Redefining Our Multisite Churches During the Pandemic

While the megachurch trend has begun to wane, the multisite model has been exploding. This is a testament to the effect that the “Three C’s”: healthy church Culture, a Compelling vision, and an effective Communicator can have on winning souls, developing disciples and expanding the body of Christ.

In March of 2019 we birthed Kingdom Fellowship AME Church out of what had been the North (Silver Spring, Maryland) and D.C. campuses of Reid Temple AME Church (Glenn Dale, Maryland). One of our early decisions was to close the D.C. campus, which had not grown at the rate we felt justified our investment in staff hours and finances. Nor did it seem that Saturday night was any longer a compelling time for our targeted demographic to come out to worship. We committed to retreat, regroup and relaunch a new site at some point in the future.

Fast-forward to COVID-19, and we find ourselves again operating as a multisite church, but not quite like the one we imagined for ourselves. In response to the joblessness created by the closing of businesses and industries, and the stay-at-home orders mandated by our government to flatten the curve, our church has pivoted to 100% online worship and a 100% in-person outreach center, providing food for hundreds of persons each week. Our refocused staff has been leading the effort and our members have been giving of their time, talent and treasure to support this new ministry endeavor. Their service has brought about the opportunity to rethink the reach of our feeding ministry and the mission of our church.

We are currently serving four locations within the two most populous counties in the state of Maryland. While the governor has eased restrictions, as I am writing this article, the respective county executives for Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties have left the stay-at-home orders in place as their COVID-19 cases are the highest in the state. Our current campus is in Montgomery county, and the new campus we are preparing to break ground on is in Prince George’s County. While we cannot meet for worship, we can serve; and serving has allowed us to reach into communities where we had not yet established a presence.

Just like the multisite worship models, multisite feeding ministries depend on the “Three C’s.” A healthy organizational culture filled with well organized volunteers who serve gladly rather than begrudgingly. The compelling nature of this ministry is being evidenced by a marked increase in giving for outreach—much of which is coming from non-members. We have been more intentional about effectively communicating both our needs and successes to our congregation.

Additionally, God has blessed us in the form of grants and food donations that have allowed us to provide foodstuffs to people far beyond that which we purchase from SHARE and other sources. God has blessed us to partner with local government leaders, nonprofits and members of the business community to further maximize our impact. The Lord has blessed us to see the smiling faces of those we are reaching: hardworking people of every demographic and income who find themselves food insecure due to no fault of their own.

While this crisis took us all by surprise, we are now being pleasantly surprised by this new and vital ministry that God has birthed through our church. While much of the time and attention of church leaders has deservedly shifted to when, how and with whom to reopen our sanctuaries for worship, we should not lose sight of the pivot points that are already available to us to touch more lives for Christ. If the projections for a slow economic recovery are to be believed, then we know that we will be providing this ministry for a long time, so we are in the process of building a more lasting organizational infrastructure. We are establishing partnerships with local governments and churches that represent the ethnic demographics of the communities that we are serving, leading to a more culturally relevant kingdom witness, and with private business to imagine what workforce retraining can look like in our region.

Several weeks ago, I wrote an article entitled, Never Waste a Crisis, in which I put forth the premise that God was going to do something new and great through this season for churches who would be agile and open to pivoting toward God’s purpose. We are now a different kind of multisite church, and we are amazed at the favor of God. To God be the glory.

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