Sometimes what we plan, hope, and pray for doesn’t work out. Whether we get a little off course or part of the journey holds a lesson we need to learn (or both), we are all bound to encounter seasons of redirection in life. This happens to be one of those seasons for our church, as we have decided to close our East Campus ministry.
This decision was not an easy one nor was it made quickly, despite the short time between our initial announcement and East Campus’s final service. In fact, the decision was made after two years of much prayer and discussion among the elders and staff, and we wish to own the fact that we made some mistakes on that two-year journey.
Over 15 years ago, we had a vision for what multi-site growth would look like for Richwoods. As we grew, we did not want to end up in an enormous building on acres of land—not that there is anything wrong with churches who expand this way. We just felt God calling us to be a relational community, which is more easily accomplished in smaller gatherings.
Therefore, we adopted a multi-site vision with a strategy of having two large campuses on either side of the river that would provide services for smaller campuses in their area. East Campus was meant to be the large campus east of the river.
East was launched with this vision in January 2011, and when we believed the campus was poised for growth, we moved it to Embassy Suites in March 2013. The cost of hosting services at Embassy is significant, but the elders and staff felt the potential for growth was there and that eventually growth would catch up to cost. At the time Richwoods moved to Embassy, it was projected the campus could be self-sustaining by the close of 2015. That has not happened. In fact, the campus is currently operating at a deficit of $2,000-$3,000 per week, which we cannot sustain long-term.
In spite of this, East Campus has been a place where people have come to Christ and returned to Him and where they have grown together in spiritual community. At an average weekly attendance of over 200 people, it is larger than 85% of churches in the United States. So, closing it was a decision we wrestled with and prayed hard over. Still, we feel as though God is redirecting us as a church.
We know God’s plan is bigger than what we can see right now. As difficult as this decision is, we feel it presents a moment when we can pause to remember that—no matter what plans we make in the future—God is sovereign, and we are not. His plan is grander than our own.
And in moments like this one, when we feel redirected, we must take it as a nudge toward growth and maturity in Christ. Those of us in leadership are attempting to do that. We’re taking this time to pause, own our mistakes, ask what lessons God wants us to learn from this, and prayerfully seek His direction moving forward.
We still feel called to multi-site—our strategy is just shifting a bit. And we still feel called to be a relational community, where we all learn about and practice loving God and one another. In other words, we are not giving up helping people find and follow Christ. We’re just getting a better idea of how God wants us to go about doing that
So, please keep our church in your prayers as we navigate this part of our journey. Some of us in our church family are sad, some are angry, and some are looking forward with hope. These are all understandable feelings right now. But if we remember our mutual devotion to God and one another, then the growth God always nudges us toward during times of change and difficulty will ultimately happen.
God bless you all,
Ed Bond, Paul Bright, Brad Crumrine, Dave Evans,
Mike Fiedler, Craig Kurtz, Gene Maurer, Yang Shen, Elders
Jim Powell, Senior Pastor
Joel Dryden, Executive Pastor