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Reach New Communities Using Portability as an Incubator

In•cu•ba•tor   (ˈɪn kyəˌbeɪ tər, ˈɪŋ-) 

The official definition of an “incubator” is “an enclosed apparatus providing a controlled environment for the care and protection of premature or unusually small babies.” Did you know there was an organization called The National Business Incubation Association (NBIA)?  They define a business incubator as a catalyst tool for either regional or national economic development. Where incubator-care is applied to a new organism (cells, business, life, church(?)), great care is taken to protect for nurture to increase the likelihood of the organism to become strong, vibrant, and self-sustaining with an effective future. 

There is a lot at stake for the church to be strong and healthy in every community. It is simply a matter of (eternal) life and (eternal) death of countless individuals who could be influenced by a healthy church in their neighborhood. Doing everything possible to ensure a strong launch and plant are critical to ensuring that the new church thrives.

There are two primary functions of an incubator: 

  1. Source of protection.

  2. To maximize nurture. 

Many church leaders have a difficult time getting past the conditioned default that every new church should include new 24/7 brick and mortar presence in a community as quickly as possible. But should it? Studies are showing that intentionally launching new multisite campuses and new church plants in viable portable venues provides a great incubator-effect that results in a stronger 24/7 landing later.

As land and building costs continue to increase, more efficient use of space and dollars will become the norm. Even large churches are learning how to multiply in smaller venues. 

As land and building costs continue to increase, more efficient use of space and dollars will become the norm. Even large churches are learning how to multiply in smaller venues. Click To Tweet

A few years ago, a group of leaders from some of the strongest growing churches in the country had gathered to discuss their shared burden for the lost. The overwhelming conclusion was that the church is still the key to His Kingdom, and that the church had to be going cheaper, faster and more effectively to reach more people with the message of hope.

“We’ve got to do church cheaper and quicker!”

Here’s why a portable campus as an incubator often makes sense:

  • New ministry with comparably low expense: Outside of the home church, a portable church experience has the least initial expense and least operational expense when compared to mergers, commercial properties and new land with brick and mortar.
  • New ministry with no debt: Ministry is more fun when you have more liquid resources. These resources can instead go to ministry and the development of people. People love to give resources to a church in action. The overwhelming majority enjoys deep satisfaction when their resources are directly used to make significant life change in someone needing hope.
  • Inherent flexibility: Portable churches have a significant amount of dexterity about them to be able to clarify their mission effectiveness, processes, adjust to growth and even change locations in real time with relatively small expense.
  • Allows opportunities for “soft failures” vs. hard/permanent failures: There are not many stories of churches who have launched portably and failed.  However, there are some. Most portable church experiences deemed as failures were due to the church trying to cut corners of an already inexpensive way to launch a church. For the leaders volunteers and few attendees, it provided a miserable experience. Some have made a glorious discovery that in spite of having a multisite failure in their pocket, portable campuses can be done very effectively.
People love to give resources to a church in action. Click To Tweet

In a portable church, we can learn a lot about ourselves.

  • Early/Exponential Growth: During a campus launch, there is a strong feeling of “movement” in evangelism efforts before it begins to take on the burdens of being an organization where the focus changes to buildings and “stuff.”  There is a sense of being “all in” and fully engaged. In the mission phase, everyone is involved and has a part to play. All new attendees see what the church is really supposed to look like as participants not consumers.
  • Setting the right expectations: Portability offers new attendees the opportunity to develop missional expectations of outreach beyond themselves (both global and local). From the first day, they come to understand that the church is not a place you go to, but where people gather to worship and make life-changing impact. New people can hear the Gospel, respond and engage, thinking all along that this is the way it’s supposed to happen.
  • Deepening the development of people: In an accelerated manner, portability gives an opportunity to develop a leadership pipeline while in the context of focused mission. Equally important is the massive opportunity to develop and engage volunteers in meaningful missional work.

In a portable church, we can learn a lot about the community.

  • Low/No thresholds to overcome: Establishing a new presence in a new community can bring awareness to your brand in local neighborhoods. Neighbors go in and out of local schools, YMCA’s, movie theaters, and community buildings all the time. Without the stigma of thinking they are entering a “church,” curious attendees can be impacted by a churches DNA before they realize it. They let their guard down a bit because the church is coming to “their turf.”
  • Desperately needed solutions in a community: Portability offers the opportunity to work out a specific ministry match to the new community needs. During the portable incubation period (while the church is gaining a presence in the community), the church can get to know the people and leaders of the community in a way that can’t be done from afar.  When a church begins the discovery process of finding a 24/7 site, the community will already be on their side—the feeling of an outsider invading their space will be gone.
  • Insider perspective v. outsider guessing: A season of portability allows opportunity to determine the right facility as a member of the new community.  There is a significant advantage to understanding where the best place is for a church to land, and in what kind of long term facility, when the vantage point is from within the community. While some good educated guesses can be done from neighboring communities or regions, better decision can be made from within the neighborhood.

Make no mistake—anyone who has ever been part of launching a church in a rented facility knows that it is not for the faint of heart. But what journey of any significant value is? Not only is a portable church experience quicker and less expensive, but it allows church leaders, volunteers, and attendees an opportunity to develop wisdom about and thrive in whatever permanent facility they end up occupying. Portable Church Industries have dedicated their entire focus to removing the obstacles to launching strong and thriving in rented venues. If you would like to discuss how Portable Church can help you launch faster, cheaper and more effective, visit this page and talk to one of our experts.


Current trends in implementing the strategy of launching new campuses in new communities:

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Founder and Lead Strategist of The Unstuck Group. Started in 2009, The Unstuck Group has served 500 churches throughout the United States and several countries around the world. Previously, Tony served on the senior leadership teams of three rapidly growing churches including NewSpring Church in South Carolina. He has five published books including, The Unstuck Church, and, with Amy Anderson, he hosts The Unstuck Church Podcast which has thousands of listeners each month.

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