How One Church Changed to Reach People

How One Church Changed to Reach People March 26, 2015

Today I want to tell you the story of the church I have the privilege of serving at: Mt Vernon. It’s a long and arduous story of a church that dared to dream differently and the painful steps it had to take to get to its very happy ending. It’s a story of a church that broke through the 10 Things to reach people.

Mt Vernon logo

A decade ago Mt Vernon under the leadership of the former pastor created a task force called the Catalyst Team to ask the age old question: how do we reach more young families? The vast majority of churches ask this question, because the vast majority of churches do not have an abundance of young families in it. The answers they came up with were similar to most churches’ solutions: new facilities, modernized programming, family-friendly environments, contemporary music to attract and keep young families. What makes Mt Vernon unique is that it had the audacity and courage to actually follow through, to change.

Now, it would be misleading to gloss over these changes as quick or harmless. They were neither. The changes Mt Vernon instituted to better reach young families took years to implement and changed the very DNA of the church. And not everybody liked it. Many members left (although now on the other side Mt Vernon is bigger than its ever been, and yes, overflowing with young families).

Mt Vernon changed just about everything you could think of (besides moving physical locations). We replaced the pews with removable chairs. We ditched the chandeliers. We replaced the choir with a praise band. We removed the pulpit and started preaching from a round table. Those are just a few of the aesthetic changes. Mt Vernon transitioned from Sunday School to LifeGroups (which met at various times throughout the week) to free up more people to serve on Sunday mornings. We cancelled Sunday night services to allow LifeGroups to flourish. We started a Host Team (which now consists of over 50 people weekly) who are out in the parking lots, doors and coffee stations each Sunday morning to create a welcoming environment (none of whom could serve if they were stuck in Sunday School). And we built a new building in the center of our campus, a Welcome Center/Preschool Area for our young families.

The cost to reach people was steep. Not everyone liked the changes. Not everyone stuck around for the ride. I came along seven or eight years into this process as the new pastor. The leadership had seen the vision come to fruition and wanted to continue down the same path. For the past three and a half years, I’ve helped steward the vision of Mt Vernon to reach people, especially the next generation for Christ.

As other pastors have commented on Mt Vernon’s growth and success, here’s my candid advice to them: getting to this place will cost more than most churches are willing to pay. Go back to that post 10 Things. Any one of them could have thrown a wrench in Mt Vernon’s revitalization. But for those churches willing to pay the price and embrace change, the other side is beyond worth it. Our church is overflowing with young families. Lives are being changed on a weekly basis. We’re in the midst of a movement of God. It took years to get here, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.


Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


TRENDING AT PATHEOS Evangelical
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment