Forgive the metaphor, but if the Church Plant is like a "plant" needing resources to grow, then the Church Online is almost like fertilizer that helps the planted church grow... I'll go ahead and say it, Church Online is the manure that allows the planted church to grow.
I have a friend who recently tried to plant a church. He moved to the city and recruited a core team of volunteers. He had a big backing organization and was well supported financially. He found a location to lease on weekends (a movie theater in a well-populated area.) He hired the right staff. Ultimately, he perfectly executed the church plant "launch large" model. You'd think with all these resources the planted church would grow well. Sadly, it didn't.
Results were strong that first week. All those door hangers worked because there were almost 300 people opening weekend. Celebrations were had. The next week there was a drop-off happened when only 150 people showed up. The third week: 50 people. About nine months later the church plant of 18 people started to meet someone's living room. In total that first year, the church plant spent $300,000 in that first year. Door hangers, flyers, payroll, lease, AVL equipment, volunteer support... to what end?
What if we looked at the planting church differently, giving it different resources. Church Plants typically try to rush to create that weekend service/experience, which is also a very taxing moment financially and stressful on volunteers. Rather than rush to that moment, what happens if we delay that option a while longer? What if we utilize the strengths and resources of the Online Church and apply it to church plants? What if a Church Plant ONLY started as an Online Church?
- Physical costs to create and distribute video online would be much cheaper than leasing, equipping, and staffing adult and kids worship venues each week.
- Marketing costs online will be far less (and far more effective) to push video content in front of an audience via social media. Physical marketing (door hangers, etc) is will net a church plant hundreds of leads. Social media marketing will net an online church thousands of leads.
- A Church Planter can effectively start the church plant online before he moves to the home city, effectively starting to develop his core team even before he relocates his family to the city where the plant is. Does the planter fit in cultural context in the new city? The Online Church model will give good insight into this.
- Biblical Community can be just as effective in an online environment, especially in those beginning months. Eventually, groups may want to start meeting in person. Encourage them to meet in person as well!
- Once communities start to establish, start meeting together weekly doing church services in homes. Start a house church network in the communities. If volunteers aren't going to commit to producing an event in homes regularly, they're not going to commit to setting up a venue at 5am every Sunday.
- Giving can happen online too. At most churches, majority of tithes come thru online giving channels anyway. These can easily be set up for any church plant.
As you can see, Online Church is an effective fertilizer for the planting church. As long as the Online Church can do all this without that fertilizer smell, you'll be fine.
Planter, Online Church gives a phenomenal resource set to fertilize the church plant. Want to be effective in ministry in your community? Don't drop the money bomb on the church plant and push to set up that service as quickly as possible. With the right fertilizer, the planted church will grow.