Thursday, October 20, 2011

How to promote your church launch (the cheap way)

When it came time to launch the church, we came up with a postcard that exemplified the brand that we wanted - rock-n-roll and coffee.  We borrowed from someone else's design idea and made our own version.

And we approached handing out the postcards in two ways...

* We stuffed 4500 mailboxes in our neighborhood (not illegal in Germany, but labor-intensive)

* Our team handed out 1000 postcards downtown during orientation week at Freiburg University

We found that people are more willing to take them if you have a group handing them out (five or so people in the same area)… then it doesn't seem so "cult-like".  And we give them a small piece of chocolate as well (the mini chocolate bars that you get at IKEA are cheap). Everyone wants free chocolate! I just tell people, "Schocki [Schokolade]… umsonst!" or "Free chocolate!"  It helps if you approach it positively, as if they should take the chocolate because it's free.  If you act as if you know you're bothering them, they will avoid you like the plague!

When they look at the postcard (which I have turned face down so they aren't freaked out by the word "Kirche" [church] on the front), I tell them it's just an invitation to join us for our grand opening. We want to get the word out and free chocolate is the easiest way to do so.

Then if people ask about the church, I tell them the reason we are giving something with no strings attached is that we want to be the kind of church that represents the Jesus of the Bible… He always gave with no strings attached.

It's important to note that we also used targeted Facebook ads, which were successful for brand recognition.  This cost us more, but placed our logo and an ad in front of hundreds of thousands of Freiburg-area young adults.  By setting our "click through" rate high, our ad was the first one that our target audience saw when they logged on to Facebook.

We experimented with different wording on the ads to see which were most effective in getting click throughs.  American Pastor seemed to generate the most clicks.  When they clicked on our ad, they were redirected to a "landing page" on our website that promoted the church launch service in German and English.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Thoughts on Church Planting and Church Government

Watermark Logo
When it came time to setup the legal association for Watermark, we followed the ARC ( model within a European context.  This means we have an internal Council and an external Board. The Council consists of seasoned believers within our church that are "on-board" with the vision and core values, and are able to think out of the box.  They have no voting rights, but are there to help me think through issues we are facing and offer suggestions.

The Board is made up of voting members (from other European cities). They are all seasoned ministers that are well-respected and that I've known for a long time (and that know me and my heart well).  I explained to them at length what we had in our heart to create and how we wanted to proceed to make sure they understood clearly before I asked them to be on our Board.

I learned a long time ago not to have people in your church be your voting members until you've firmly established who you are, both as a team and as a church. You need to have freedom to be able to tweak the vision, core values, etc. As you find what works for you, and you get a better idea of who are your "seed planted in good ground" people (Mark 4:8), you can begin to add people within your church to the "voting membership". 

I've seen good pastors in Germany get voted out because of a manipulator that is power hungry. I believe most church splits are caused by those that are "planted in rocky soil" (Mark 4:5-6), meaning they get involved quickly with a lot of excitement, but when times get tough, they try to steer the church in the direction of what makes them comfortable, or keeps them in the spotlight (or in a position of authority). They are totally with you until you do something they don't like.

People that have a vote need to be people that are mature enough to understand what God is calling you and your church to become, confident enough to challenge you (when necessary), and humble enough to pray it out (rather than fight/manipulate) and make decisions that are in the best interests of the church

And if anyone ever tells you they want to be in the voting membership, you DON'T WANT them in the voting membership!  You want people that will make decisions based on those that haven't yet come through the doors.  You want people who vote that understand it's not about them, but about those that are far from God (those that Jesus misses most).

I tell my team and my church that if they have a problem with me they are welcome to contact my Board and take it up with them. I am submitted to my Board, and will adjust, if necessary.

Friday, July 22, 2011


As you may already know, our church was broken into last Sunday night. The thief (or thieves) kicked in the office door and stole two guitars, two laptops, a bike, a camera and an iPod, and some other smaller items.

It has been quite frustrating trying to figure out how to do ministry without some of our basic equipment. We are working on getting replacements, loaners, new stuff, etc. And it's been an experience learning how law enforcement and insurance works in Germany.

We have decided this is a great time to obey God's Word. Jesus said,
“But I say to you who are listening, love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who are cruel to you. - Luke 6:27-28
We have been praying that God bless and help those that did this. As we were doing so the other day, Robin felt as if God was using this situation to reach the people involved. It was as if there was no one praying for them. And although God didn't cause this to happen, He will use it to bring about good for everyone involved... especially since we're actively praying and inviting Him into the situation.

Actually, the first Scripture to come to my heart when I first learned of the break-in was written by the Apostle Paul...
I want you brothers and sisters to know that what has happened to me has helped to spread the Good News. - Philippians 1:12
We are excited to see the redemptive ending God will bring about as we continue to pray. God is good and is able to bring good out of bad things.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Still Amazed!

New Perrin Ministries blog posted about our Easter weekend outreaches - "Still Amazed!"

Friday, April 22, 2011


Spring is my favorite time of year.  Winter is usually cold and dark in Germany.  The days are extremely short and dark.  But, in Spring and Summer, the scenery is so beautiful in the Black Forest, and this part of the country is known to be the sunniest (and therefore, the friendliest) part of Germany.  

The reason that this is my favorite season is not only the weather and flowers, but Easter! Jesus’ birth is celebrated at Christmas.  It’s a wonderful time that I feel we have really turned into something other than a celebration of Jesus.   But, Easter….it’s a celebration of just Him and what he did on the cross for us!  Not only did Jesus live a perfect life day after day, year after year, but after 33 years of this perfect life….he gave it up for us!  At Easter, he paid the ultimate price.  God paid the ultimate price for us, the riff raff of society. 

Jesus was beaten beyond recognition of even looking like a man- so we could have healthy bodies.  His blood that poured out at the cross was to make sure that we could be forgiven….that we could experience the unbelievable joy of being in the very presence of His father!  Jesus knew that if he sacrificed himself for us, that it would produce a harvest of believers that would span the course of time.  

On Easter, we celebrate when Jesus rose from the grave.  When he rose, he gave us hope!  I LOVE THIS SEASON!  It makes me cry every time I think of Jesus’ sacrifice and the joy in His resurrection!  He layed down everything for us…so that we could enjoy everything that God had given to Him!  That’s what the season means for me.  

People are so open to the things of God at Christmas and Easter.  Let’s tell everyone we know!   

Watermark Easter
We are going to have a huge Easter egg hunt and festival (carnival) for the at-risk kids in our neighborhood this Easter.  We are going to tell them about what Jesus did for them through eggs, juggling, carnival booths, clowns and balloons. Our church is in the middle of what we would call "the projects".  There are so many cultures represented in this area because of the large immigrant population. I can't wait to see what God will do with this outreach!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Not traditional enough?

We had a visit a few weeks ago by a German lady that doesn’t attend any church… and hasn’t since she was young.  She and her wife live on our street.  Her wife loves the church and comes when she doesn’t have to work.

After the church service, she talked with Robin about our church.  She asked why we aren’t more “traditional”.  This lady wasn’t offended, but she thinks a church service should be more like what she was used to in the Catholic Church of her childhood.

Which brings up the “why” question… why aren’t we more traditional? 

I believe my wife gave her an amazing answer… 

Robin told her that I grew up in the Catholic Church and she grew up in the Episcopal Church, with all the traditions, liturgical chants, etc.  None of that meant anything to her until she had an encounter with Jesus.  She never encountered Him in the church she grew up in (nor did I).

But once she went back to her old church, she was amazed at all the Scripture they used.  There was so much there that could have led her to a relationship with Christ.  But it never meant anything to her because the church and its style were so far removed from her daily life.

The reason for our style of church services is so that a normal person off the street can completely connect with Jesus without having had a church background.  Our church is designed to be accessible to the common man, woman and child.

We want people to experience God in all His wonder and grace and build relationships with authentic Christians.  We want people to experience a God that is holy, but is absolutely loving… a God that isn’t afraid of fun, and that wants to be involved in our daily lives.

And it’s working!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Avoiding team frustration

imageWe’ve recently realized that one of the most important areas we’ve neglected so far is failing to train our team members in every area where they will be serving.  And it’s caused some frustration for them.

It’s been so long since we first started serving in a church (almost 30 years ago) that we’ve forgotten what it feels like to be new.  We’ve been doing this so long that we automatically see what needs to be done.  We’re so used to seeing the big picture that we’ve failed to always set our team up to succeed in the small areas.

We’ve also noticed that just because someone says they have a level of expertise in an area doesn’t mean they have the level we need… or that their estimation of their abilities is necessarily the same as ours.  Not that they aren’t doing well, but that we need to invest more time/energy in training.

We’ve done a good job at giving the vision, especially the overarching dream of building a church for those that don’t do church.  But we’ve not done a very good job of training in the specific areas.

So we’re going to be focusing on doing more coaching in the individual areas over the coming weeks and months.  We’ll be bringing in some experts and trainers to help raise their level of expertise and their ability to succeed.

I believe this, more than anything else, will help the undercurrent of frustration that we’ve been sensing.  Our encouragement to church planters… setup a plan to train people in EVERY area where they will be serving.  Then those that are doing well can train others to do it.  We can’t afford to just plug our people into an area and hope they figure it out.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Encouraged, yet frustrated…

As with any startup church, one of the biggest issues is finances.  And especially with a church like ours that is focused on reaching the unchurched and the “de-churched” (those that have walked away from traditional churches), we have to fight the typical stereotype that churches only want people’s money.  This has been a frustration for us, but we knew this was a part of church planting.

But in the things that truly count – people committing their life to Christ, changed lives and people getting excited about using their gifts to impact Freiburg – Watermark is doing really well.  Last Sunday we saw one of our church neighbors give her heart to Christ.  She was invited by one of our team the week before.

And the week before that, a man that told me he is NOT a believer came to church because an angel appeared to him in a dream and told him to come visit our church.  He loved it!  He took a bunch of business cards and said he would invite all of his friends.  He came back last week and was just as excited.

Please continue to pray for Watermark… God is doing great things here and we’re excited to be a part of it!

Free Bible Study Discussion Guides!


A few years ago Robin and I wrote a series of Bible Study Discussion Guides for a local church in Bonn, Germany.  The small group program at this church had become basically teaching groups (old school Bible studies).

In an effort to revitalize the small group program, we started writing our own curriculum, which was translated into German.  The purpose of these Discussion Guides is to both build relationships and learn spiritual principles.  The result was better than we expected!

We have an entire year’s worth of weekly Small Group lessons (52 lessons) in 4 main themes (including 26 lessons on Spiritual Disciplines). And we want to give them away for free.

Click on this link to download the free Discussion Guides (zip file): Small Group Discussion Guides (English)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Miraculous week at Watermark!

This past week was amazing!  A week ago Sunday one of our newest team members asked us to pray for her knee.  She had torn her ACL through a bicycle crash and was told she needed surgery.  She was hobbling around with a stiff brace.

Well, we prayed for her and then she went to a specialist.  He told her he couldn’t find the tear.  He saw the other doctor’s report, with precise description of the damage, but couldn’t find any damage on the newer MRI.  He basically said, “Have a great life… you don’t need me!”

And then some of our team prayed for a lady that had such bad arthritis pain in her arm that it had become unusable.  This is especially bad because she needs to be able to use her arm for the retirement home where she volunteers. So she asked us to pray for her Wednesday night at our Bible study.

She awoke Thursday morning with no pain in that arm whatsoever!

And on Sunday morning, one of our team members was having a lot of headache pain and concentration problems because of a concussion he’d received the week before.  When we prayed for him, he said the pain was instantly gone!

But the wildest thing was that a visitor came on Sunday that had been invited by one of our team.  I had the strangest conversation with this man.

He told me that he didn’t believe Jesus was “the way”.  He instead believed in “the truth”… a universal truth that is overarching, whatever you want to call it.  He felt that Jesus was someone who showed us how to know “the truth”.

Anyway, on Saturday night he had a dream where an angel appeared to him.  The angel revealed to him that he should go to Watermark on Sunday.

He told me he LOVED the service.  Since he’s a musician, he really connected with our worship team (all professional musicians!).  And apparently my message on what love REALLY is connected with what he’s been “feeling” lately.  As he said, “Love is just another expression of the truth.”  God is so creative in reaching people far from Him!

And then he told me he had grabbed a bunch of business cards and was bringing all of his friends!

Keep praying… you’re helping us change the spiritual landscape here in Freiburg, where less than 1% of the population has a personal relationship with Christ, or attend a life-giving church.

Baby dedication

A few weeks ago I was privileged to have our first Watermark baby dedicationIMG_0950.  Noah and Malin’s parents committed to raise them to know and love God.

In dedicating a baby, it’s important to note that we are not determining their salvation. We are celebrating with the parents as they commit to raising their children to love God.

And we as a church committed to praying for them as well.  As all parents know, raising kids is hard.. and they NEED our prayers.

What a cool day this was!

PS. At Watermark kids are incredibly important!  God has called us to not only be a safe place for kids, He’s called us to be a place where they are valued and treasured.  Thank God for the incredible kids ministry team God has given us!