Early Days

While standing around at morning tea after a gathering, you overhear the following conversation between two long term members, who are obviously having some fun remembering the early days of the project.

Person 1 (laughing) “Oh yes, I remember that! And we used to store the kids stuff in the unused shower in the bathroom! We had no room to store anything.”

 Person 2 “I can’t believe I managed to get my kids out of bed so early every Sunday. Setting up chairs and sound gear never got any easier. It was still taking us almost an hour every time, even towards the end. I think my kids scored a lot of chocolate on Sunday afternoons, it was the only way.”

 Person 1 “Greg was so good at bringing coffee, that was a life saver, knowing he’d just show up, with the magic brew for each of us. “

Person 2 “Yes, though then when more people started coming I felt a bit awkward walking around with my cappuccino when there was only instant on offer in the hall. Gosh do you remember that feeling when people started walking in? I used to get such a rush every time, it was like, yes, it’s real, we are doing it, this is happening.”

Person 1 “I think you might have freaked a few of them out at the start, we had to hose you down with your welcoming styles.”

Person 2 “I wasn’t that bad surely. OK maybe I was….I do miss those prayer nights though, you know when we’d meet at Kath & Rick’s house, I think we did that even before the gatherings started? Wine and cheese and prayers.”

Person 1 “Yeah, didn’t you meet Alex at one of those nights?”

Person 2 “Certainly did. Oh there he is, he’s giving me the ‘stop-talking-I’m-ready-to-go-home’ look, that’s my cue, see you next week!”


  • Have you ever been part of the start of something? What was it like in the very beginning?
  • From the conversation above, what stands out to you as things the two people valued about their beginning?
  • From the conversation above, or your own story, What impact did the beginning of the project have on the relationships, commitment and sense of belonging for those involved?
  • How might the beginning have been different if their was a paid worker taking responsibility, or plenty of resources to buy their own space right from the start?
  • What kinds of gifts or skills are particularly important in the beginning of something new?
  • How much do we give creative, pioneering projects a head start with resourcing, and how much do we encourage a season of working together without many resources? What might be the pros and cons of each approach?
  • Have you ever seen a community of pioneers bunker down and for their relationships to become the end in itself? How do you prevent that from happening while still building a strong team?

Wisdom from the pews

“When physical resources are low, effort is required to setup and pack up and make basic things happen each week. Participants who work together in this bootstrapping phase invest their physical labour, creativity and energy without immediately tangible results. ”

“These groups literally work together to make the project happen, which has other positive benefits such as forging relationships, trust, personal investment and ownership of the vision. There are benefits to involving as many people as possible in co-creating the project in the initial phase, support a culture of doing ‘with’ not ‘for’.

“As the project grows, or reaches new phases, everyone who was involved in the early part of the story can share a sense of achievement. These stories become part of the group’s identity.”

Going deeper

A lifecycle of church plants or missional project by Ian Robinson, Peter Kaldor & Dean Drayton

The following diagram describes one framework for understanding the lifecycle that church plants, faith communities or missional projects can expect to go through – from the prayers of a missional team through to establishing systems and structures in a thriving community. This was produced by a Uniting Church Synod team in 1992 – Ian Robinson, Peter Kaldor & Dean Drayton.

Everyday Faith Sunflower Lifecycle of church plant

Lifecycle of a new faith community