by Cailey Morgan
Church planting and church multiplication can mean many things to many people. Over the next months, we plan to highlight several multiplication styles in hopes that we can each consider our own contexts and be spurred towards growth.
Since I have grown up in, and still participate in, a CBWC Church Plant called Southside Community Church, I thought I would share some of the nuts and bolts of how we operate. I’m sharing so that you will be encouraged by our story, and that you will in turn share your way of doing things so we can all learn from each other.
What Could Multiplication Look Like? Example 1: Congregations Comprising Mission Groups
At Southside, the values of life in proximity and multiplication are very important. We believe that all can take part in church planting, and that small multiplication in a place has a big impact.
We began in Edmonds, a high-density, high-diversity neighbourhood in South Burnaby in the early 90s with a small group. Each person in that group had opportunities to develop as a leader, so that when the group grew large enough to become two small groups, there were new leaders ready to lead the multiplied groups.
We organize our small groups, called Mission Groups, based on geography of where each member lives. They begin as groups of 6-10, and once they reach 12-16 are readied for multiplication. We are called Mission Groups because, while meeting in a home is often part of what we do, and Bible study is a crucial part of our formation, our groups exist for the purpose of following God on His mission in our neighbourhoods.
This pattern of group multiplication continued until we had several groups in Burnaby, but also a group commuting across the bridge from Surrey. As it became difficult for the people from Surrey to spend time in their own neighbourhoods–since they were constantly joining the Burnaby residents in serving that community–it became clear that it was time to not just multiply small groups, but congregations.
Some families were already living in the North Surrey neighbourhood we planned to multiply into, and other core folks moved from Burnaby across the river to bolster the leadership and development of the new congregation. This cluster of mission groups became the Robson Park Congregation.
In the following years, we repeated the pattern into the Willoughby area of Langley and into Forest Grove, a community in North Burnaby. These two centres operated as distinct congregations for over a decade, but at this point each are acting as a single Mission Group until they are ready to multiply into multiple groups, again forming a congregation.
These days in Edmonds, since so many people in our congregation live within walking distance, sometimes families who live less than a mile from each other end up in different Mission Groups! Most recently, there have been a cluster of young families from our congregation settling into the Uptown area of New Westminster, the city bordering Burnaby to the south. For the past year, all of these people have been in a burgeoning Mission Group together with the Burnaby residents living closest to New West.
Now, this new Uptown group can concentrate on the people God has placed immediately around them in their neighbourhood, while still joining Edmonds to celebrate God’s goodness in our Sunday gatherings.
When my Mission Group multiplied, I said that it felt like “breaking up,” because it’s not easy to leave the comfort of familiar faces. We have grown close to the people we’ve been serving side-by-side with, and it feels strange to not have them there when we gather in homes on Wednesday evenings, or as we prayer walk our streets and parks, or at the BBQ for our neighbour’s birthday.
But rather than separating because a relationship went sour, multiplication is closer to the thrill of seeing your kids move out to start their own families with their spouses. How beautiful that the feet of Jesus are now walking down twice as many streets! Our friends are now free to give and accept hospitality on their block, and there is room for new believers in my living room once again.
There you have it: an overview of what church planting and multiplication means to us at Southside Community Church. But different contexts and leaders lead to different formats. What about you? What does multiplication look like for your congregation? What models have you seen in other churches?
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can work together on sharing more multiplication methods.