We are embarking on our biggest test of faith yet as a church family. It’s part of the 6th Defining Moment of our church (see ‘DEFINING MOMENTS”) but will probably end up on its own as Defining Moment #7. It’s a test of discipline and patience. YES: We want to start campuses. The multi-site model is working around the world, and it’s working for our church family. It’s the number one way churches are reaching people for Christ at this moment.
But we want to do it: DEBT FREE. (See “EXPONENTIAL”)
The CHALLENGE for us is that we are still paying down debt. Our indebtedness is scheduled to be ZERO on December 31, 2020 (See “2020 UPDATE”). So, we can’t save to start a campus debt free because we’re paying off the debt we currently have. (And THIS is the reason we want to do church differently from now on.)
The ADVANCE TEAM (see “ADVANCE TEAM”) is working to figure out every detail of how this process will work. But as of this moment, their best guess estimate is that we can have our next campus (land, building, parking, chairs, EVERYTHING needed for a campus/facility) AND staff, in 2024.
That’s awesome! But… it’s not right now. In the meantime, so that we can continue to reach people for Jesus, we need everyone to flow to the less attended services. We’re also going to be making some changes to our service times and days and adding services in the fall of 2019. (See “MAXIMIZE SUNDAYS”) We have to be willing to do whatever we need to do to use our existing buildings to the maximum on Sundays!
Excerpts from “Megachurch founder warns against multi-site churches growing too fast” Posted on AL.com May 18, 2016
LifeChurch.tv founder Craig Groeschel, whose Oklahoma church now has 25 locations in seven states with 80,000 weekly worshippers, dispensed a lot of advice to 850 church leaders gathered in Birmingham on Wednesday.
In a question-and-answer session with some church leaders, he advised them not to jump too quickly to multi-site churches.
"Too many churches are going multi-site too soon, too fast, for the wrong reasons," Groeschel told a group of church team leaders during the Catalyst One Day conference held today at the Church of the Highlands main campus in Irondale. "I'm for stewardship." (See “Debt Free (vs Debt) Campus Start Up.”)
Groeschel, whose church is considered the largest in the country, offered a variety of lessons on church leadership practices.
Growing churches should expand their time slots for services before adding branch campuses, he said. He suggested adding two or three Saturday services and stacking Sunday services all the way until 2 p.m., in addition to Sunday night services. (See “Maximize Sundays”)
Groeschel said LifeChurch.tv had launched two branches in Phoenix and another in Dallas that failed. "God can even work through our failures," he said. "We all make mistakes. I'd rather make aggressive ones than passive ones." In 2006, LifeChurch.tv had a large debt, but changed its budgetary practices and now has none, he said. "We gave away free resources that 170,000 churches downloaded," he said. "God honored that."
The church now has 525 staff members serving the 80,000 who attend its services, but spends less than a third of its budget on salaries, he said. "It's not because they're underpaid," he said. The Church of the Highlands also emphasizes responsible budgeting and paying cash for new buildings, he said. "I 100 percent recommend it" as a model for ministry, Groeschel said.
The DEBT FREE model will ultimately lead to exponential outreach. (See “EXPONENTIAL.”) But it starts slowly as we pay off current debt and then save money for a DEBT FREE campus start up. (See “HERE’S THE PLAN.) That’s an issue because on a good weekend, MOST of our existing campuses are already at capacity. Once the ADVANCE TEAM (See “ADVANCE TEAM”) discovered that it would be some time before we could start another campus, they quickly made the suggestion that we “Maximize our existing campuses on Sunday.” That means adding services. We’re researching the best way to move forward, but it will probably include moving existing services, as well as adding services. We’re asking everyone to be flexible and understand that everything we’re doing is out of a desire to best use our staff, volunteers, and building resources to MAKE CHRIST KNOWN.
Younger leaders were intentionally chosen for this team because they will be the ones THE PLAN affects the most. (See “HERE’S THE PLAN”) They were tasked with finding the optimal size for a campus. How many seats? And all the ratios that go along with that number: Seats to parking places with services back to back. Seats to nursery size. Seats to lobby square footage, etc. How much land would that require, including retention and greenspace? How much would that project cost? What are the next 3 prime locations to start a New Hope campus? How would a “gifted” building affect our timeline? What kind of building would we accept? How many staff members? How many services would we offer? And, the hardest question of all: What do we do until our debt is paid off? (See “2020 UPDATE”) It’s been a test of faith for these young leaders, but they are crushing it! We are thankful for their leadership!
1989 - Defining Moment #1 was the decision to start the church. God put this dream in Pastor Tim’s heart back in 1984 while he was a student in Bible College. Along the way, others added their faith to this dream, and the dream became a reality on Palm Sunday, 1989.
1992 - Defining Moment #2 was the decision to completely change the way we did church. When we began, we were traditional in dress and methodology. We made the decision to change the way we did church. The message did not change. The methods did.
1994 - Defining Moment #3 was the decision to restart the church. It was a high-risk decision as we moved out of the comfort of the strip mall and back into a school. But our people took this step of faith and worked together to begin again. And it worked. Our tiny church doubled in one day to 150 people.
1996 - Defining Moment #4 was the decision to buy land and build. We were few in number, but God used 43 families to purchase 22 acres of land and build our first building. Everyone sacrificed. Everyone gave. And the day we opened the doors, our church of a little less than 200 exploded to over 500 people and never looked back.
2006 – Defining Moment #5 was the decision to go multi-site. (See 7 Little-Known Advantages of Multisite Churches) After we had outgrown our original campus on FM1128, we moved to the 120 acres we now call, the 288 Campus. Within a month of arriving at the 288 Campus, the decision was made to go “multi-site.” It didn’t make sense, but our people committed to making it happen. And in 2008, our first Campus (now the Friendswood Campus) was planted. Since then other campuses have been planted enabling thousands of people to KNOW CHRIST and expanding the reach of our church family’s mission.
2014 – Defining Moment #6 was the decision to be debt free. This was no easy decision – as any family who has made this decision will tell you. But we believed it would enable us as a church to reach people for Jesus in a Sustainable, Financially Responsible, and Exponential way. (See “Exponential”) As of today, we are still on target to be Debt Free before the end of 2020. (See “2020 UPDATE”)
We’ve made the decision to carry out our mission DEBT FREE because we believe this will enable the next generation to do ministry in an exponential way. Instead of starting each campus with debt and eventually reaching a max debt load and having to throttle back on our mission to “MAKE CHRIST KNOWN,” our goal is to open doors of each new campus DEBT FREE. NOTE: Debt is not evil. But too much can keep a person or a church from doing what God wants. Just like in your home, if you keep adding more debt, you’re going reach a day when you can’t add more – and you can’t put FOOD on table. We want to keep putting FOOD on table, and we want to ADD TABLES to God’s house!! Our VISION helps us to do that in a sustainable and financially responsible way.
We don’t know what the future holds. Jesus said: “In this world, you will have trouble.” So, part of being financially responsible is being prepared. If the economy goes south. If there is a natural disaster in our part of the world. If for any reason, our offerings are not what we expected in the years to come, we’ll STILL be able to do ministry, missions, pay the light bill, etc. BECAUSE our campuses will be debt free and we’re including a “Campus Development” line in our budget. We believe that God’s money should be handled in a financially responsible way and used for the MISSION of His church. And we believe what we’re attempting to do as a church fam will help us to continue to Make Christ Known in a financially responsible way. It will also help us to reach people in an “Exponential” way.
If we keep starting campuses, but we go in debt to start them, THEN (depending on the cost of the building, and the offerings at that campus) approximately 20% of the offerings from those campuses would go to PAYING DEBT. Yes, we could start a lot of campuses FASTER using debt, which SEEMS exponential at first. But as additional campuses are started, the process slows considerably as the church becomes more burdened by debt and ultimately, can’t reach people exponentially. In other words, there’s a law of diminishing returns when using debt.
However, the way that we’re going to attempt to start campuses (with God’s help) is DEBT FREE. So, instead of 20% (or so) going to the bank, it goes to starting future campuses. And every new campus we begin increases our ability to start another campus and reach more people for Jesus. It starts slowly, but over the next decade or two, it will help New Hope Church to reach people for Christ in an exponential way until Jesus comes back! (For more details and graphs, please see: Debt Free (vs Debt) Campus Start Up.)
We’re happy to report that on April 2nd, 2019, we sent the final payment for our 288 Campus. The 288 Campus is now DEBT FREE! Thank you, God! Thank you, New Hopers!
The next campus in line to be debt free is the Alvin Campus. Estimated pay off date August 2019.
After the Alvin Campus, the next campus in line to be debt free is the Webster Campus. Estimated pay off date December 2019.
The final campus to become debt free will be our Friendswood Campus. Estimated pay off date December 2020.
The multi-site church model is working at this point in history. (See 7 Little-Known Advantages of Multisite Churches) So we’re all in. However, if we go into debt to start each campus (depending on the cost of the building and the offerings at that campus) approximately 20% of the offerings from those campuses would go to THE BANK. Sure, we could start a lot of campuses FASTER using debt (and I know some churches that are doing it). It SEEMS exponential at first. But as additional campuses are started, the process slows considerably as the church becomes more burdened in debt and, therefore, can’t reach people exponentially. In other words, there’s a law of diminishing returns with debt. But the way that we’re going to attempt to start campuses (with God’s help) is DEBT FREE. So instead of approximately 20% of the offerings of that campus going to THE BANK each month, 20% would go to CAMPUS DEVELOPMENT. (See the comparison below.)
Scenario 1: DEBT
Scenario 2: NO DEBT
The FIRST scenario – starts more quickly, but it’s not sustainable and certainly not exponential. In THE SECOND scenario, every new campus we begin increases our ability to start another campus and reach more people for Jesus. It starts more slowly, but over the next decade or two, it will help New Hope Church to reach people for Christ in an exponential way!! The CHALLENGE for us right now is, the slow start. That’s an issue because on a good weekend MOST of our existing campuses are already at capacity. (See MAXIMIZE SUNDAYS). However, if we can get creative and be flexible about what service we attend, we can continue to reach people for Christ until we are able to plant our next campuses.
By Portable Church Industries, July 2018
By Portable Church Industries, July 2018
The multisite movement has taken the world by storm! In fact, the multisite model has already multiplied and revitalized thousands of churches in the United States. In 2014, Leadership Network concluded that there were 8,000 multisite churches across America. And, this number has only escalated since.
Here are seven good reasons that explain why multisite churches are no longer the exception but the norm:
Enables untapped talent to emerge:
Mobilizing a team of volunteers is essential for the running of any growing church. Launching a multisite campus encourages a greater involvement of people in various growth, outreach and service capacities. In fact, studies indicate that lay participation increased in 88% of multisite churches! You might just find the least likely church members taking on unexpected responsibilities and ownership at your new campus. Are you ready to tap into the hidden talent of your church community?
Improves the stewardship of resources:
Yes, indeed! Why spend millions on a bigger building, when launching a new campus allows you to reach a lot more people? It’s little wonder that 52% of multisite campuses launch in rented spaces.
In addition, a multisite church model fosters a culture of generosity and giving among the different campuses. Is your church channeling its resources to areas that matter?
Enjoys the benefits of both big and small churches:
According to Dave Ferguson, Community Christian Church, “Multisite is a proactive strategy for reaching more people, not just a reactive response to more crowding.” In essence, a multisite church grows bigger, by growing smaller! Multisite churches enjoy the benefits of larger churches, including a wider support system and network, while retaining the close community environment of a small church. Therefore, a multisite church offers the best of both worlds, doesn’t it?
Helps struggling churches thrive:
Did you know that merging with a multisite church is seen as one of the best strategies for the health and survival of struggling churches? That’s why many churches facing slow yet steady decline choose to be adopted by multisite churches, and re-emerge as new sites.
The multisite church model, therefore, is a practical solution for struggling churches. Do you agree that merging with a multisite campus is a good strategy for churches to transition from surviving to thriving?
Creates a platform for intentional leadership development:
Building up and releasing leaders is a key responsibility of any healthy and God-centered church. However, this is easier said than done! In fact, developing leaders sometimes takes a backseat in many churches. However, it is not so in the case of multisite churches! Churches with multiple campuses are compelled to raise and release leaders.
In fact, 68% of multisite churches have a formal leadership development process. No wonder that multisite campuses seem to do a better job at raising leaders from within their congregations. Does your church have a formal leadership development process in place?
Protects against a cult of personality:
Critics of the multisite church movement have argued against the dangers of putting the senior or lead pastor as the common denominator in the “one church, many campuses” equation. However, J.D. Greear, pastor of Summit Church, says that multisite churches actually protect against the cult of personality. Multisite campuses facilitate the exposure of their congregations to several Spirit-filled leaders whom they can look to for leadership and ministry. Such leaders are available to offer advice and minister to the community on a one-to-one basis. On the other hand, the presence of the lead pastor at a single-site church is often seen as necessary for any matter at hand.
Foster an effective evangelistic strategy:
Did you know that the biggest reason for churches to go multisite is evangelistic outreach? According to pastor and businessman Dr. Steve Greene, no other approach to evangelism has witnessed such a high percentage of growth as the multisite church has! The Leadership Network study also revealed that 85% of multisite churches have grown since starting a campus! Isn’t that impressive?
The multisite model tends to spread healthy churches to more diverse communities. As a result, such campuses reach more people than single-site churches can. Isn’t this one of the greatest advantages of the multisite church strategy?
New Harvard Research Says U.S. Christianity Is Not Shrinking, But Growing Stronger
Is churchgoing and religious adherence really in ‘widespread decline’ so much so that conservative believers should suffer ‘growing anxiety’? Absolutely not.
(This article was adapted from the book: “The Myth of the Dying Church: How Christianity is Actually Thriving in America and the World.”)
“Meanwhile, a widespread decline in churchgoing and religious affiliation had contributed to a growing anxiety among conservative believers.” Statements like this are uttered with such confidence and frequency that most Americans accept them as uncontested truisms. This one emerged just this month in an exceedingly silly article in The Atlantic on Vice President Mike Pence.
Religious faith in America is going the way of the Yellow Pages and travel maps, we keep hearing. It’s just a matter of time until Christianity’s total and happy extinction, chortle our cultural elites. Is this true? Is churchgoing and religious adherence really in “widespread decline” so much so that conservative believers should suffer “growing anxiety”?
Two words: Absolutely not.
New research published late last year by scholars at Harvard University and Indiana University Bloomington is just the latest to reveal the myth. This research questioned the “secularization thesis,” which holds that the United States is following most advanced industrial nations in the death of their once vibrant faith culture. Churches becoming mere landmarks, dance halls, boutique hotels, museums, and all that.
Not only did their examination find no support for this secularization in terms of actual practice and belief, the researchers proclaim that religion continues to enjoy “persistent and exceptional intensity” in America. These researchers hold our nation “remains an exceptional outlier and potential counter example to the secularization thesis.”
What Accounts for the Difference in Perceptions?
How can their findings appear so contrary to what we have been hearing from so many seemingly informed voices? It comes down primarily to what kindof faith one is talking about. Not the belief system itself, per se, but the intensity and seriousness with which people hold and practice that faith.
Mainline churches are tanking as if they have super-sized millstones around their necks. Yes, these churches are hemorrhaging members in startling numbers, but many of those folks are not leaving Christianity. They are simply going elsewhere. Because of this shifting, other very different kinds of churches are holding strong in crowds and have been for as long as such data has been collected. In some ways, they are even growing. This is what this new research has found.
The percentage of Americans who attend church more than once a week, pray daily, and accept the Bible as wholly reliable and deeply instructive to their lives has remained absolutely, steel-bar constant for the last 50 years or more, right up to today. These authors describe this continuity as “patently persistent.”
The percentage of such people is also not small. One in three Americans prays multiple times a day, while one in 15 do so in other countries on average. Attending services more than once a week continues to be twice as high among Americans compared to the next highest-attending industrial country, and three times higher than the average comparable nation.
One-third of Americans hold that the Bible is the actual word of God. Fewer than 10 percent believe so in similar countries. The United States “clearly stands out as exceptional,” and this exceptionalism has not been decreasing over time. In fact, these scholars determine that the percentages of Americans who are the most vibrant and serious in their faith is actually increasing a bit, “which is making the United States even more exceptional over time.”
This also means, of course, that those who take their faith seriously are becoming a markedly larger proportion of all religious people. In 1989, 39 percent of those who belonged to a religion held strong beliefs and practices. Today, these are 47 percent of all the religiously affiliated. This all has important implications for politics, indicating that the voting bloc of religious conservatives is not shrinking, but actually growing among the faithful. The declining influence of liberal believers at the polls has been demonstrated in many important elections recently.
These Are Not Isolated Findings
The findings of these scholars are not outliers. There has been a growing gulf between the faithful and the dabblers for quite some time, with the first group growing more numerous. Think about the church you attend, relative to its belief system. It is extremely likely that if your church teaches the Bible with seriousness, calls its people to real discipleship, and encourages daily intimacy with God, it has multiple services to handle the coming crowds.
Most decent-size American cities have a treasure trove of such churches for believers to choose from. This shows no sign of changing. If, however, your church is theologically liberal or merely lukewarm, it’s likely laying off staff and wondering how to pay this month’s light bill. People are navigating toward substantive Christianity.
The folks at Pew have been reporting for years that while the mainline churches are in drastic free fall, the group that “shows the most significant growth is the nondenominational family.” Of course, these nondenominational churches are 99.9 percent thorough-blooded evangelical. Pew also notes that “evangelical Protestantism and the historically black Protestant tradition have been more stable” over the years, with even a slight uptick in the last decade because many congregants leaving the mainline churches are migrating to evangelical churches that hold fast to the fundamentals of the Christian faith.
When the so-called “progressive” churches question the historicity of Jesus, deny the reality of sin, support abortion, ordain clergy in same-sex relationships and perform their marriages, people desiring real Christianity head elsewhere. Fact: evangelical churches gain five new congregants exiled from the liberal churches for every one they lose for any reason. They also do a better job of retaining believers from childhood to adulthood than do mainline churches.
The Other Key Factor: Faithful People Grow More Children
There is another factor at work here beyond orthodox belief. The University of London’s Eric Kaufmann explains in his important book “Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?” (he says yes) that the sustaining vitality, and even significant per capita growth, of serious Christian belief is as firmly rooted in fertility as it is in faithful teaching and evangelism. Globally, he says that the more robust baby-making practices of orthodox Jews and Christians, as opposed to the baby-limiting practices of liberals, create many more seriously religious people than a secular agenda can keep up with.
Fertility determines who influences the future in many important ways. He puts it bluntly, “The secular West and East Asia are aging and their share of the world population declining. This means the world is getting more religious even as people in the rich world shed their faith.”
Fertility is as important as fidelity for Christianity and Judaism’s triumph from generation to generation. Kaufmann contends, “Put high fertility and [faith] retention rates together with general population decline and you have a potent formula for change.”
It comes down to this: God laughs at the social Darwinists. Their theory is absolutely true, but just not in the way they think. Those who have the babies and raise and educate them well tend to direct the future of humanity. Serious Christians are doing this. Those redefining the faith and reality itself are not.
This why Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart proclaimed in First Things, long before the proposal of the Benedict Option, that the most “subversive and effective strategy we might undertake [to counter the culture] would be one of militant fecundity: abundant, relentless, exuberant, and defiant childbearing.” The future rests in the hands of the fertile.
What About All the Millennial Ex-Christians?
But what about our young people? We are constantly hearing that young people are “leaving the church in droves,” followed by wildly disturbing statistics. This also requires a closer look at who is actually leaving and from where. Pew reports that of young adults who left their faith, only 11 percent said they had a strong faith in childhood while 89 percent said they came from a home that had a very weak faith in belief and practice.
It’s not a news flash that kids don’t tend to hang onto what they never had in the first place. Leading sociologist of religion Christopher Smith has found through his work that most emerging adults “report little change in how religious they have been in the previous five years.” He surprisingly also found that those who do report a change say they have been more religious, not less. This certainly does not mean there is a major revival going on among young adults, but nor does it mean the sky is falling.
Add to this Rodney Stark’s warning that we should not confuse leaving the faith with attending less often. He and other scholars report that young adults begin to attend church less often in their “independent years” and have always done so for as long back as such data has been collected. It’s part of the nature of emerging adulthood. Just as sure as these young people do other things on Sunday morning, the leading sociologists of religion find they return to church when they get married, have children, and start to live a real adult life. It’s like clockwork and always has been. However, the increasing delay among young adults in entering marriage and family is likely lengthening this gap today.
More Americans Attend Church Now Than At the Founding
What is really counter-intuitive is what Stark and his colleagues at the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion found when looking at U.S. church attendance numbers going back to the days of our nation’s founding. They found that the percentage of church-attending Americans relative to overall population is more than four times greater today than it was in 1776. The number of attendees has continued to rise each and every decade over our nation’s history right up until the present day.
People are making theological statements with their feet, shuffling to certain churches because they offer what people come seeking: clear, faithful, practical teaching of the scriptures, help in living intimately with and obediently to God, and making friends with people who will challenge and encourage them in their faith. To paraphrase the great Southern novelist Flannery O’Connor, if your church isn’t going to believe and practice actual Christianity, then “to hell with it.” This is what people are saying with their choices.
Or as Eric Kaufmann asserts, “Once secularism rears its head and fundamentalism responds with a clear alternative, moderate religion strikes many as redundant. Either you believe the stuff or you don’t. If you do, it makes sense to go for the real thing, which takes a firm stand against godlessness.”
If your Christianity is reconstituted to the day’s fashion, don’t be surprised if people lose interest in it. Few are seeking 2 Percent Christianity. They want the genuine deal, and the demographics on religion of the last few decades unmistakably support the fact.