Multiple worship services are the norm, and multiple campuses for large churches are headed that way. Rev. Emanuel Cleaver III has both going on Sunday morning, and he does them both in the traditional way – preaching in person.
It’s the one upside to the fact that most people don’t go to church on Sunday morning – traffic is light.
“I’ve got some guys who volunteer to drive me there and bring me back, so that helps,” Cleaver said. “They can make it in 15 minutes – you’d never be able to do that during the week.”
Cleaver preaches at St. James at 8 a.m., at Renaissance at 10 a.m., then back at St. James at 11 a.m. He gets to the 8 a.m. service early so he can greet people and visit before things get started, and does the same at Renaissance. Then he is back at St. James, and is able to see people after the 11 a.m. service.
The remote campus for St. James is Renaissance at 7205 Longview Road in Kansas City. This church was formerly Longview United Methodist Church. It closed and reopened as Renaissance as a new church start in 2010. After a few years, it was determined that although the church had helped many new people become disciples of Christ and it was a strong center of ministry, it hadn’t grown to the level of becoming a self-sustaining congregation.
St. James has members all over Kansas City. A lot of the St. James members live in south Kansas City, so Cleaver had considered a south campus about the time Rev. Lia McIntosh was starting Renaissance, but the time wasn’t right for the church. It also has about 600 members across the state line in Kansas.
St. James started exploring starting a new campus in Kansas City, Kansas, which has only one small African-American congregation that shares it’s building with other denominations, but crossing district, state and conference lines proved to be complicated.
Renaissance made for a new campus that was ready to go – and it even included members. The church was averaging about 70 in attendance. For a time Renaissance was on a charge with St. Luke’s UMC, but it did not remain linked to it, so the church was in looking for the next step.
Renaissance had plateaued, and the leadership team there was onboard for a change. It went from being a small membership church to a campus of one of the largest churches in the Missouri Conference in a week.
“Lia was preaching there one Sunday, and I was there the next,” Cleaver said.
Rev. Linda Settles, executive pastor at St. James UMC, is also making the Sunday morning commute between both campuses. St. James does not have a campus pastor assigned to Renaissance, so Settles works closely with the leadership structure there.
“Everyone is excited,” Settles said. “People were nervous at first, and we don’t have everything down yet, but we’re working through it together.”
Jeff Primos is the council chair at Renaissance and takes care of the church’s audio/video needs. His family started attending the church a couple of years ago.
“We had been going to a really large church, but it didn’t have anything available for our young children,” Primos said. “We heard an ad on the radio for Renaissance, and it was only five minutes from our home. We tried it and found other young families there, and a great children’s ministry.”
Primos was on board with Renaissance becoming part of St. James when it was first suggested. He knows a lot of people who are members at St. James, and even went to high school with Rev. Cleaver.
“It was like reuniting with old friends,” he said.
Some long time St. James members are now calling the Renaissance campus home. The attendance at Renaissance has already climbed to 115.
“We have one member that comes back here to sing with her choir, otherwise she is at Renaissance,” Cleaver said.
The two churches may have the same pastor, but they have their own culture. The worship style at Renaissance is more informal than St. James, and is high energy, with praise and worship music. St. James has a large Sunday school attendance, at Renaissance faith develop occurs through small groups, called Growth Groups.
St. James started in 1955, and recently had a 60 years Founders’ Day celebration. They had one celebration service at the main St. James campus, and provided shuttle vans from Renaissance to the service. About 1,250 people attended.
“We were setting up extra chairs in the balcony,” Cleaver said.
Next year, the church is going to be intentional about reaching out to people who are close to home.
“A big part of our focus in 2016 will be reaching out to the people in Blue Hills, the area around our Paseo campus, and the neighborhood within a one-mile radius of Renaissance,” Cleaver said.
Settles is looking forward to what that might bring to both campuses.
“It is going to be a matter of getting out into the community so we can continue to grow and live into our mission of making disciples of Christ,” she said.