Digital Circuit Riding: A look at multi-site ministry from Amber Reid on Vimeo.
John Wesley traveled by horseback and preached in the middle of the communities he served. As Methodism spread to America, clergy assigned to multiple churches were known as circuit riders for using the same method of travel. Van Dyke Church—a Methodist congregation in Lutz, FL (north Tampa)—sees themselves as digital circuit riders using video venues to bring their message into new communities. “It’s circuit riding without the horse,” says Andy Sistrunk, North Campus Pastor. “We’re using fiber-optic technology and web streaming instead.”
Senior Pastor Matthew Hartsfield explains, “We decided a long time ago that we didn’t want to become this vertical silo that we pile a lot of people in. We felt God prompting us to an organic, more horizontal process of disciple-making. We’re going to go wherever we can find the right space at the right time with the right people around it.”
Their first attempt at multi-site was a campus about 20 minutes west of Lutz. After several months, they came to a critical realization. “We needed to relocate,” Pastor Matthew says. “We hadn’t quite done our homework.” They kept their campus pastor and prepared to find a new place in the area. However, the United Methodist Church offered their campus pastor his own pastorate. This presented Van Dyke with the opportunity to restart from scratch.
Andy Sistrunk came onboard as the North campus pastor and the decision was made to keep the location front and center this time around. “We learned early on that the mission field has to drive the site,” says Andy. “You’ve got to know who your target is and then reach those folks.” God made it clear to the leadership that the new growth area north of their main campus was to be their new mission field.
The first preview service was set for January 24 with the official launch set for early March. Andy couldn’t wait until January to begin meeting people, nor did Van Dyke want him to. “My job is to be the evangelist for this area,” Andy says. He began forming small groups in the surrounding neighborhoods to develop a presence in the community.
They did dry runs two weeks in a row with volunteers doing setup and teardown without doing a full worship set. After the first full preview, the volunteers took three weeks off. “It was a time for our staff to evaluate how everything had gone,” says Andy. “We did lots of analysis and made lots of fix-it lists. We pulled everything out of the trailers and fixed things and changed things and loaded it all back up.” Those who came to the first preview were invited to fill out an online feedback form. “It’s been one of the greatest tools for us in editing and changing how we’ve done some things,” Andy says.
Visitors said the lighting was inadequate and that the seating wasn’t right. There were 160 chairs for 60-70 people, and they were too close together. They cut them down to about 100 and spread them out. “It changed the energy in the room completely,” Andy says. “There’s a lot more energy with the same size crowd because the room feels fuller and folks have more personal space.”
The equipment available today has made setting up a week-to-week facility much easier. “We set all of this up in an hour and a half, which is pretty amazing,” Andy says. “It’s a credit to our volunteers, but it’s also a credit to useful, appropriate technology.” All this technology allows worshipers to feel more connected to the main body. “Because it’s a smaller environment, and we have big screens, you actually have a better view of what our senior pastor does on the platform during his message,” Andy says. “Our back row seats are closer to the screens than the front row seats are at the other campus.”
With all of the changes since the original video campus and a willingness to learn from the past, the North campus has began to grow at an encouraging rate. Is video venue for everyone? Probably not but Van Dyke Church is proving that it’s right for them. Pastor Matthew has the vision for spreading the word and the willingness to do what it takes to make that happen. Video venue is proving to be an efficient way to grow the ministry without the overhead of new buildings and facilities. What is your church doing to get the good news out there? How can you grow beyond the walls of your church? Technology has become an enabler, just as Van Dyke Church has demonstrated. Let Fowler help you grow your ministry through technology. It’s more accessible than you might think.
Wed, June 9, 2010
by jmiller filed under