So here's what's happening with Echo. Yesterday was the half year mark- six months since our first service. Considering that the true church plant litmus test is, "are you still alive?" I would say that we're doing really well. We have about twenty committed core members, in addition to a slew of people who have checked us out. We've been able to reach out to a handful of people in the community and are planning on reaching out this spring and summer to our neighborhood. We knew it would be a slow process at first, but it's definitely been worth it.
Using the Walnut Hills Christian Church has gone well. They've been great landlords as we've maintained WHCC as our meeting place. There was the Sunday that the boiler just happened to go out . . . on the coldest day of the year. But we planned ahead and brought some portable heaters . . . which were useless as we blew some fuses. So we ended up huddled in the church parlor, all wearing our coats as one little heater tried to warm up the 44 degree room. But, as most resourceful church plants, we managed to make due.
Our people have been phenomenal. It's been a wonderful experience getting to know each other better. There have been quite a few instances so far when someone at Echo has had a rough time and really needed support and we've been able to provide it for each other. And they've been willing to step up and get the job done. It's a huge blessing to journey with people like this.
And we brought on a new staff member. Tye Von Allmen [the schlep who only reads this blog when he's mentioned] is our now our worship leader. Tye just returned last week from his honeymoon as he and his wife Andrea settle down here to get their music careers going. By the way, you really need to check out their stuff here and here. It's been awesome to have Tye, not only because he's a great guy, but his ministry has freed me from having to lead worship and focus on my teaching on Sundays.
So six months in, things have gone well. But now, it's on to what other things God needs us to be doing.
We desperately want to reach the neighborhood, but it's been difficult to get our name out there. In order to accomplish this, we're going to do an extensive marketing campaign at the end of the summer, declaring Sunday September 10th as the day we relaunch Echo.
A few things about how/why we're doing this:
1) I had hoped we would be able to grow more organically and not have to use marketing techniques. Unfortunately, that's not been happening as easily as I had hoped for. I'm sure we could wait for a few years and see it happen, but I don't think it's worth it. Our concern is for the people of the city and the sooner we're able to get our message out there the better. And it's impossible to get the message out there unless people know that we exist. So we need some marketing to get our name out.
2) I've never liked church marketing. Even the terminology makes me feel icky. We've lived in places around town where we received numerous postcards from churches trying to get people to attend their gatherings. However sick I was of their postcards out in the suburbs, we realized that no one is doing it down here. Six months living here and not one postcard has hit our door. Probably because few new churches are being started here. Somehow we need to let this community know that there's a new church in town. A postcard mailing is, most likely, the best and most cost efficient way to get that accomplished.
3) We have financing. If we had to use our own money to do it, I'm not sure it would be the best investment. A mailing is useless if you can't afford to pay the rent. But God has blessed us with the opportunity to do the mailing because of the support of the Christian Evangelizing Fellowship. This group has been planting churches in Cincinnati for over fifty years. They believe in us and our ministry and want to give us the best opportunity to get started on the right foot. Without their support, I doubt a mailing would be possible.
4) We're not ONLY counting on this mailing. This is just one aspect of what we want to do to get our name out there. I, for one, have been working hard to create community contacts to let people know about Echo. And we're going to use the summer as a chance to do a few outreach events for the more needy people in our neighborhood. And for months, we've been praying that God would give us fifty core members by this summer. We're not putting our faith in a mailing, but in God to bring us the people we need to be a more effective community.
I don't view our first six months as a failure. Quite the opposite, it was necessary for us to see that Echo was possible. Over a year ago, when Kelly and I decided we needed to move to the city and start a church, I had no idea how or if it would work. But God has used these past few months to reassure us that Echo is needed here. Our core group is getting stronger, our vision is getting clearer and we have survived.
There's a lot of work ahead of us, but we're looking forward to it. Of course, it won't be easy, but nothing worth it ever is. If you know people who might be interested in joining us on the journey, let me know. And if you know people who want to support us financially, we have yet to turn someone down. But most importantly, pray for us as we try to make a difference in this city for Jesus.