Franchising United Methodist Churches?

I don’t know how comfortable I am with the franchising language used here, but I do wonder if this might be a real possibility for United Methodist congregations? Can you imagine this happening in your conference? Would people attend and grow as disciples at “Windsor Village UMC, Oklahoma City?” What about “Church of the Resurrection, Tulsa?” Is this already happening in an informal way when churches pattern themselves after these larger congregations in other conferences?

I know this might sound strange or even too “commercial,” but I’ve often heard the idea that denominations are based on the idea of “local franchises” of the mother denomination. Let me know what you think. Is this a dangerous idea? Is this catering to crass commercialism? More pragmatically, would it work? If so, what are the theological concerns we need to think about?

10 thoughts on “Franchising United Methodist Churches?

  1. hmmm… i wonder how that would work. of course, part of the success of franchising is name recognition. i don’t know how many people would know the difference between churches or why this ‘branch’ is named. not many folks would say, “alright! they have a willow creek church here!”

  2. It’s an interesting idea, one in fact that is already occuring. Life Church has campuses throughout OK and the U.S. That is a unique situation as Craig’s sermon is broadcast to those campuses. I was recently told that an OKC Baptist Church is opening a campus in Stillwater. I think that church will have its own preacher. Is it too far outside the box for U.M.C.’s? There have been discussions about this concept in high places, but nothing has come of it. It may be an idea for our Congregational Development Department.

  3. Hey Lesly! Glad to see you’ve stumbled across this mess I call a blog – thanks for your comment. I think these are the models I can see working.

    Gavin, I know most folks wouldn’t readily recognize a “Willow Creek OKC,” but as Lesly wrote, this kind of thing is working with Craig Groeschel at Life Church.

  4. We probably shouldn’t reject the idea out of hand. In one point of view, we could say that “Methodist” itself is a franchise-type idea, although we’re nowhere close to offering the same kind of experience from one UMC to another.

    Some aspects are troubling — I have a lot of respect for a good deal of what Lifechurch has done, but the idea of one pastor’s sermon being recorded or broadcast to different church campuses gives me the willies. I have trouble reconciling the idea of serving the one who is the Word made flesh with the practice of proclaiming that word in some format other than the direct presence of a human being.

  5. But if there are gifted proclaimers of the Word shouldn’t we help them to proclaim it to even more people? There are not many gifted preachers and teacher out there and if we can empower their creativity shouldn’t we? I am not sure this is too much different than the early church sharing and circulating Paul’s letters and the Gospels. Certainly, don’t get me wrong, modern preachers are far different than Biblical writers, but the early church saw the influence of their leaders, shouldn’t we do the same with ours? The main difference I see is that we are dealing with the video medium instead of the written word. Besides, each “campus” has its own pastor, someone to provide pastoral leadership and presence.
    Another practical issue for me is that this “franchising” seems to work. I am not sure it is the “franchising” that is working or the relevance of their message, but there is definately something that we need to learn from. The scary thing is that we are decades away from this type of creative energy and freedom in our denomination. Often I see competition between churches and the egos of pastors to be a major reason that this type of idea would be a hard sell in the UMC.

  6. Church of the Resurrection opened another campus some miles from their main site. There are two pastors on staff there, they do live worship, etc., with Adam’s sermons on a video feed. Last I heard, around 700 people were attending COR-West. Some Atlanta churches do some similar things. I agree with Lesly that it’s a good way to get good messages out to more people in the context of a real congregation and real pastoral care. I do wonder if it’s something that could be sustained indefinitely or if eventually people will want a “live” preacher (a lot of churches are probably praying for that already).

  7. The ego thing would certainly give it some speed bumps, and we could probably name names (starting with our own, no doubt).

    I’ve watched “distance learning” classes with piped-in video of the teachers and such, and it’s certainly possible to convey information that way. We use some taped work in the Disciple classes, after all, even though we supplement it with on-site teachers.

    I know I preach to my people what I feel God leads me to say to them, and a part of that leading is being connected to them and their community through the other six days of the week. The sermon at my smaller church isn’t exactly the same as it is at the larger, because they have some different needs and different things have happened. If, God forbid, a tornado smashed Duke and miraculously missed Highland Heights, Duke would need a different sermon. That’s an extreme case, but the milder form goes on every week.

    The world is full of better preachers than me, but they haven’t been living with my people. No matter how eloquently, powerfully and dynamically they proclaim the word as God gives it to them, their message will not be aimed at my people, except in a general sense. Whatever pastor is in place is the pastor with the connection (we pray) with those people. If I were to return to a church I’d been at years ago, it would be awhile before I could really preach to them again, while I learned them anew.

  8. Hey John – sorry your comment didn’t appear earlier. Somehow the anti-spam service for WordPress caught it and quarantined it.

  9. Several have mentioned the example of Craig Groeschel and – What’s interesting is that they really do have a franchise model along with a “company owned” model and the two coexist. Some churches around the country have opted to become part of LC, and others simply provide the content, but are independently operated. However, I think there would be some definite issues with regard to the BoD if the UMC were to attempt this.

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