FACILITIES & Megachurch Expands Reach by Downsizing Main Facility

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  I’ve written a chapter in one of my books about how “over building” usually stunts church growth (you can read that chapter, the “The 7 Don’ts & 7 Do’s of Building” here).  Below is a recent story about how over building has thwarted one church’s missional flexibility.

(Download the chapter from my book by clicking on this link > BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – GROWTH BY ACCIDENT Missteps with New Facilities 2. If you like the insights please support publisher and author by buying a copy here. Excerpted from Growth by Accident – Death by Planning: How Not to Kill a Growing Church, Abingdon Press, 2004, pp. 76-80.)

“Southern Baptist megachurch to downsize its campus by 90 percent.”

by Bob Allen, Baptist News Service, 9/10/19.

First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, once one of America’s most influential megachurches, determined Sept. 8 to downsize its downtown property footprint by 90 percent in a cost-cutting move the senior pastor described as necessary for the church’s long-term survival.

Under the leadership of pastors and co-pastors Homer Lindsay Sr., Homer Lindsay Jr. and Jerry Vines, First Baptist Church earned the nickname Miracle of Downtown Jacksonville after buying up real estate left behind when department stores and smaller retailers started relocating into suburban malls in the 1970s.

Today the church covers 10 city blocks with buildings including a sanctuary built to seat nearly 10,000 people that was dedicated in 1993.

image.pngHeath Lambert, named last year as sole senior pastor of First Baptist, said once a blessing, the congregation’s central location has become a curse as the city continues to expand farther away from its urban core.

“If you want to get people to come to First Baptist Church on Sunday morning, you have to get them to do two things they never do,” Lambert said during his Sunday morning sermon. “You have to get them to come to church, and you have to get them to come downtown.”

Lambert said that after 20 years of declining membership, the downtown church needs about one-tenth of its current space. Plans approved by the congregation on Sunday call for consolidating all operations into one city block.

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Wikipedia

“What we can’t do on one block, we won’t do,” the pastor said.

The plan includes borrowing $30 million to renovate Hobson Auditorium, the original 1,500-seat worship space built after a fire destroyed much of downtown Jacksonville in 1901, and to replace other buildings now used for offices with state-of-the-art construction.

Lambert said the church will eventually sell off downtown property and move toward a multi-site church model. The church currently has a south campus in Nocatee, which moved into its own building after meeting at Ponte Vedra High School for a decade in 2019.

“Instead of being the big church downtown that we ask everybody from all over to come to, we want to be a church for the whole city,” Lambert said. “Instead of asking our city to come to our church, we’re going to take our church to the city.”

Read more here … https://baptistnews.com/article/southern-baptist-megachurch-to-downsize-its-campus-by-90-percent/#.XXkddC3MywQ

MULTIPLICATION & Multiple Services Was a Key to St. Patrick’s Success #CharlesHunter

Commentary by Prof. B.: I am sitting next to Asbury Seminary’s Charles Hunter III at the annual meeting of The Great Commission Research Network  (Asbury Theological Seminary, Oct. 19, 2017). Dr. Hunter is author of the popular book The Celtic Way of Evangelism: How Christianity Can Reach the West Again and professor of church growth and multiplication at Asbury.  We were discussing how buildings become money-pits for most churches because churches overbuild.

In response Dr. Hunter replied:

People don’t realize that a secret to Saint Patrick’s success evangelizing the Celts was his use of multiple service times in small chapels. They didn’t build big buildings that could hold everyone.  This is because timber in Ireland was usually very short in length.

This resulted in small “chapels” which have three strategic advantages:

  1. They had multiple small gatherings, and many of them every Sunday.  They met almost all day long on Sunday, so everyone could have a worship experience.
  2. This kept the focus from being on maintaining a large facility.
  3. This also resulted in a lay-lead movement.  You needed a lot of laity involved to have so many services.

Commentary by Prof. B.: Small chapels had the unexpected results of creating more lay opportunities to become involved, more times for attendees to fit church into their schedule as well as kept the focus from becoming the maintenance of a large facility.

#GCRN St. Patrick Celtic Celts Ireland

INTERNAL CHURCH PLANTING & As Autonomous Church Plants Grow, Southern Baptists Disappear #ChristianityToday

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “I’ve been saying it for years. Planting independent and autonomous church plants creates competitive environments and a neophyte ministry with customarily poor oversight.

Instead I have argued for equally planting ‘internal sub-congregations’ such as venues, campuses and different styles of worship. This usually creates a healthier organization because among many things, they share assets and there is better oversight of the ministers. As a former church planter myself, who helped coordinate a megachurch’s network of planted churches, I believe this understanding is critical.

It is also important to distinguish two types of church plants.

I have suggested (The Healthy Church, 2014) that an independent plant is ‘external’ to the parent congregation and thus should be called an ‘external plant.’

A venue, campus or another worship service would remain organizationally ‘internal to the church’ and thus is best described as an ‘internal church plant.’ George Hunter of Asbury Seminary has described this saying, ‘every church is a congregation of congregations’ (A House Divided, 2001).

Therefore, understanding how to multiply ‘internal congregations’ as well as ‘external congregations’ is critical for turning around the decline that we see in even organizations like the Southern Baptist Church.Because I speak at many Southern Baptist events I know that their emphasis on church planting dwarfs their emphasis upon church revitalization. If they (and we) don’t start planting ‘equally both internally and externally’ we may be only creating a competitive environment of poorly trained church leaders who are exchanging Christians between our congregations.

Read this article to understand why I am alarmed.

As Church Plants Grow, Southern Baptists Disappear

Nation’s largest Protestant group lost 200,000 members last year, biggest decline since 1881.

Bob Smietana

As Church Plants Grow, Southern Baptists Disappear

Courtesy of Baptist Press

There are now more Southern Baptist churches than ever before: 46,449 as of last year.

And more than 200,000 extra spaces in the pews.

As the nation’s largest Protestant group prepares to meet in Columbus next week, it reported its largest annual decline in more than 130 years—a loss of 236,467 members.

With just under 15.5 million members, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) remains the largest Protestant group in the United States. But it has lost about 800,000 members since 2003, when membership peaked at about 16.3 million.

This past year, however, the number of SBC churches grew by 1 percent to 46,449. That’s in part due to church planting efforts, aimed at starting new churches. Southern Baptists started 985 new churches in 2014, up 5 percent from the previous year.

Still, challenges remain.

A new major survey from the Pew Research Center shows a similar decline for the SBC. In 2007, Pew found that about 6.7 percent of Americans claimed to be Southern Baptists. In 2014, 5.3 percent of Americans were Southern Baptists.

Pew also found that Southern Baptists are aging, with the median age rising from 49 in 2007 to 54 in 2014. That makes them older than Nazarenes, “nones,” and nondenominational Christians, but younger than Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and Methodists.

Read more at … http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2015/june/southern-baptist-decline-baptism-church-plant-sbc.html

MULTIPLICATION & Planting Internal AND External Churches #DoBoth #aPractitionerPerspective

Commentary from Dr. Whitesel: “We must plant twice as many churches! But just not autonomous church plants that are independent and ‘external’ to the organization, (called ‘external plants)’. We must also plant just as many venues, sites and campuses (these are ‘internal’ to the organization and called ‘internal plants’). To missionally multiply the church we have to do both.” Here is how a student/businessman endorsed this idea:”

The following is by Casey P, 5/22/14:

“Dr. Whitesel, you are the first church leader that I have heard that endorses the opposite of what so many districts and churches in our denomination want to do. I agree, how is easier to go out into a different locale, plant a church and ‘Birth’ from the ‘Mother’ church?

… I do not feel that my own Senior Pastor would make it a competitive situation, but I do feel the church’s congregations would, and some of the staff would lean that way.
The logistics, economical all require support, or as you point out the ‘baby’ church is left out there to suffer, grow, and/or die.

I have discussed with my Senior Pastor the concept of the Spanish Ministries church plant we have ‘birthed’ within our walls, e. g. we ‘birth’ these mini-churches within the walls of our own church. We have successfully integrated a contemporary church service from the traditional/vintage service and that service is in all sense and purpose a separate church from what is done in the traditional/vintage service. But, we do not have a different Senior Pastor, just Associate Pastors that help lead the services, lead the worship and teach the congregation.

This mini-church could withstand a further breaking down into a Saturday Church. One that expanded on the contemporary service into a service that was even more contemporary, vital, youthful and vibrant. Not Youth, but a more millennial-focused that includes worship and pastoring for that generation. We do not need to go afar to a different side of town, the Pastor can be staff and the ‘mother’ church is still evident and growing…

The district is concerned that we need to be planting more and more churches, when we really need to revitalized the churches we have in place. A Pastor can plant churches in their own building, with effort, thought and process. Their are tools in the congregation that need to be used.”