COLUMBIA — David Mueller comes to church and is greeted with a familiar sight. He's welcomed by greeters and steps inside to an area where there is tea and coffee. His friend Jared presides over the service on a regular basis. The only thing that's different is that Mueller is at the Hilton Garden Conference Center, not Forum Christian Church, where he has attended church since ninth grade.
The church opened a second location at Hilton Garden Conference Center on March 15. One of the church's goals was growth, which is part of the reason for adding the second location. It was a success because leaders have seen attendance grow in the first month of services.
“We knew we were getting visitors from the north end of town and we wanted to retain them and connect them with church,” said Senior Minister Scott Sutherland.
Sutherland said the new location averages about 150 attendees a week. Mueller noted that as he was observing services there, about half of the audience seemed new to him and the other half he recognized as having previously attended Forum Christian Church at the building near Nifong and Forum boulevards.
Sutherland said the church sees this addition as a means of expansion, and their goal is to outgrow the conference center. He and two other ministers rotate preaching at the new location.
"They have done a really good job of making it as similar as possible (to the original location)," Mueller said.
The church purchased a second set of musical and nursery equipment, including cribs and floor mats, for its second location, Sutherland said. He also said the church has approximately 1,200 members, with about 700 attending regularly at the original location.
Some members chose to change the location of where they worship, and the leadership at the church is still working out all the fine details for the new service. Sutherland cited the example of significantly modifying the church's set-up and tear-down procedures. However, they are still trying to find the most efficient way to do it.
The church also considered other options, like doing a satellite feed, before deciding to rent more worship space.
Similarly, Woodcrest Chapel in Columbia records its Saturday night service and uses it as part of services in Jefferson City.
"We wanted to be able to reach into Jefferson City," said Tim Davis, the multi-site director at Woodcrest Chapel.
Davis said the service in Jefferson City has its own band and live speakers, but that the recording is always of the message given by the main speaker and any special elements of the service at the original location in Columbia. The church is currently in negotiations to lease the space that was previously a store in the Sears wing of Capital Mall.
Woodcrest started presenting its message in Jefferson City about five years ago in the Capitol Plaza Hotel on Sunday nights, Davis said. About three years ago, the church switched to its current location and grew considerably. Because of that growth, the church has just added a second service to its Jefferson City location.
Both churches had goals of reaching new audiences and finding alternatives that were more financially viable than building a second location.
Sutherland said it would have cost about $3.5 million to duplicate the church's current location. He noted that building new space would limit the size that the location could hold, which is something the congregation wanted to avoid.