Wikipedia says that multiple-site churches started in the mid 1980s . By the 2000s there were thousands more. The only truly multi-campus (if you count churches without walls) community I know within a mainline denomination is Urban Village in Chicago – a United Methodist new church start up. Maybe you know of others.
But most multi-campus churches are part of new denominations like Vineyard Churches, although they call themselves a movement rather than a denomination. Mark Driscoll started his own denomination of sorts in that the Mars Hill Church now has fifteen locations in four states.
We could say that churches of the same denomination are all one church with different sites throughout a specific geographic region I suppose, but all the churches in mainline presbyteries, associations, dioceses, and conferences (i.e. denominational regions) tend to be individual communities on their own islands. And instead of being connected – even to other neighboring congregations in their own denominations – we consider our neighbors to be the competition. Each congregation – even in the same denomination – has its own pastor, its own financial secretary, its own building manager, its own web designer, etc.
What if . . .
- 3-4 churches in the same denomination saw each other as different “campuses” of the same church, sharing one building manager, volunteer coordinator, etc.
- Churches within 5 miles of each other shared a common youth minister, web designer, and accounting manager, paid according to the size of the church. (i.e. congregations paid a pro-rated amount according to participation from their particular “campus.”)
- The One Church with 3-4 Campuses offered gatherings 7 days/week, thus making multiple portals to community possible without exhausting any single “campus.” For example: Mondays – Faith on Tap near Congregation #1, Tuesdays – Book Study in public library near Congregation #2, Wednesday – Small Groups in the homes of members from all four congregations in a variety of neighborhoods, Thursdays – make dinner for a shelter close to Congregation #3, Fridays – Parents’ Night Out in Congregation #4’s building, Saturday – mission project somewhere (one week a Habitat Project that all four campuses sponsor, the next week Love Bomb a laundromat ); Sunday – worship at 9:30 am, 11:00 am, and 6:30 pm in 3 of the 4 congregations. The fourth congregation might serve hot chocolate in a park or something.
- The four churches have staff meetings together, share pastoral care responsibilities (e.g. one pastor visits the parishioners from all four communities who happen to be in the same hospital.)
Today, some churches merge or form “sister relationships” with each other which is code for “our church is dying and we need someone to prop us up.” But what if connecting as one church with four sites was seen as a means of enhancing community and growing our capacity for mission?
One culture shift we need to make is becoming less prideful (“Our church is Big Deal Church on the Hill“) and more Kingdom-focused (“Who cares through which portal someone enters just as long as transformation happens?“)
Are we in denominational churches willing to take a leap like this?
Friends: I was remiss in not acknowledging the source of the image. Many thanks to LC. Thanks as well to my partner in dreaming – EH.