What Is A Neighborhood Church

Over the years, I have personally been a part of planting churches and campuses. This initiative started first in Pittsburgh and then primarily spread throughout the Northeastern USA. In total, we have multiplied thirty times directly - meaning that a planter or campus pastor was sent from Allison Park Church to go and start a new work. Many of the churches that we have planted, have also planted.

Truly say that we have been a part of launching a movement of churches and campuses.

One of the things unique to Pittsburgh (and many cities in the Northeast) is that that geography, topography, and unchurched communities tend to lend themselves to churches and campuses that arrive at a certain size.

In Dallas, Texas, for example, you have many churches that average over 10,000 people a weekend. There is a highway system that allows for easy travel to many points throughout the city within 30 minutes. Flat pieces of property are often available along highways. This creates a dynamic for a larger expectation of church size.

Pittsburgh is not flat, has no highway system. There are barriers of hills and rivers and bridges. It’s not easy to get anywhere quickly. So you find very few churches in the region that are larger than 500. Actually, in all of Pennsylvania there may only be two or three churches over 5000.

So expectations need to be adjusted for effective ministry to be defined.

So let me take a stab at defining some church size models.

  1. House Church - it’s easy to see what this is by the name. It’s a church that is small enough to meet in a home. The benefit is the organic nature of it. Low cost. Easy to reproduce. The downside is that in order to see a huge movement in this regard, there needs to some push from somewhere to see multiplication happen.

  2. Small Church - this is a church that tends to be 120 people or less. Typically, it meets in a building (whether owned or rented). The pastors may be volunteer, part-time, or struggling to stay full-time.

  3. Neighborhood Church - this is the church/campus that I want to try to describe. It’s much like the small church but it is a bit more stable in terms of economics and leadership. This church tends to average between 120 and 500. I will add more detail on this later.

  4. Mid-Size Church - when the church grows beyond the 500 number, it hits a level of momentum and capacity that allows for a larger full-time staff and function. I am not sure what the ceiling is on the Mid-Size Church - but let’s just list it as 500-1500.

  5. Mega Church - this is a church that is 1500 and beyond. It may be a collection of Campuses? or it may be in a single location. This church has recently a level of competency where there is excellence on many levels. It typically has greater resources, larger facilities, and many talented team members.

The church growth world tends to teach success and methodology out of the Mega Church model. When you are not in a Mega Church, these principles sound amazing, but often feel unattainable to those in the smaller sizes. Many times, the Mega Church methods have to be modified to succeed in the smaller sizes.

In the Multi-Site world (one church in several locations) - success is taught from the idea of being a church that is a collection of, at least, Mid-Size Campuses. The idea is to have many Campuses of 500 or more. There is financial and facility horsepower in this approach to multi-site ministry.

But most Multi-Site Churches are not in this category. Allison Park Church has become a collection of five Neighborhood Campuses and one Mid-Size Campus.

What i hope to articulate over the next few weeks, are some observations of how this model works and why it is so valuable to the Kingdom of God.

Kat Kelley