The two congregations couldn’t be more different, but both are trailblazing a church-planting method new to the Christian Reformed Church.
Keystone Community Christian Reformed Church in Ada, Mich., is a modern church, barely more than 10 years old itself. First CRC of Hamilton, Ontario, is nearly 80 years old and has already birthed seven daughter churches.
Both congregations are embarking on multisite or multivenue church planting. This type of church growth first appeared in the United States about five years ago, says Rev. Allen Likkel of Christian Reformed Home Missions.
In multivenue church planting, a congregation spawns one or more satellite congregations that remain part of the hub church, sharing staff and operating resources.
By 2004 attendance at Keystone’s Sunday-morning services climbed to 1,600, more people than the church was equipped to reach. Keystone leaders discovered multisite church plants as a way to maintain a smaller size while benefiting from increased resources.
So in October 2006 the church began two new congregations—one meets in its Ada building on Saturday evenings and another one meets in East Grand Rapids on Sundays. The new congregations hear the same message as the main church, but on-screen. They follow an identical worship service but with different leaders.
All of the church’s programs for different age groups study the same content during the week, content that ties in with the Sunday-morning message.
“It’s a way to continue letting our church grow and improve what we do,” said Rev. Gene DeJong, pastor of Keystone Community Church. “It’s a way to provide megachurch programming in a 300- to 600-person community.”
In Hamilton, when First CRC reached capacity with about 350 worshipers, the congregation hired Tim Sheridan as outreach director. Sheridan had worked at one of the largest multisite churches in the United States and brought his vision to the Hamilton congregation.
The church has hired two half-time staff members to help Sheridan develop the first new community, set to launch this fall [2007?]. The new site will likely have a different worship style to reflect its context, which is a working-class area, said Rev. Andrew Zantingh, First’s pastor since 2000.
Unlike the Keystone model, First’s new congregation will have a different sermon given by its own pastor but will share most other resources with its originating congregation.
“We have adopted a vision of being an agency of release,” said Zantingh. “We want to bless the city by reproducing into many different congregations.”