by Cailey Morgan
Last October, I wrote an article posing the question, “what could multiplication look like?” I shared my personal understanding of church growth from my upbringing at Southside Community Church, a small multi-congregational church in Greater Vancouver.
This time, I want to share another way to see through the multi-site lens, from the other side of the country at a large church called The Meeting House. I hope you are as inspired as I am by their story of multiplication:
Back in 1985, Craig and Laura Sider moved to Oakville, Ontario to start Upper Oaks Community Church with a dream to reach people who had given up on religion. Strongly supported by the Brethren in Christ (BIC) denomination—an awesome 200-year-old movement rooted in the Anabaptist, Pietist and Wesleyan heritage with a passion for innovative church planting—they launched on Easter Sunday 1986 and began building a vibrant community radically committed to living and sharing the message of Jesus.
In 1996, after many years of service in Oakville, Craig and Laura decided to accept a leadership position with the BIC in Pennsylvania. That’s when Bruxy Cavey stepped in as Teaching Pastor and a few years later, Tim Day joined him as Senior Pastor… During those years, the church found new clarity of vision, expanded its Home Church network, re-engineered its Sunday morning programming, and changed its name to The Meeting House.
In 2002, The Meeting House launched its first regional site in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada where they gathered weekly, initially in a school and later in a movie theatre, to watch The Meeting House teaching on DVD. As we caught a vision for what God could do through a multi-site church, we set to work on some goals that helped us focus on what God was calling us to do…
We are what you call a multi-site church. That means that we have one main production site in a secret underground bunker in the desert…okay not really…it’s in Oakville, Ontario, and we have multiple regional sites in other locations. From this central site we roll out our teaching and other resources to multiple regional sites in other geographical locations all over the place. It’s kind of like our “head office” if you are into that kind of corporate lingo but really it’s a converted warehouse that we use for our offices, video production facilities, supply center and Sunday morning services for people in the local area.
Our regional sites mostly meet in movie theatres that we rent in various local communities. Each week, we transport our trailers full of sound equipment, program supplies and other stuff to various locations and set up our sites for a church service led by a Lead Pastor whose job is to connect with people. Here people gather weekly to watch the teaching that is delivered on the big screen by means of high-def video files and generally hang out as a larger community. When we are done, we pack up and go home or to the local chicken hut just as people are coming in for the afternoon matinee.
But all this is just part of the picture. Our real focus (our hidden agenda) is on what we call Home Church. These are small groups that meet in individual homes each week to talk, become friends and to reach out to their local communities. This is the core of who we are because we feel that only when people connect relationally with people, discuss ideas, serve together, and learn to get along, that they truly function spiritually as God intended…
We believe that church is about more than just coming and hearing someone speak on a Sunday. Home Church is where we get to ask questions, figure out life together, care for one another and discover the unique ways God has created us to help out in our communities.
Sundays are a great time for all of us to get together and learn. But if we leave it at that, we’re missing out on a lot. In fact, we often say if you have to choose between Sunday morning and Home Church – choose Home Church! (This information and more about The Meeting House can be found at themeetinghouse.com).
What do you find inspiring about The Meeting House’s culture and way of meeting? What do you find challenging or difficult? Why would this style of church planting and multiplication work in your context, or why not? Please share your comments on the blog!
Over the next months we hope to tell more stories of God working through all kinds of frameworks and models. Share your church planting story with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.