Editor’s Note: The following is a testimony about Centerpoint Church, where Dane Aakers is Lead Pastor. They’ve managed to add new services and then add more new services, and it’s working!
Centerpoint was founded in 1887 and had averaged about 125-150 attenders for over 30 years. The church had been through many pastors, much conflict, and several splits. I came to pastor the church in 1985 after a major church split which left the church with an average attendance of 89.
Slowly the church grew to about 150 in attendance but we just couldn’t seem to get through the 200 barrier. In 1989 15 leaders went to a conference on prayer sponsored by the Fuller Institute of Church Growth. When we came home we met in the living room of my house to pray for our church to reach people for Christ. My wife, Karen, prayed, “God, take us through the 200 barrier like a space shuttle through a rubber band.”
Sunday morning, two weeks later, I went down to the church at 6 a.m. to pray for our worship service. When I walked into the sanctuary the presence of God was so strong all I could do was fall on my knees in silence. That Sunday 100 new people walked into church. Our average attendance went from 150 to 250 in one Sunday. We went through the 200 barrier in one Sunday like a space shuttle through a rubber band.
When the church started growing the old-time attenders asked me to start a service at 8 a.m. with traditional music. They hated some of the new music we were using at our 11 a.m. service. So I hired an organist and we became a two service church with traditional music at 8 a.m. and then contemporary music at 11 a.m.
The 11 a.m. service continued to grow to the point where we added a second contemporary service at 9:45 a.m. We were now doing three services. We started to quote Lyle Schaller a lot who said, “The way to grow a church is to add a service, add a service, add a service.”
Then we learned that the reason to start a service was not that our existing services were full. The question was “Do we have enough people who are willing to attend a new service to make it worth starting?” For example people kept telling me that they wanted a service at NOON. I thought no one would attend church at NOON. So we tried an experiment and had a service at NOON on Easter. It was packed. So we started a service every week at NOON. Today that service consistently runs about 250 people.
Every couple of years we add a service and today our service times are: Saturdays at 6:00 p.m., Sundays at 8:00, 9:15, 10:45 a.m., NOON and 6 p.m. At 9:15, we do a small video venue (about 27 people) for our traditional people in a different building.
Today we have about 1,700 people that attend our church on an average weekend. We have a two-acre campus in downtown Colton.
Sometimes people ask me if I (or my Young Adult Pastor, who preaches a lot) aren’t just exhausted from preaching six times per weekend. I tell them, “building a building is stress; preaching six times is exercise.” When I go to bed on Sunday nights I’m tired, but I sleep soundly knowing that I don’t have big property payments I have to make. And, honestly, school teachers have done this for years and they do it five days a week.
Adding services instead of building a building enables us to use almost every penny for staff and ministry. But we have made some improvements in the building that have helped.
1st – We added air conditioning . . . we used to have water coolers.
2nd – We added restrooms.
3rd – We added about ½ acre of parking. We also have a ton of parking on the streets around our church.
4th – We stadium-seated our balcony and added a stairwell so we could fit 50 more people. We moved our offices offsite so that we could add about 50 seats to our overflow room. Plus we took four feet off the front of our stage so we could add 50 seats on our main floor. So, total, we’ve added about 150 seats over the last 30 years.
6th – We moved our Jr. High and Sr. High to another building to create more space for kids.
I hope this is helpful. I think that it is a model of growth that could be helpful to many, many churches.