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Two Mobile Association churches merge to form 3Circle Church’s Semmes campuscomment (0)

May 1, 2014

By Julie Payne

Two Mobile Association churches merge to form 3Circle Church’s Semmes campus

Easter looked slightly different this year for the church formerly known as The Cornerstone Baptist Church, Semmes. 

Not only did the church gain a new name — 3Circle Church, Semmes campus — with its recent merger with 3Circle Church, Fairhope, it also has new physical elements.

Inside the church building, new chairs were installed and old pews were removed. Interior spaces were repainted and the rooms carpeted. New sound, lighting and video systems were installed, and a renovated lobby beckoned guests with coffee and informational areas. Families with preschoolers and children also discovered new areas specifically for them.

And all of this work was completed in just three weeks’ time thanks to a team of both contractors and dedicated volunteers from Cornerstone and 3Circle Church.

This revitalization of Cornerstone started when the church, which had been serving in the community for about 50 years, began looking ahead. Over time, its membership had dwindled to less than 20 people, so existing members and the interim pastor began exploring options for the future.

Chris Bell, lead pastor of 3Circle, said through several key relationships the Cornerstone group connected with his church, which culminated with Cornerstone merging with 3Circle to become 3Circle’s Semmes campus.

The merger took place on a Sunday evening three weeks prior to Easter, and the launch of the new 3Circle Semmes campus occurred Easter morning.

“It was a massive amount of work to remodel a campus in three weeks’ time for a launch, but we have amazing people involved in the mission of 3Circle and by God’s grace we were able to get it done,” Bell noted. “In a church that had 19 attenders on its last Sunday in existence and virtually no kids, three weeks later it had 200 people with over 40 kids.” 

‘The next chapter’

The newly opened Semmes campus, which has its own campus pastor and worship director, joins 3Circle as its second satellite location — the other is located in Thomasville. 

Thomas Wright, executive director of missions for Mobile Baptist Association, said, “Cornerstone members unselfishly gave the facility, so they can enjoy the next chapter in the life of that congregation. 

 “Cornerstone’s legacy will grow and expand because they looked beyond their comfort and some of their preferences to meet spiritual and physical needs of the community,” he said.

Mobile Association staff helped the two churches connect and is working with other congregations in similar situations.

“It takes time for a congregation to realize they need to let go,” Wright said. “The issue is to build bridges into changing communities so the uncompromised gospel of Jesus can be shared, understood and accepted.”

The 3Circle Church revitalization process models that effort, he noted.

Bell said, “I am so very excited about this campus.” He added that about 10 former members of Cornerstone are involved there. “We are all about Jesus and the gospel, and we are passionate about the local, regional and global circle of this mission. We are fiercely committed to the Mobile Gulf Coast region, and the Semmes campus ... is part of that plan.”

Bell said to get the word out about the Semmes campus, an “invite culture” is being created there. “There is no more powerful marketing than people who are excited about their church and understand that it is their responsibility to use their influence to partner in reaching the community,” he said.

He noted the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions (SBOM) was “very involved and extremely helpful” in the recent revitalization process. “It was definitely a partnership between 3Circle and the SBOM,” he said.

Dale Huff, director of the SBOM’s office of LeaderCare and church administration, said there are “many means of church revitalization, with what was done at Cornerstone being one. Thankfully it seems to be an effective approach for them.”

He noted that the vast majority of Alabama Baptist churches seeking revitalization are more open and responsive to efforts to improve their Sunday School ministry, develop new outreach efforts and to train ministerial and lay leadership.

One similar effort to Cornerstone that the SBOM also was involved in was with Highland Baptist Church and Broadway Baptist Church, both located in Florence. “Broadway became a satellite of Highland about a year ago,” Huff said. “It is a success story that keeps growing.”

SBOM leaders believe revitalization is vital for effective ministry in Alabama. The Alabama Church Revitalization strategy was formed by the SBOM and launched May 21, 2013, during the Send North America Church Growth and Revitalization Conference held at Taylor Road Baptist Church, Montgomery.

If a pastor desires to enter this church revitalization process, he will be assigned a church revitalization coach who will meet with him to identify key areas of the church’s ministry that should be improved, Huff said.

“The church revitalization coach leads the pastor to discover available resources within the State Board, the association or the SBC (Southern Baptist Convention) that can provide expertise in strengthening that church’s particular point of need,” Huff said. 

The pastor and church revitalization coach then sign a covenant. The covenant includes a quarterly visit from the coach and a monthly phone conversation. This commitment is for a one-year period.

So far, 24 church revitalization coaches have been trained and are serving 42 pastors/churches.

One major change within the strategy since it was launched is to recruit and train 26 additional church revitalization coaches, which would result in a coaching corps of 50 people, Huff said. While currently the trained coaches are state missionaries, the effort to recruit additional coaches will look beyond SBOM staff.

Customized strategy

Huff noted that essentially every office at the SBOM is an ongoing resource for church revitalization. “There is a diversity of churches with a diversity of needs, for which there is a multiplicity of church revitalization resources. It is not a one-size-fits-all. That is the reason a church revitalization coach assists the pastor in assessing his church’s needs and formulating a strategy to fit and meet those needs. Each church’s strategy is customized to that church,” he explained.

Church revitalization is nothing new for the SBOM, Huff added. “It has always been our commitment to assist churches in becoming and being vital, effective (and) victorious. What we are experiencing now is a renewed SBC emphasis balancing the efforts of church planting with church revitalization. At the State Board of Missions we are committed to ministers with our churches to see each and all be healthy.” 

A pastor considering church revitalization for his church can contact Huff for more information at 1-800-264-1225, ext. 263 or email dhuff@alsbom.org. 

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