Blake Hunt: Why We Launched a Campus During COVID.
March was an interesting month, to say the least. After months of planning, a giving campaign, volunteer recruitment, numerous preview services, and a launch date set, we were ready! God was doing incredible things on this campus: We had guests, our first new members, services averaging over 40 people, and we hadn’t even officially launched! Then the word came … we were “Transitioning Online” with our launch date (Easter Sunday) only a month away! Every week that went by felt like an eternity, as the unanswerable questions grew. Well as you could imagine Easter Sunday came and went and there was NO Launch. The days and months that ensued brought the hard questions: “Should we push back launch to next year? Or maybe not at all?” “Shouldn’t we just focus on the main campus?” “Is this the direction we need to go?” I want to encourage you with the same encouragement God gave me. The reason we launched a campus in the middle of Covid-19 is this: God gave the desire and direction to you and your leadership team knowing full well this pandemic was coming. So often we doubt in the darkness what God gave us in the light. This does not mean ignore proper precautions, but for us, this did mean following through with the vision God gave when things were a little less dark. Maybe you are a planter questioning launch, a campus pastor concerned for your community, or a small church wondering when to reopen the doors. Let me give two trends that will encourage your heart:
The COVID seeker may be more comfortable in smaller settings. This seeker quarantined for months, masked most of their days, unsure of their future, and scared to go out, is more likely to come into a small intimate environment, then to gather with a large group of strangers. Because of this encourage the people God has given you to invite those they continually interact with to church. The coworker, family member, or friend, is much more likely to come by personal invite than to a large event. This is a major opportunity for the startup or small church!
The COVID church member is ready and eager for real-life experiences. What we have done with the digital church is incredible and can be used as an effective ministry tool, but the COVID Christian realizes the need for in-person fellowship. The real-life experience is beginning to be craved! This inevitably creates a deeper buy-in for our church members. Because of the deeper buy in the COVID Christian can be encouraged to ministry and involvement like never before! Take advantage of this and build small groups and other safe fellowship events. This will prepare the deep buy-in for a core ready to explode post COVID!
I hope these two trends encourage you as they have me. We saw both of these trends begin to develop. We announced a soft launch to reintroduce the launch team to the “new way” of doing church. And just as described in trend two the buy-in was incredible: people serving after they got off work, small groups starting, new procedures embraced, graciousness to their pastor, just an incredible spirit, and excitement to be back! We did a Grand Opening on August 2nd, 2020 and God blessed the work of His people. This small group of 30 has now turned into a campus averaging 55. This campus has seen people saved, baptized, and join in membership. Guests are visiting every week and God is using this small campus to do big things for Him.
I want to be clear if God has laid it on your heart to slow your campus, or church plant plans by all means do so. I am not saying you must open! What I am saying is the same God that gave you your vision pre-COVID is the same God that will fulfill your vision now.
Southern Hills Church
Las Vegas, Nevada