Virginia Church Launches Adventist Experiment with Multi-site Church Planting
by Jeff Boyd, Assistant Editor
Community Praise Center (CPC) is a Seventh-day Adventist congregation in Alexandria, Virginia, with a weekly attendance of 1,200. March 30 it launched a second campus in another suburb of Washington DC. This marked the beginning of one of the first multi-site church growth strategies in the denomination.
Pastor Jennifer Deans and her ministry team began Sabbath services at the new campus near Dulles International Airport in November to prepare for the official Easter weekend debut, which featured streaming a portion of the service from the main campus. Deans will continue to preach at CPC-Dulles, though live-streaming of sermons by Senior Pastor Henry Wright will be used once or twice a month.
This is not the first time CPC has launched a new ministry. In 2006, CPC planted Restoration Praise Center in Maryland, which now has about 600 members and yearly tithe of $1 million. As CPC continued to grow after the Maryland church plant, its main building in Alexandra again became crowded. “The New Testament model is to spread truth here and there,” not to concentrate people in one building, explains Wright. Rather than construct a larger building, Pastor Dean Waterman was brought onto the pastoral team to coordinate additional church plants.
The new location near Dulles was selected for two primary reasons. First, the neighborhood met the criteria set by the Potomac Conference Vision 2020, which calls for each community or people group with a population of 20,000 or more to have an Adventist presence by the end of the decade. Secondly, about 60 CPC members already lived in the area. These 60 members could provide the core of the new congregation however they maintained a high level of commitment to CPC and desired to remain connected to it. With an awareness of the growing trend in America toward multi-site churches, Waterman then advocated the launch of a sister campus rather than an independent church plant.
The multi-campus model offers a number of potential advantages, Waterman points out. With multiple pastors on staff, Deans can invite other leaders to train church members in specific skill areas or provide other needed resources. For example, she arranged for the CPC Minister of Worship to train CPC-Dulles members in leading music and worship. This model also allows one budget with multiple sites. Furthermore, the location itself is important, allowing CPC members to bring friends to a local event, rather than driving to another community. “We opened a new site not to make the drive shorter for current members, but to make the drive shorter for bringing friends and neighbors,” says Waterman.
Additionally, each campus can be flexible in order to fit the context of the local community. For instance, CPC is primarily an African American congregation, but CPC-Dulles is reaching out to a multi-cultural community. To increase interaction with the local community, the congregation is researching local service partnerships. At Christmas, members walked through two local malls handing out encouragement cards, praying with people and giving donations to families in need.
Although most outreach efforts to date have focused on Adventists—announcements were sent to 400 Adventists in the area who have no local membership—there are already 10 to 15 people worshiping at CPC-Dulles who do not have a background in the Adventist Church. Additional outreach ideas are under discussion.
Finances are a critical component of this ministry model. CPC has invested $300,000 in HD video equipment, allowing the congregation to share content with outlets such as the Hope Channel, TBN and local television. Waterman stresses that smaller congregations that wish to grow by using this model could purchase less expensive streaming systems that would be suitable for most purposes, possibly for as little as $3,000 to $4,000.
“Technology is important, but not the most important thing,” explains Waterman, emphasizing that being a healthy congregation and having a vision for making disciples are both more important. Wright makes this same point. “The idea is to transplant the DNA of a successful, growing church from one place to another. To do this you need a dynamic, growing congregation so the DNA you plant is also dynamic. A dead church can't do this. It must be alive. Members bring dynamism with them.”
CPC leaders acknowledge that at least two other Adventist attempts at a multi-campus approach proved to not be sustainable, though the model has been effective in other denominations and non-denominational churches. “We are learning as we go. Tweaking as we go,” says Wright. If this ministry experiment is successful, CPC plans to open two more campuses in Clinton, Maryland, and Fort Belvoir, Virginia.
In addition to new locations, CPC is expanding its online presence in the form of an Online Campus, where users will have access to an eBible, counseling service, a chat room, and a place to share prayer requests. Wright's sermons are currently viewed online in 95 countries, causing church leaders to consider how to provide for the spiritual needs of these remote viewers. The Online Campus will allow people to be active members regardless of their geographic location.