Church planting in Silicon Valley: Product-market fit

Luke Roush is a member at Echo.Church and a venture capitalist who is passionate about seeing Christians in the marketplace embrace their work as worship and reflect their core values through their vocational calling. He believes Silicon Valley is uniquely positioned to shape culture and influence the world through new products and services. Luke aspires to use his deep knowledge of business to speak into how Christian entrepreneurs reflect their faith and fulfill their mission.

My job is to partner with business leaders and provide capital and counsel as they develop products and services that can impact the world for good. From my experience and in talking with others, church plants can be similar to start-ups. Because it’s what I’m familiar with, I often use terminology that is familiar in the marketplace and apply it within the context of ministry.

In the early stages of building a product or service in the marketplace, it’s important to clearly define the problem or unmet need you’re aspiring to address. Founders need to have a deep desire to fix this issue, and it’s often a problem that they’ve personally experienced. Based on this vision or calling, an entrepreneur can then develop a beta version and assess initial product-market fit. From there they tweak as appropriate to ensure the product is on-aim with the market needs. In the context of a church plant, the staff, Sunday experience, and peripheral ministries like kids, young pros and small groups, need to resonate with the community they’re being built to serve.,,How does this happen in reality? Iteration. And, a lot of it. Entrepreneurial ventures—and church plants—require a lot of trial and error, flexibility and patience. With a church plant, understanding how to ‘bob and weave’ with what the market needs while maintaining a gospel centered mission can be a tricky balance, particularly in the Bay Area. We do this by examining not just the folks showing up on Sunday, but also those who aren’t turning up. How do we reach them? There are some lessons to be gathered from the marketplace here that include gathering and analyzing data and speaking in a language that might be more understood in Silicon Valley. The demographic data locally is clear, and if we’re seeking to serve the ethnically diverse community in Silicon Valley that are younger and highly educated, we need to make sure that our staff and the messages they’re delivering reflect that fact. We need to tie into the issues around technology and its applications, and we need to minister to people who are positioned to influence the direction and policy of technology for years to come. There are a different set of questions and concerns that resonate with this demographic. We need to be on-aim theologically and Biblically consistent, but not distracted by some of the side-shows the world loves to throw at us. Many of these strategies and tactics that revolve around knowing your customer are quite common between start-ups and the church.

I am convicted that Bay Area churches are strategically located in a geography where God’s message of hope and love can move throughout the world. Some of the world’s best and brightest thinkers convene here to be exposed to Silicon Valley and the surrounding ecosystem. They study, intern, work hard and then usually return home to take back what they’ve learned. While they’re here, there is a great opportunity to build relationships and share God’s truth with love and respect. Lord willing, God will use these opportunities to advance His message worldwide.

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Published June 18, 2018