Adopting a 90-Year-Old Church

In 2016, Beaverton Christian Church came to terms with a harsh reality: the 90-year-old church had experienced a decade of decline. In its prime, the church had 2,500 attendees every weekend. That number dwindled to a staggering 340—less than one seventh of what it once was. Beaverton used to baptize 150 people per year. Last year they celebrated two baptisms.

Every metric of success painted a picture of a failing church. But Beaverton’s elders were still prayerfully pursuing God’s mission for their community—there was more to their church than numbers. To them, growth was about impact. And they were ready to increase their impact again.

The elders knew that the rapid decline was only a symptom of a larger problem—the tip of an iceberg they missed in their own careful evaluations of their church health.

“Beaverton invited CDF in to help gain fresh vision for who God was calling them to be as a church,” said Chris Yarco.

So they brought in Leadership Capital—a team from CDF Capital who specialize in strategic development, health assessment, and church growth. The result of this partnership was something Beaverton never imagined.

The perfect neighbors

The elders used Leadership Capital’s expertise to analyze the demographics of their church and the community they wanted to reach. Together they identified the “church DNA” that had taken shape over Beaverton’s nine decades of ministry.

They pinpointed two barriers: the demographic inside the building was decades older than the diverse community around them and they had holes in their team that prevented them from being the outward-focused community they once were.

There were 330,000 people within five miles of the church, waiting to be reached. While Beaverton had room for 1,000 more people in their sanctuary, they did not have the staff to get them there. They had the space they needed but not the team.

Just over 20 minutes away, Willamette Christian Church was rapidly outgrowing its 60-year-old campus. The church’s leadership team scoured more than 40 locations in search of a place to plant a new church, and none of them panned out.

They had the team they needed, but they did not have the space to grow.

In the summer of 2016, Beaverton Christian Church was in dire need of preaching help. Leadership Capital took the opportunity to introduce Beaverton to Willamette Christian Church, and a deep spiritual connection took root. Beaverton discovered a team of like-minded leaders with the tools and resources to help them grow, and Willamette began to see why God turned down more than 40 possible locations for their new campus.

“Beaverton invited CDF in to help gain fresh vision for who God was calling them to be as a church,” said Chris Yarco, executive director at Willamette. “When Beaverton realized where they wanted to go, they wanted to mobilize their impact quickly and with people who would share their vision.” Willamette shared such a vision.

Adoption and growth

The elders of the two churches met and prayed and considered the possibilities until it was clear the two churches were meant to partner in ministry together. They decided that Willamette Christian Church would adopt Beaverton Christian Church, lending its leadership team and forming a group of elders from both campuses to oversee their “one church in multiple locations."

This wasn’t a merger—while each campus serves under the same leadership, they have distinct plans with how to serve their communities.It was a unique relationship—it was an adoption.

The new group of elders overseeing both campuses came from both churches, representing the whole family. Willamette’s leadership team helped Beaverton reach their own goals. They did not conform the older church to meet their agenda. This 90-year-old church had a rich history in its community, and Willamette did not want to change Beaverton’s identity. There was overlap and intersections in what each church wanted, and while the relationship was mutually beneficial, Willamette stepped in to help raise Beaverton into the church it was trying to become.

Since the adoption, Willamette’s senior leadership team has helped Beaverton hire the roles it was missing, creating opportunities for the church to continue pursuing the community God called them to 90 years ago. Using the roadmap they developed with Leadership Capital, Beaverton is discovering that it can still be the outward-focused congregation it used to be. In less than a year, their weekend attendance has swelled to 590 people per weekend—an increase of more than 70 percent.

The choice that changed everything

Beaverton’s remarkable growth was born out of a difficult decision. The elders had to determine if the church itself had the tools they needed to steward the resources and community God gave them or did they need to bring in outside help?

For Beaverton, bringing in help was the best way to steward what they had.

With a wealth of experience and a diverse team of specialists, Leadership Capital was free to explore every option available to Beaverton. Their team’s intimate knowledge of church operations allowed them to act in Beaverton’s best interest, seeing challenges and creative solutions from a neutral perspective. They helped Beaverton step back and determine who they wanted to be and what it would take to get there.

How can Leadership Capital help your church increase its impact? Contact our team, and let’s start the conversation.