Our vision for transitioning campuses into autonomous churches grew out of the elders’ conviction to leverage the multi-site model as a strategic means for church planting and multiplication. We want to establish campuses and strengthen them with solid, gospel-driven leaders so that healthy campuses might become healthy churches. In 2014, the elders presented this vision to the church as a whole, and in August of 2015, the Denton campus became our first campus to transition.
In 2017, it seems right to us and the Holy Spirit to move forward in transitioning our second campus, the Fort Worth campus, into an autonomous church. This conviction has been affirmed through meetings with elders, deacons, staff, leaders and members of The Village Church.
In 2007, The Village took time to pray and fast for an answer to the overwhelming need for space, calling the season Venture. At that time, the Lord provided the Denton campus. This past May and June, the Fort Worth campus embarked on a six-week Venture of their own. For six weeks, we prayed, fasted and considered the character of a healthy church and campus transition. Each week, pastors and ministers spoke on evangelism, suffering, multiplication and other topics, the hope and desire being for the church body to join together and pursue unity, maturity and integrity in the face of what transition might look like.
Questions & Answers
What Compels This Change?
We believe the clear witness of the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures is compelling this change. For example, among the many texts compelling transition, 1 Peter 5 and Hebrews 13 call for the elders of the church to give account for the flock of God among them and proclaim the Word in a more contextual way than the multi-site model would afford. As such, the elders of The Village Church hold the conviction that transitioning a present campus to a local, autonomous church is a healthy and vibrant way of long-term church planting. While the multi-site model is not being abandoned for the church at large, the beauty and relationship of a congregation and its elders is something we hope to see flourish through campus transition.
What is the Overall Gain?
Sometimes the economics of the kingdom don’t match our economic sensibilities, where God’s values can be confusing to the world. Planting a healthy church and transitioning real estate, members, staff and central elders may not look like the best move for the church as a whole, but we believe there is much to be gained through health begetting health and multiplying out faithful churches into our region.
There are several positive gains with this transition:
- First and foremost, we believe church planting and becoming a local church are marks of obedience to God’s Word by faithful churches. God has sovereignly chosen to build His kingdom using the ordinary and faithful obedience of His children, and the benefit of such decisions cannot be measured.
- The church’s focus and contextualization will improve. The body’s care will be from her elders at a local level, who will be focused upon one congregation, distinct from the larger operating system of a multi-campus church with more than 10,000 people. This contextualized mission will be reinforced from the pulpit by the elders and by the church leadership (elders, deacons and staff).
- The regular preaching of the Word will take place locally with live preaching, growing in contextualization and depth with the body.
- The body will have increased opportunity to live out 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4 through realizing the weight and need for their spiritual and physical gifts to do the work of ministry in the church. Where the larger church has been able to provide certain services and ministries, in and through transition there will be increased opportunities for members to serve in new ways for the good of the body.
- As George Peters writes in A Theology of Church Growth, “The concept of multiplication seems to point in the direction of an increasing number of groups and churches rather than an expansion of existing ones.”
- It is proactive succession. At some point in time, each and every church will face the issue of succession. We believe we can be on the front end of it and celebrate it rather than be surprised by it—or, worse, reluctant to embrace it.
What is the Timeline?
Transitioning campuses to be local, autonomous churches is our conviction for The Village Church as a whole. That said, the elders believe the Fort Worth campus is about a year out from accomplishing that goal.
With an affirmative vote in January, the plan would be to transition the campus in August of 2017. The Fort Worth church then will operate separately from The Village Church, and on January 1, 2018, the official changeover would begin. This August to January timeframe allows for logistical transitions of central services such as Finance, Operations and Communications. Regardless, the timeline will not be rushed to assure we handle this move with care and detail.
Is the Transition an Experiment or are We Committed to this Strategy for All Campuses?
No, it is not an experiment. We are led by conviction to see the gospel multiplied and to use the multi-site model as a strategy for church planting. We also believe this strategy gives our church the opportunity to use Matt Chandler’s gift of preaching and gathering to raise up strong, gospel-centered churches. With that said, there is no definitive timeline in place to transition other existing campuses into autonomous churches.
What is the Financial Commitment to the Fort Worth Church?
While we would continue to encourage the members of the Fort Worth campus to faithfully give and to own the financial responsibilities of the Fort Worth church, we are committed to being a financial “backstop” for the Fort Worth church for three years from their launching out. The Village Church and the Fort Worth church will continue to evaluate the needs on an ongoing basis.
What are the Staffing Implications for the Fort Worth Campus?
The current Fort Worth staff will be invited to stay and participate in this transition. Please keep in mind that there are no guarantees of what the future will bring. This is true whether we serve in Flower Mound, Dallas or anywhere else.
Also, a new church means new benefit packages, etc. We have not investigated all these changes at this point.
Some staff members might not be inclined to stay in Fort Worth. Although we are not able to ensure continued employment at The Village Church, each person is welcome to have these conversations, and we will make case-by-case decisions. All campuses are launched and governed in light of eventual transition as it relates to budget and staffing. We therefore anticipate no major changes pending God’s continual grace and provision by means of the faithful tithes and contributions of the saints.
What Does This Mean for All Current and Future Campuses?
Given that this is our conviction, we will continue to prayerfully and patiently explore the timing for how this affects current and future campuses.
We are regularly evaluating the readiness of each campus for transition and discussing the leading of the Holy Spirit with each leadership team. Should we move in a similar direction for a specific campus, then we would prayerfully and patiently move in this direction, looking for three key indicators: the man, the leadership and the membership. Does the campus pastor have the conviction and calling to lead a church? Is the leadership of the campus (elders, deacons and staff) prepared for the transition? Does the membership affirm the direction and are they committed to this new mission?
We have strong desires to start new campuses. They would be started with the wisdom of past experience and the prayerful hope that, in due time, if it seems good to the Holy Spirit and us, they will transition to become autonomous churches. We will move prudently, prayerfully and faithfully, one step at a time, and learn as we go.
Why is the Fort Worth Campus Transitioning Before the Dallas Northway Campus? Isn't Dallas an Older Campus?
Taking the criteria above, it is not a matter of age that decides when a campus is in a place to consider transition, but the portfolio of the man, leadership and membership. Any campus, regardless of age, is open to the conversation and consideration from central elders. Again, we assume that the natural consequence of a campus growing in maturity and faithfulness will be church planting.
Will Ministry Services Like Communications, Facilities and Production Continue to Serve the New Church in Fort Worth?
The Fort Worth church will not utilize central services after 2017’s end. The transition of vendors, central services and the like will take place over the fall of 2017.
Will There Be a Network or Formal Relationship Between the New Church in Fort Worth and the Village Church?
The Village Church will have relationships with the campuses that transition into autonomous churches, as “sister” churches, but there will not be a formal network with official ties and obligations. The bonds of friendship and history knit us together in countless ways, and there is a great desire for collaboration and support between both The Village and the transitioned campuses.
What Can Members Expect With the New Church?
The vast majority of what members experience now will remain the same. It is important to remember that Anthony Moore, the Fort Worth elders and the staff of the Fort Worth campus have had an integral part in leading and shaping the philosophy of The Village Church. There are no foreseeable changes in ministry philosophy and structure at the campus. With that said, the Fort Worth church will have the latitude, under the leadership of their elder board, to prayerfully change and shape the church, as they deem needed and necessary to faithfully fulfill the call to make disciples.
The most notable change will be in preaching. Matt Chandler will no longer be the primary communicator in Fort Worth. Anthony Moore and a team of elders will begin to transition into this role in Fort Worth. The nature and expression of the Sunday morning gatherings will remain largely unchanged and committed to a diverse expression of music and the biblical elements of worship.
Will There Be A New and Different Membership Process and Covenant?
The only foreseeable change is one that we are currently working to in Fort Worth, where the elders would conduct incoming membership affirmation interviews. The elders then would present the new members for affirmation before the congregation for a congregational vote of affirmation. Other than that, there are no foreseeable changes currently.
What Will Become of Current Missionary Support and Strategic Partnerships Like Campus Outreach?
The new church in Fort Worth will continue to support the missionaries who have been sent out from the Fort Worth campus.
The new church in Fort Worth will continue to support Campus Outreach efforts to UTA and local colleges in Fort Worth. There will be no noticeable changes with Campus Outreach.
The ministry partnerships with The North Hill and J. Martin Jacquet Middle School will also remain in place.
What Does Contextualization for Fort Worth Look Like as a Local Campus?
The members of the Fort Worth campus live across Fort Worth, stretching from Keller to Mansfield to far west Fort Worth to Grand Prairie. The Church is its members, and the church building is in a particular location. We want to be faithful to be the people of God both where we live and where we gather for worship. Contextualization as a local church means being a blessing to our immediate community in east Fort Worth and to those communities our members are a part of.
Both Matt Chandler and the rest of the elders at The Village Church lament the idea of hindering some from hearing the gospel preached or joining the church because of the presence of the screen instead of a live preacher. While there are inherent barriers to accepting the gospel (i.e. confessing one’s sin, confessing Christ publicly, etc.), we want to be careful not to create barriers in the presentation of God’s Word.
The primary points of contextualization will be the local preaching of the Word and the oversight of the Fort Worth elders. The Church will continue to do what she has done for centuries: gathering as the people of God to worship God and proclaim the gospel of Christ both corporately and individually across Fort Worth.
What Does the Campus Leadership Structure Look Like?
The campus elders consist of lay (non-vocational) elders and staff elders. There is a simple majority of lay elders on the board. A strong conviction for the Fort Worth elders is the necessity of operating in plurality across the board. This means that no single elder has greater sway than another, regardless of position or vocational authority. The elders operate as a team of men, seeking to lead faithfully and safeguard from a concentration of power or authority in a single man. In transition, the campus elders will assume the responsibilities regulated to the central elders via The Village Church bylaws.
What Will the Name of the New Church Be?
The church will be changing its name, but the new name is unknown at this point. This differs from The Village Church Denton. Given that the Denton church didn’t begin their transition with a name change, the Denton elders felt that changing the name now would be too much, whereas the central elders have decided to require a name change of future campuses, including Fort Worth. The Fort Worth church will exist in a co-branded state with The Village Church for a transitory period to help establish the transition. The elders are thinking and praying through how to care well for the community in the name change and are considering how to engage the congregation and community in the process of helping develop and establish the new name.
What are the Next Steps in This Process?
The Covenant Members of the Fort Worth campus will vote on the transition on Sunday, January 29, 2017.
If you are a member at Fort Worth, the elders would ask that you utilize the audio and print resources included here and consider them before you vote. Also, please engage the elders with your questions before the vote in January. You can email an elder to set up a meeting.
If you are a part of The Village Church at large, please join the Fort Worth campus in prayer concerning the transition and the upcoming vote.