metaphor, through the arts, through music, through video, through lighting and through stories. It is all a part of God’s work but these are the tools he is using in the American cultural landscape to ‘touch’ and heal the hurting.

Jesus gathered his deeply committed followers of Christ and included them in his mission, in his teaching, and the process of healing those who were farthest from him. As church leaders we must continually cast the vision of being a church on mission to the least-of-these in our communities and city.

What does the crowd look like in your church or ministry right now? What voices are you listening to that guide your decision making about your crowd gatherings?