You’ve had big days in your life. Think about the day you graduated from high school or college, the day you got married, or the day your first child was born. These are the days that change everything. They infuse a new spark into life. And they are not days that happen haphazardly, are they? No, they are days you plan for, prepare for, and eagerly look toward. You want to be ready when they get here, so you study hard and ace all of your exams; you buy a suit or a dress and send out invitations months in advance; you put furniture together and paint nursery walls. Why? So that when that big day comes you have everything in place. You are ready for it. You are positioned to fully receive the change it is going to bring into your life.
Have you had big days like these in the life of your church? Can you look back and pinpoint one or two days in the last couple of years that changed your course, helped you break through a barrier, or took you to the next level? Maybe you had a big Easter service last year that brought you a lot of first-timers. Or perhaps you did a special forty-day study that pulled in quite a few people from your community. Were you able to keep those new people? Were you positioned and ready for them? Did you capitalize on the momentum, or did it fizzle out as things slipped back to the status quo?
If we plan big days in our lives and those days have the potential to change everything for us, why can’t we assume that the same truth would apply to our churches? Couldn’t big days help us move toward where we want to be? Instead of just gearing up for important days and events haphazardly and seeing little to no lasting results, what if we put a system in place that would help us plan and execute all kinds of big days effectively—and help us keep the fruit we would see them bring? Think of it this way: What if there were two additional “Easter-level” days in your church every year? Could that help you grow? Could those days help you reach more of your community for Jesus?
The story of The Journey Church is best told through recalling a series of big days. In 2002 my wife Kelley and I launched The Journey in New York City with—you guessed it—a big day. We planned our launch for Easter Sunday. Why? Because we knew Easter was a natural big day that we could cooperate with to gain some initial momentum. We spent months planning and preparing for the launch, and when the day finally arrived, 110 people showed up. That may not sound like a lot, but for a new church in the middle of Manhattan, it’s a great turnout. I was thrilled. But I quickly learned my first church growth principle: not everyone who shows up at your church on Easter shows up again the next week. Over the next few months, I grew The Journey down to thirty-five people.
If you’ve been in ministry for any time at all, you know that growth barriers are very real and very tough to break. I have found that most churches face growth barriers at 65, 125, 250, 500, 1000, and 2500. Obviously, at this point in the Journey’s story, I was struggling just to make it back past 65. As the concept of the big day continued to develop for me, I began to realize that I could create and take advantage of other big days—like that first Easter Sunday—to break through and gain momentum. So my team and I planned a new series and decided to kick it off with a big day. We broke through the 65 growth barrier. The next year, we planned three big days—and broke 125. Eventually big days helped us break 250, 500, and 1000.
The big day is a proven process that has helped us reach more people for Jesus Christ. We’ve seen it help churches across the country as well. In working with pastors and church leaders from coast to coast, we have watched churches running 65–70 break 100 through a big day, churches running 360–380 break 500 through a big day, and churches running 700–800 break 1000. So think about what’s possible in your church. What could God do in one day if you cooperated with him to reach as many people in your community as possible?
Henson, J. D., & Searcy, N. (2009). Ignite: how to spark immediate growth in your church. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker.