Grace Church-Bath Campus, a Grace Brethren congregation in Akron, Ohio (Jeff Bogue, senior pastor), is featured in a story in today’s Akron, Ohio, Beacon Journal about megachurches in the Akron area that are planting smaller campuses. A portion of the story appears below. Click here to read the complete article.
Megachurches reaching Akron-area unchurched by planting smaller campuses
Since the pivotal year in American history — 2001, when the nation was attacked and slipped into prolonged economic stress — the percentage that never or almost never attends church went from 25 to 29 percent, and the percentage that never doubts the existence of God tumbled eight percentage points to 80 percent, according to Pew.
Going to the people
So, the megachurches are adopting a new approach.
The Rev. Tim Armstrong, senior pastor at The Chapel, and the Rev. Jeff Bogue, senior pastor at Grace Church, have plans to plant 10 campuses in 10 years and 30 campuses in 30 years, respectively.
“Instead of having mammoth buildings and mammoth auditoriums — not that we’re against that — we want to take the church to the community rather than asking the people to come to us,” said Bogue, whose church currently has four campuses. “It’s actually the relocalization of the local church. We’re marrying the benefits of the megachurch — the administration, the resources — with the benefits of a smaller, local congregation.”
Grace’s newest campus celebrated its official opening Saturday at Barberton Elementary East. The Barberton campus, which will meet at 5:30 and 7 p.m. Saturdays at the elementary school, brings Grace’s campus number to four. The other campuses are in Norton, Medina and Bath (which includes an extension in Fairlawn). …
A recent study called the Leadership Network/Generis Multisite Church Scorecard showed that 85 percent of multisite churches are growing. The study, released last fall, looked at 535 multisite churches (91 percent of which were in the United States) also showed that the more struggling churches see merging with a multisite church as their best option for surviving; the campus pastor is the fastest growing in position in local churches; an increasing number of smaller churches are becoming multisite and more churchgoers are attending multisite churches.
Melinda Cowley, 26, is one of those new churchgoers.
She was counted among the unchurched until August, when she visited Grace Church-Bath. She said she was drawn to the church because it was close to home and because she discovered the church might be a good place to meet new people and make new connections (after experiencing the warmth of a Middleburg Heights congregation during a visit with a friend).
“I didn’t grow up in church. I wasn’t taught about Jesus or the Bible growing up, so I was really unsure of what to expect,” said Cowley, who moved to Akron last year. “What I found at Grace was a welcoming place, with people who were really interested in learning about me and in helping me make sense of how Jesus and the Scriptures could help me in my life.”
Cowley said the sermons just seem to provide the guidance and direction she needs. She was baptized in November and now invites her friends to come to church with her by sharing how going to church and growing spiritually has helped transform her into a hopeful, optimistic person.
“The messages are so practical. They’re like, here’s a life problem. This is how you solve it, based on Scripture,” Cowley said.
“I haven’t talked to my mom in a couple of years,” she said. “I was thinking about reaching out to her and then I heard a message in church about family and relationships and bonds that tugged at me. So I sent her a letter, telling her what I was hoping for. … We’re going to be reunited on Easter. Amazing things like that have been happening to me and there’s no other way to explain it but God.”
Click here to read the complete article.