What is Cultivate?

Cultivate is a digital platform for growing stronger church communities around mission. This is discipleship in the digital age.

Where did it come from?

Cultivate emerged out of five years of rapid growth at a church plant in Norwich called St. Thomas. Ian Dyble and David Lloyd were sent by HTB to revitalize a dwindling congregation of 30 people in the Golden Triangle of Norwich.

Empowered by Spirit and supported by the HTB Network, St. Thomas focused on Jesus and the Gospel. They acquired a second site, then a third with a community centre. They opened a cafe and bought a pub. With an active congregation of 500-600 people, they hit a new limit and were faced with new challenges.

How were they going to continue to create and maintain genuine relationships with five services, four sites and 17 ministry teams? How were they going to welcome newcomers and connect them with opportunities to be known by others so that they can experience the love of God?

Dave's innovation weekend

Dave Lloyd was sent on an innovation weekend with a diverse sampling of leaders across different industries. The task for the day was to come up with an idea for a new product or business that would solve key problems in their day-to-day work life.

Dave had an idea.

What if we could use technology to more effectively create disciples at scale?

What if there was one central home for everything in church life—such that every member could check-in day or night and figure out the best way to serve and bless others?

What if we built something that worked for St. Thomas—would it work for other resourced churches as well?

Dave pitched this new idea (he called it T3 for Time, Talents and Treasure) and won the innovation event. Encouraged by the staff and event peers, Dave came back to St. Thomas with a stirring feeling that something was happening. God was at work again.

Growing church: Meet Silicon Valley

Dave reached out to a couple members of his community who were involved in 'techie stuff'. John Ellison had recently stepped back from leading a product team in Silicon Valley through. Burned out by the late nights across timezones and stressful work life, he was excited to explore opportunities in Norwich.

Dave and John agreed to run a series of experiments to determine the viability of his concept. John proposed using Design Sprints—a five-day method for testing big ideas and solving real problems. The methodology was created by Jake Knapp during his time at Google and later Google Ventures. Design Sprints had been used to help companies like Slack (the fastest growing company in history) solve their biggest problems.

Timing would have it such that two of the best designers in the country were starting their own agency at the time these Design Sprints needed to happen. Fueled by a previous collaboration at Clearleft, Brighton-based designers James Box and James Bates came to Norwich to explore this unchartered territory of church building and design innovation.

Sprint I & II

During the first two design sprints the team built two distinct prototypes for testing with 12 members of the St Thomas community. With hour-long sessions poring through the design concepts in detail, the team was armed with an array of insights.

These insights ranged from what was and wasn't working at the church to member's faith journeys all the way to prototype itself. At the end of the second sprint it became very clear:

This is a thing. This problem of belonging deeply affects members of the STN community. Technology is a valid solution for bringing people from the fringe into the heart of church life.

So, then what next?

Sprint III & IV

The Saturday after the second sprint, John woke up with a profound feeling in his chest, "This is why I am in Norfolk. This is why I am here. I have to make this a reality."

Fueled by the passion and creativity of the previous design sprints, Dave and John agreed to dig deeper into their personal savings to bring Berst back to Norwich for another round of design sprints.

Now that we know this is a thing for STN, how do we know if this problem exists in other churches? How do we know if technology is a good solution for other congregations?

With the focus set outward to the broader church community across the UK, Dave reached out to his fellow pastors in the HTB network and in the Norwich community. Over the course of two weeks, the team spoke to more than a dozen different church leaders in different capacities.

What we learned

The learning was clear:

  • As churches grow it gets harder and harder to create and maintain genuine relationships amongst members.
  • When people feel like they belong within a church home, they give of themselves more freely and are able to experience the Gospel more deeply.
  • When people give themselves to God through acts of service, the transforming power of the Spirit creates disciples.
  • If we are able to build the app as we've designed it, we will reach those people on the fringes of our church communities and provide them with expedited paths into the heart of faith.

Where are we now?

In just a few months Cultivate has gone from an idea in Dave Lloyd's head to a living breathing possibility. We are actively building Cultivate as we speak to release at St Thomas Norwich.

As we increase confidence that Cultivate works as we intended for St Thomas, we will slowly begin rolling out to other resourced churches on an invite-only basis.

If you are a church leader or staff member interested in using Cultivate at your church, request an invite:

Request early access