What steps would you take if your growing, young church plant suddenly entered a plateau season? New Church in Winston-Salem, NC had to answer this very question last year. Lead Pastor T.J. Ward shares the story of getting his church moving again.
Could you share a little of the journey that led you to start New Church?
I attended church faithfully all of my life, but I had no idea that I would end up starting one. When I sensed God leading me in that direction, I ignored the calling for the better part of 6 months. It didn’t make a whole lot of sense to us at the time, but we ultimately knew that if we didn’t pursue this we would regret it, and even worse, we would be rebelling against God’s leading in our lives.
When we first arrived in Winston-Salem, NC in February of 2010, we knew very few people. We were connected to someone who knew a mutual friend, and we had also met a couple of church planters who were from the area. Our girls were still in elementary school at the time, and when we tucked them into bed at night, they would ask us how we were going to start a church when we didn’t know anyone. We assured them that God would help us do what He called us to do, even though we were asking ourselves the same question.
Through a series of events that were all put in motion supernaturally by God’s grace, we ended up launching New Church in January of 2011, less than one year after we arrived in Winston-Salem.
How stuck was the church when you reached out?
We were about 5 years old, and our attendance had been plateaued for 6 months when we contacted The Unstuck Group.
What were the first things you did to begin the turnaround process?
After we spent a couple of days in Strategic Planning, we began to implement solutions to the things The Unstuck Group helped us self-identify as barriers to growth. For us, those things included a Leadership Development Strategy, an improved Pathway to Connect, and a Communication Strategy (mostly related to short-term and long-term plans for a permanent campus).
Ultimately, what changes have been making the biggest impact?
So far, the biggest impact has occurred through our Communication Strategy in that we were able to identify, and purchase, 25 acres of property on which we will build our first permanent campus. In addition, we have refined, and replaced, some of our systems and procedures related to Connections, which has allowed us to follow-up more effectively with our guests. We’ve also become more intentional about our Leadership Development process, which will continue to evolve and become even more of a priority in 2017.
How would you describe the health of the church today?
We are in a season of steady yet sustainable growth that has resulted in a 25% increase in attendance as compared to the same time(s) last year. On the second Sunday in January, we celebrated our 6th birthday as a church!