A Regional Mini Church

by Jim Henderson on December 29, 2015

Jeff and Julie Nagel live in Edmonds. Barb and I live even further north and east in Bothell so why did we locate OAMC in Ballard of all places? Church Planting strategy says to plant in a neighborhood where you live. Or if you want to plant a mega church go regional and plant by a freeway.

Here’s how Ballard happened. Barb and I were looking for a venue that would hold around 150. It couldn’t be a church (Jeff Nagel requirement) and it couldn’t be a school (my requirement). I emailed Nathan Marion the curator of all things cool at the Fremont Abbey and he directed us to The Ballard Homestead.

We drove by, got out to look around and Brian Wardlaw (whom you met in November) pulled up in his truck. We asked if we could take a look and he asked if my name was Jim Henderson. Apparently he and I had met about 5 years earlier with a group of young church planters. Barb and I immediately liked him and decided that this was the place – all without ever actually looking inside.

That’s the “divine appointment” angle but another motive was that we intentionally wanted to make it a stretch for our friends from the north end to come to church. Having spent the past 40 years or so in the Edmonds area, had we planted there we knew even more people would show up. But OAMC is not interested in being a neighborhood church. Given how infrequently we meet (9 times a year) we knew we would not build any momentum based on our physical location.

But we also wanted to locate OAMC so people from West Seattle, Georgetown, Renton, Auburn and Issaquah would be tempted to drive in. Like the Harders have done!

We’re not planting a church in Ballard. We’re not trying to reach the neighborhood. We can’t help it if Ballard happens to be a very cool, hip place to be… (and that was before OAMC showed up ). Brian and his team are already being the church in that neighborhood, we want to assist them, inspire them and help them grow in their relationships in that neighborhood. But we are not trying to be a local church.

We are hoping to become what we call a regional mini church. Meeting only once a month opens up all sorts of new possibilities. People can anticipate church instead of feeling like it’s a duty. Since it’s only one time a month, people can carve out time to drive a little farther. The size of the gathering will be limited to 150 (given our current size that actually sounds like a mega church) At any rate if we ever get close to that number with any consistency either online or in person we will start another OAMC somewhere else to discourage people from coming to our current location. That’s what a regional mini church looks like and its what we hope to become.

We need smaller churches that meet less often but have a bigger footprint

We need to reduce the demand for professional Christians

Our Inspiration

There’s a high school coach in Little Rock Arkansas who after reviewing his teams past 32 years discovered they had only made the playoffs 4 times. He realized that if he kept doing what they always had done they could expect the same results for the next 32 years. He decided that was unacceptable standard so he stopped doing two things everybody else considered sacrosanct.

To be clear all he did was stop doing two things.

1. Stop punting the ball on 4th down (instead always go for it)
2. Stop kicking the ball away on kickoffs (instead always onside kick)

Why?

The coach did the math and decided that his chances were better by doing something no one else was doing. You can watch the video here for the whole fascinating story and data.

As leaders of OAMC, that coach is one of our inspirations. He put into practice something everyone else could do but chose not to do. Everything you need is right in front of you. Sometimes all you need to do is stop doing those things everyone else thinks are sacrosanct. Things anyone can do but choose not to even though they continue losing people, momentum and market share.

Our application of this idea was to stop going to church every week (instead go once a month) anyone can do it. It’s certainly not innovative but like the Little Rock coach, we like our chances.

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