First Church in St. Joseph, Michigan has dealt with the question of ‘what do you do when you can’t get people to Church?’ many times. They wrestled with reaching people from different demographics, different socio-economic groups, different towns within their region… About three years ago, First Church invited Healthy Growing Churches in to do a leadership consultation. In this consultation, a conversation about multiplication began. Since 2013, First Church has started two physical campuses in neighboring communities, Benton Heights and Stevensville. Each campus is within 15 minutes of the main campus, but the neighborhoods and the people are worlds apart. And each campus has found a way to reach new people who would probably never have walked onto the main campus and to expand First Church’s impact within their communities.
But First Church can see that they can’t get everyone into the church. So this time, they are launching a new kind of campus, a digital campus. David Colp, First Church’s pastor, wanted to create an environment for people who couldn’t physically get to church. In addition, there are people who won’t walk into a church building but are still looking for a place to start connecting with Christ and the Church.
Recently, I caught up with Ryan Klund, Director of Communications at First Church, to hear about the launch of their internet campus. Each week, they live broadcast the 11 a.m. service from the main campus. Hosted by a moderator, this campus has the chance to build community through interaction, prayer requests and questions.
Ryan is really excited to bring this new campus to his community. Already, he’s heard stories people who are able to participate in worship online. Over 70 people streamed the Christmas Eve service this past month. In fact, one woman took a tablet to the nursing home to share the holiday worship with her mother for the first-time in years.
This internet campus is new territory but Ryan hopes it becomes a place where shut-ins can still engage with their church family. He also hopes that those people who aren’t yet ready to walk onto one of First Church’s campuses will use the internet campus as a way to start connecting with the body of Christ.
Post contributed by Heidi Tarin, HGC Communications Catalyst.