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Church’s decline in membership, impact halted by ‘Key Church’ growth strategy

WICHITA, Kan. (BP)–When Pete Dominguez accepted the pastorate of South City Baptist Church in Wichita, Kan., in the fall of 1997, he was challenged to bring the church together around a new focus of missions and evangelism.

The congregation had been in transition. Declining in membership, it was making little impact in its neighborhood.

Dominguez set out to make the changes necessary to revive the church. Over the past two years, this neighborhood church — not located at high visibility traffic intersections — has reversed its decline and begun to grow again.

Dominguez was able to move the church off its plateau in two steps that could work in most, if not all, churches.

First, he stressed four high attendance days each year and set quarterly goals in every major area: Sunday school attendance, visitation, building a list of prospects and dividing classes when they reach a certain size to encourage more growth.

But Dominguez felt South City church needed more to increase growth and commitment. That’s when he learned about the “Key Church” growth strategy of the North American Mission Board.

While attending the SBC annual meeting in Salt Lake City in 1998, he learned Key Church’s simple principle: a Key Church is engaged in the Great Commission by giving priority to church planting, community ministry, contextual evangelism, missions education and lay mobilization.

After contacting the NAMB’s church planting group, Dominguez received materials to study and share with his church. Now, after implementing the concept, the congregation has never been stronger, he reported.

Since being designated a Key Church by NAMB, the Kansas congregation has started three missions. A Hispanic fellowship meets at the church on Sunday afternoons, an African American mission gathers on Wednesday evenings and a multihousing ministry meets in an apartment clubhouse on Sunday mornings.

Each mission is showing promise of growth. “We’ve been in the Falcon Pointe apartment complex almost every day of the week building relationships, inviting people to the services, establishing our presence,” Dominguez said.

The complex is known as a troubled place to raise a family; several violent deaths have occurred through the years, one last summer. But change is in the air; one child has accepted Christ as Savior since the Bible study began, and the church is building a list of prospects.

“When we began this outreach, we learned that 85 percent of multihousing residents do not attend any church. In fact, they don’t even leave the complex on Sunday morning. If we were to reach them, we couldn’t expect them to come to us. We decided to take the church to them.”

Dominguez credits the Key Church approach to making a difference in the life of the community — as well as the church.

“In Acts 1:8, Jesus said that if we neglected Jerusalem, what right did we have to go into the rest of the world? I’ve taught our congregation that we don’t have the right to drive past four blocks of neighbors to do ministry across town, across our state or around the world. I’ve challenged our church to go into our neighborhood first to reach it for Christ, and it has risen to the challenge.”

Now Dominguez regularly preaches about the importance of starting other churches. The church is equipping its laity with ministry skills so it can be more effective in sharing its faith. And to help coordinate the new emphasis, the church has added a minister of missions to its staff.

The results?

“We baptized 15 new members in 1998 and 16 in 1999. And this is growth from the unchurched in our community; only one or two came from transfer of membership from another church,” Dominguez said. The church’s average worship attendance of 138 increased by 31 last year. And South City averages more than 110 in Sunday school.

“The Key Church concept has given us a clear vision for the millennium,” the pastor added. “We need more educational space, but we don’t have funds to build a new sanctuary. So as we outgrow our facility, we may just have to start more churches — which would be just fine with me.”

For more information on the Key Church strategy for church growth, contact state convention offices or Dennis Mitchell, director of NAMB’s church multiplication team, at (770) 410-6229, or, via e-mail, [email protected].

Used by permission from the winter 2000 issue of Church Planting & Evangelism Today, published by the North American Mission Board.

    About the Author

  • Joe Westbury