Fairview Heights Christ UMC announces launch of second site
Fairview Heights Christ UMC will launch a second site for ministry on the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11 – a strategy that targets growth exponentially rather than by simple addition.
The multi-site ministry, targeting the Collinsville-Maryville area, is aimed at reaching new persons who otherwise do not have a church home.
“We have grown by 400 in four years,” explained Rev. Shane Bishop, senior pastor at Christ Church. “More than half of those have been on profession of faith. Our focus is to connect people with Christ.”
Bishop noted that nearly 200 of Christ Church members already live in the area. A minimum of 100 will be going to the Collinsville-Maryville site to help launch the site. Bishop announced on Facebook Jan. 22 that the new ministry will be housed at the Maryville YMCA. The announcement was repeated in all four Christ Church worship services the same weekend.
“Our vision is to launch four sites in four years,” Bishop said. “One-half of the leadership from this first launch will be a part of the launch team for the second site. This model of ministry develops leadership and assists in providing a stable start to a new ministry.
Mike Crawford, IGRC coordinator of congregational development, noted that multi-site ministries are emerging as an effective and economical way of starting new churches.
“We have a goal of starting two congregations per year and the best way to reach new people is to have a healthy congregation start a new congregation,” he said. Crawford noted that the Mississippi River District has the highest total worship attendance in the conference, the highest population, but the lowest percentage of the population in United Methodist churches on Sunday morning.
“Another way to look at it – the Mississippi River District is our biggest mission field,” Crawford said.
As Crawford began working with the Cabinet in identifying potential places for new church starts, Collinsville-Maryville was identified as an area that had great potential.
For Christ Church, the process for a multi-site ministry actually began in 2006. “In the past 14 years, we have grown from 200 to 1,400,” Bishop said. “We completed a new sanctuary in 2007 and we now have four worship services and we started looking at how we were going to address capacity issues given the rate of growth.”
“One option we have is to stop growing, which I find theologically incompatible with the Gospel,” Bishop said. “We could relocate, which would mean purchasing a 100-acre site and go in debt $15 to 20 million, which would limit our ability in ministry and mission. We decided we wanted to get out of that cycle of building and debt.”
Bishop said the multi-site model moves Christ Church “from brick and mortar to mission and evangelism.” “It keeps us growing without the corporate expense,” he said. “It provides a great opportunity to multiply leadership through the use of bi-vocational lay Christians and it exponentially connects people to Christ.”
While some might worry about a new church launch hurting existing congregations, Bishop said the multi-site launch’s aim is to complement not compete with other congregations.
“We offer something different in the style and format of worship,” Bishop said. “There are those that visit Christ Church and they find out it isn’t for them. As we engage those folks in conversation about what they are looking for, we have referred them to United Methodist churches in the area that more directly meet their needs. Our goal is to connect people with Jesus Christ.”
Crawford adds that studies have shown that a successful church start tends to cause numbers to grow in other churches in the area because the new church start raises the spiritual issue again for those that are unchurched. “Some go with the new church, but others establish themselves with existing congregations,” Crawford said.
The September 2011 launch was set because next to Advent and Lent, September has been a prime time for persons to establish new habits and be the most receptive to coming to church.
“The Sunday after Labor Day is right in the middle of back to school for families and the significance of 9-11 certainly cannot be overlooked,” Bishop said. “We believe the time is right and that this will help the greater church as we grow the Kingdom of God.”
Related story: The Multi-Site Church Movement