Years ago, Faith Community Church in Hopkinton Massachusetts almost closed its doors. With a stable but stagnant weekly attendance of 500 people, the congregation was complacent and passive in their desire to grow. The member-led church functioned on an internal government that was skeptical of the mega-church mentality and fearful of change.
Today, they have a comeback story that Lead Pastor, Mike Laurence attributes to the Purpose Driven Church. It all started when a staff member was introduced to the book during seminary. This initial exposure blossomed when Mike was intrigued by its concepts and attended his first PD conference in 2003.
“It was amazing,” recalls Mike. “We started with theory and then got into the nuts and bolts. I took endless notes and came back home and said ‘we’ve really got to start working on this.’”
For Faith Community Church, the PD model brought about the idea of organization and helped put strategic principles in place to share the Great Commission. Within an 18-month period, nearly half the staff had shifted and only those who shared the vision remained. New leaders were built, teams were in place, and strategies were clarified based around the PD paradigm.
By 2006, the church launched its first PD campaign, 40 Days of Community. “That book gave us a structure,” says Mike “It taught us to get outside the building and into the community. We pushed those same principles into our small groups. From the pulpit, I began pressing the need to reach beyond ourselves and into the community.”
Other forms of outreach came with the redesign of their worship service. In the process, they lost 20 percent of their congregation, but grew by 20 percent. Although net numbers were not impacted, this booster shot of change led to conflict resolution in the midst of the campaign. Mike says there was a level of internal struggle because some members were not accustomed to growth and outreach.
The fact that 40 Days of Community centered on the power of unity, the church was able to implement the fundamentals and propel forward as one body. Eventually this message of togetherness flowed into all aspects of ministry––from small groups to the platform. Soon, they took the next step to reach the community by going door-to-door.
“We had never done anything like this as a church,” says Mike. “It was intriguing and provided a brand new focus for us.”
Unsure of where to start, several leaders met with the local fire department. The firemen expressed their frustration that many community homes were lacking address numbers, which made their job challenging when dispatched. Initially Mike thought this would not be an effective outreach, but soon discovered the unique opportunities it provided to reach the community.
“We literally visited 1,000 homes, going on behalf of the fire department rather than on behalf of the church,” Mike explains. “This allowed us to personally deliver welcome packets with information on local churches, service times, and locations.”
The experience unified community churches and area pastors, who now meet regularly to encourage one another and sustain their ministries. They began building a network of relationships and reaching the 42 percent of New England residents who are unchurched.
“People weren’t ready to give up on God but they were ready to give up on the church,” recalls Mike. “So we had to take the backdoor in approach. We found that our NextGen Ministry was critical for pulling people into the church, as well as programs like reaching the homeless and addiction recovery.”
The church rapidly grew as members started inviting new people to church. They adopted an approach of viewing church through the eyes of a guest. From welcome teams to hand written thank you notes, they went to great lengths to make first time visitors feel at home.
“Sharing faith is intimidating for a lot of our people,” admits Mike. “We have unreached people all around us, honestly in the millions. There’s a lot of immigration that comes through Boston. We can reach these people.”
Having grown from 500 to currently 2,000 members, Mike says surrounding himself with strong leaders who bought into the PD vision was key to their success.
“Especially for new pastors, there’s a temptation to tweak a system and create your own hybrid,” he admits. “But we need to be on the same page. It’s critical that we discern who supports the vision. In my ministry, I keep people around me who believe in the PD strategy and who are committed to helping me implement it for the Lord.”