CAMPUS & More missional ideas from my multi-campus church tour.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 6/17/18.

Today I’m analyzing a campus of #NorthviewChurch in Westfield, IN. As you know I’m often disappointed with how venues and campuses create a disconnected and inauthentic feel to their satellite locations. And this is never more true than during a video sermon.

#NorthviewChurch avoids thus misstep and fosters the feel of a live presence by having a screen on a stage that creates an image that is life-sized (not too big or too small) of the preacher on the stage. In fact, from the back of the auditorium (where I was sitting on this busy Father’s Day) it almost looked like the preacher was live.

This requires:

  • A middle camera that does not change perspective during the sermon. The same shot stays on the stage, creating the feel of a live presence. The side screens however (where the lyrics for the songs are projected) can be more of a closeup image and can often change perspective. However, the central camer which is creating the feel of a live presence of the preacher should not change shots.
  • The screen on the stage sits at floor level. This gives the impression that the preacher is speaking live on the stage and at its center.
  • The edge of the screen is black and the stage area behind the screen is dark. This adds to the feel that you are not looking at a screen but at a person that is live on the stage.
  • The sound emulates from the screen area. Some venues that have speaker arrays hanging from the ceiling may need to adjust the speakers to foster the feel is the voice emulating from the stage
  • As with most campus visits, the announcements, worship, etc. works e live.

 

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

MULTIPLICATION & 5 Reasons Churches Should Balance Their Internal & External Church Planting

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 2/19/17.

I want leaders to consider “external” and “internal” planting a bit more as they strategize the future of their ministry.  External planting is a somewhat typical semi-autonomous church plant by a mother church.  Internal planting is supporting sub-congregations of different cultural behaviors, ideas and styles within the mother church.

And, we need both. But usually when you hear “church planting’” you think of the former, the autonomous or semi-autonomous church plant: organizationally and locationally removed from the mother church.

But I want leaders to grasp the strategic idea of balancing external plants with internal plants.  We should have both and perhaps even balance them: 50% internal plants and 50% external plants.  To explain why, let me share some questions a student once asked about this.

The student said, “In the Missional Church course we learned that planting a church was one way to rejuvenate a local church’s lifecycle, and promote growth. Your response makes me think you disagree with that. I see how growing an internal sub-congregation will grow the main church, but isn’t the process of loosing members to the daughter church, and the daughter church having to learn to make its own way, what stimulates innovation, change, and growth in both churches? Perhaps I am just being too optimistic. I do not know the actual statistics for church plant survival, but I’ve read that it is anywhere from 50%-80%. People seem to get more excited about planting a church than adding a new service (even though adding the new service may cause more growth?). It may also be the denomination’s mindset. I get the impression that the number of churches (especially new churches) a denomination has is sometimes trumpeted more than the number of members. Which sounds better, ‘We have 100 churches with average attendance of 100 people at each’ or ‘We have 10 churches with an average attendance of 1000 people each.’ 100 churches could mean more communities being reached, while 10 huge churches could mean more work actually being done. When I read the core values and core scores of my denominational department of evangelism it seems more directed at planting new churches than growing existing ones.”

These are important questions. And here are my responses.

1. Yes, I disagree (as does Eddie Gibbs in I Believe in Church Growth, 1981, pp. 282-284) with solely external planting.  As a consultant I see the damage it does on a local level when we create an external plant without regard to fostering an internal plant in a nearby congregation (external plant cannibalizes local churches, while birthing competitive and weak plants).  I think you can see that internal planting is much better for the rationale I outlined.

2. Plus, an internal plant can have the same amount of innovation, change, and growth as does an external plan (look at how innovative youth ministries can be).  The internal plants also create an “economy of scale” as a church grows into a larger church with multiple sub-congregations (creating multi-cultural acceptance too).

3. And, I think you are right that external planting is more popular from a denominational perspective where the number of churches trumps health.  The Church of the Nazarene emphasizes internal planting more than Wesleyans and their churches are on average much larger than ours (creating sustainability and an economy of scale = they can do more).

4. You asked, “Which sounds better.  ‘We have 100 churches with average attendance of 100 people at each’ or ‘We have 10 churches with an average attendance of 1000 people each.’ 100 churches could mean more communities being reached, while 10 huge churches could mean more work actually being done.”  Because in my consultative experience I’ve found that you need on average 175 attendees for a church to have the range of ministries people have come to expect, those 100 churches of 100 people are likely struggling and not healthy. Thus, they are usually not reaching people anyway.

5. It seems to me that in 50% of these situations it might be better for the larger church to have a sub-congregational “venues” in these neighborhoods.  The venue could be a culturally distinct sub-congregation, but would have all of the financial and staff backing of the larger church.  The business world understands the importance of an economy of scale, but the church misses it and creates networks of struggling congregations.

A name for this type of church is The Multicultural Alliance Model.

See all five models here: MULTICULTURAL CHURCHES & 5 Models: A New Paradigm Evaluated and Differentiated #AICR #AcademyForInterculturalChurchResearch

FACILITIES & Floor Plans That Promote Multiple Venues (a leadership exercise)

by Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D., 11/13/15.

QUOTE: “As you know, Sunday morning continues to be the major time that unchurched people are the least busy and when they will visit a church.  Thus, we should offer as many culturally relevant worship encounters as possible, to lead as many different cultures as possible to an encounter with Christ.” 

A Leadership Exercise:

This is a leadership exercise designed for churches (or students) who are considering facility expansion.  It is designed to help leaders think creativity about church designs that will equally promote church expansion and health.

Search on the Internet and find a church floor plan (i.e. the diagram of the floor/room layout an architect might use).

The floor plan should be one that promotes multiple worship encounters.

In other words, the floor plan should allow:

  • multiple worship encounters (services) to be held at the same time,
  • so that 2+ (the more the better) different worship services in different styles could be held at the same time,
  • with a minimum of congestion before and after the encounters.

This is a fun little exercise to look for church floor plans that allow a church to hold multiple worship services at the same time. Be sure to look for floorplans that allow people to enter and exit as well as have spaces for fellowship between services. And, it should also be a floor plan that allows several sub-congregations to worship at the same time in different styles in and different parts of the same building.

Post a paragraph about why you think this floor plan promotes multiple worship encounters.

Here are some hints for finding church floor plans:

  • Many churches will have “maps” of the church available under “newcomer” or “visitor” information on their website.
  • Churches that are building new facilities will usually have floor plans on their website too.
  • Church architects will often show church floor plans on their websites (but be careful, as you noticed in your reading my research has led me to conclude that most architects who build churches build them in such as way that they do not promote multiples services).
  • Also, if any of you have hints about where other leaders could find such floor plans, share those URLs here too (more points can be garnered).
  • A good way to do this is to search the Internet for “church floorplans” and look through the images you find.  Then pick one that you think would promote multiple simultaneous worship options.  Logically in my courses, the best examples garner the most points.

Surf the Internet for a floor plan that promotes multiple worship encounters at the same location and share that floor plan with a one paragraph explanation about why it promotes multiple worship encounters.

Then comment on at least two other leaders’ diagrams/analysis bringing in 2-3 relevant textbooks and 3-5 relevant outside sources.

As you know, Sunday morning continues to be the major time that unchurched people are the least busy and when they will visit a church.  Thus, we should offer as many culturally relevant worship encounters as possible, to lead as many different cultures as possible to an encounter with Christ.

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

FACILITIES & How North Point Church (Andy Stanley) Does Multiple Venues Right

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “As you may know, I advocate churches build more auditoriums of smaller size so that they can: 1) offer more culturally diverse worship options and 2) take advantage of the “Dunbar number” whereby smaller venues create more community.  (For more on the Dunbar Number can be found by searching this wiki.)  Here is how one student aptly describes how North Point Church (which Andy Stanley pastors) leverages two auditoriums with back-to-back backstages.”

A.P. (student) reply to Dr. Whitesel, 6/11/2015.

RE: Do you have an innovative church designed to share?

northpoint-mapNorth Point Community Church (Andy Stanley’s church) emphasizes their children’s programs and seeks to keep their worship spaces smaller to build community.   What they have done is to build large facilities for kids and families to worship together and they built two mirrored sanctuaries (back to back) to all space for kids and their families to grow and learn together ( you can learn more about their children’s programs in Deep and Wide) and the worship facilities are small enough to accommodate people without the feeling of the space being overly large.

I think, however, that I would include a greater space for common meeting.  A very large area for gathering between services would be wonderful (I would place it between the two sanctuaries and the children areas)  This space would have a large living room feel (couches, tables, circular seating) for people to congregate and build relationships

VENUES & Are We Dividing the Church With Separate Celebrations? Maybe so, but for a mission.

by Bob Whitesel, 6/3/15.

Sometimes my students wonder if we are further dividing the church by offering separate worship celebrations based upon culture and/or aesthetics.  Let me answer this question.

Sociologists tell us that people naturally break into groups of 12-20 (the small group dynamic) and 20-150 (this latter is called the Dunbar number after the sociologist that discovered it – see this interesting article about how an analysis of Twitter even confirms this: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0022656 and you can also click here to search for Dunbar’s articles on this wiki: https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/?s=dunbar).

It may be the same in the same church. Thus, we are not breaking up people further, but managing the groups that oftentimes already exist but we ignore or don’t see.

GBA_Sm2And in addition to unity events (picnics, unity services, outreach ministry, service ministry, etc. etc.) fellowship areas in the church facility are needed. That is why in the chapter, “Missteps With Facilities” in my book Growth By Accident, Death by Planning: How NOT To Kill a Growing Congregation (2004) I talk about having large gathering spaces (community rooms) where all worship celebrations could congregate together.

A problem arises when we don’t realize that church services are not about fellowship with each other (the seats face the wrong way for this), but about fellowship with God. We should be providing separate areas (and aesthetics) for fellowship with God, and unified spaces (community rooms, unity events, etc.) for fellowship with each other. The church has for too long equated the two, that we have stifled growth … and fellowship.

I ask my students if some of them can share ideas about how you keep the worship service focused on God (and not fellowship) and how you foster fellowship at other times.

Let me give an example to start you thinking.  One pastor I know in Iowa has a large foyer, two times bigger than the auditoriums, to foster fellowship after church.  He also doesn’t allow sharing of prayer requests or questions from the floor of the sanctuary, preferring to keep it a place of worship.  Thus, he encourages the fellowship in the foyer which they call the great room or community gathering room.

So think about this.  And, if you are a student in one of my courses reading this, can you share how you keep (or wish you had kept) fellowship separate from worship environments?

References

Modeling Users’ Activity on Twitter Networks: Validation of Dunbar’s Number, Bruno Gonçalves, Nicola Perra and Alessandro Vespignani, PLOS, August 3, 2011, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0022656  Abstract:  Microblogging and mobile devices appear to augment human social capabilities, which raises the question whether they remove cognitive or biological constraints on human communication. In this paper we analyze a dataset of Twitter conversations collected across six months involving 1.7 million individuals and test the theoretical cognitive limit on the number of stable social relationships known as Dunbar’s number. We find that the data are in agreement with Dunbar’s result; users can entertain a maximum of 100–200 stable relationships. Thus, the ‘economy of attention’ is limited in the online world by cognitive and biological constraints as predicted by Dunbar’s theory. We propose a simple model for users’ behavior that includes finite priority queuing and time resources that reproduces the observed social behavior.