Networking is vital for churches. While there are examples of lone churches that have grown and reached many in their communities, for the most part a local church has a limited reach. Of course, church health is the key, rather than church growth. We've all heard that said, but let it also be said that healthy churches are often growing churches.
Over the past two decades I have watched a number of churches launch and make great impact for the Kingdom of God. Most of these are continuing to grow and develop disciples.
However, I have also seen a number of new launches, complete with yard signs, banners, direct mail pieces and well-designed logos come out of the gates strong only to disappear within three years.
The Lone Ranger Church Is Not Healthy
Most pastors would agree that going at it alone is not a wise choice. Some...however, still try. Nevertheless, the value of the network has been made clear in recent years. As churches launch new plants, networks such as Acts 29, ARC, SEND and others have allowed new works a support system and safety net. This provides freedom and framework that is vital.
Our church partners with numerous others in our community and continent, mostly through the EngageJax Network (Jacksonville Baptist Association) and the SEND Network (North American Mission Board.) However, as we continue to see changes in our local community, we are discovering the need to expand and reach into areas where people are living and there is no strong church engagement. This is not to say there are no churches in these areas, but the statistics are clear - there are still more not engaged in local churches than are.
So, we are launching a network.
The firstFAMILY Network is coming together, but is still a work in progress and likely will be for the next few years. We understand that there are many more people in our area who will never come to our church facility than will. Therefore, we are seeking to "go where the crowd is" and connect with people off campus.
That's what GameDay Church does, though it's actually more of an event than a church. Yet, with our partners in the EngageJax Network, we hope to connect attendees to local churches in the city and surrounding areas through this worship event prior to Jacksonville Jaguars games.
In the fall, we launch (or actually re-launch) a campus in the central part of our county at an elementary school. Unlike previous attempts, this launch will meet on Sunday evenings at first and focus on families and children. In fact, we will likely not have a worship service at this site for some time. This venue will be called "The Creek" after the name of the school and the region.
Will it ever be an autonomous church? Perhaps. At first, it's a multi-site venue and satellite campus. Ultimately, we hope it is an autonomous campus that is part of our network.
What the church-based network offers are staffing, vision, missional DNA and a brand that, hopefully, is strong in the local community.
A work in progress, but it's Kingdom work. Praying for this network to grow and the Gospel reach to increase.