“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. . .”
Some things are just better together. Like apple pie and ice cream or peanut butter and chocolate!
Sometimes two can accomplish more than one. The leadership of both Atlee and Northminster believes this is true when it comes to our churches. Your prayers are needed as we move closer to this important partnership.
Proposed Merger of Northminster Church with Atlee Community Church FAQs
How did this idea to merge come about?
The short answer: for over two years, Nelson Parker has been going in circles. Prayer circles, that is.
Nelson has been on a journey, allowing God to work both in him and through him. In late summer 2011 Nelson felt God was calling him to be more generous – a generosity that went deeper than money. Inspired by an episode of the TV show, Rob and Big, his first step was to gather clothing to give to the homeless in Richmond. As Nelson continued to seek opportunities to be more generous with his time and resources, he got to know more of the homeless men and women. He began learning about organizations and ministries around Richmond to help the homeless, and as he did, God ignited a passion and vision to unite ministries to end homelessness in Richmond.
At the same time, in the fall of 2011, Northminster’s leadership conducted a series of strategic planning meetings. The overall question was “What will Northminster look like in 2021?” Pastor Sammy Williams shared his intention to retire at the end of 2016, so the issue of pastoral succession for a pastor of 30 years became part of the discussion. During the visioning process, almost 50 interested members joined the discussion on three Sunday evenings. In addition to seeing the church become a healthy, thriving congregation, one common dream emerged for 10 years in the future: the facility becoming a neighborhood hub of ministry, serving the community in lots of creative ways and humming with missional activities 24/7.
In early 2012 Nelson was introduced to the director of Hands Up Ministries, and the Free Market, a resource providing free clothing and other items to those in need, held at Northminster Baptist Church. In February 2012, as the Atlee staff was studying Mark Batterson’s The Circle Maker, Nelson felt led to begin prayer walking around Northminster’s facilities, which he continues to do faithfully. Pastor Jeff Boggess and the entire Atlee staff joined Nelson one February morning, praying that God would fill the buildings with people. He began praying for Northminster, for its leaders, its members, and for God to use Northminster to impact Northside and heal Richmond from its racially divided history.
Later in 2012 Wendy McCaig, Director of Embrace Richmond, suggested that Atlee and Northminster partner with Embrace Richmond to create a small job readiness initiative for the community. The two churches and the non-profit became financial partners in the Advancement Center.
Nelson’s daily circles led him into relationships with Pastor Sammy and the leadership of Northminster. In June 2013 Northminster hit a financial wall. The church’s savings were depleted and the Leadership Council turned to the Endowment set up for Northminster for additional help. The leaders began to pray, “God, what are you saying to us?” They prayed frequently and fervently through June and July. In August Nelson approached Pastor Sammy with the question, “Would Northminster be interested in discussing joining forces with Atlee?”
Atlee’s strengths are attracting seekers to life-changing faith and building them into fully devoted followers of Christ. Northminster’s strength has been discovering and developing missions within its urban setting. As preliminary discussions took place in the fall of 2013, leaders of both congregations became excited about what could happen if God blended Atlee’s attractional strength and Northminster’s missional strength. The churches would be better together and the Kingdom of God would be advanced in an amazing way.
Tell me about Atlee Community Church.
Atlee Community Church began in 1995 as a church “for those who gave up on church, or never went.” Atlee believes that every person matters to God, and desires to give everyone the opportunity to respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and offer them opportunities to grow in their faith.
Atlee is one church with many locations, currently with three campuses across central Virginia (Mechanicsville, Scottsville, and the West End), and developing an online campus.
Tell me about Northminster Baptist Church.
Northminster was founded in 1891 as the Barton Heights Baptist Church. Fifteen neighbors started the church in Richmond’s first suburb. In 1894 the congregation went all in, purchasing property and constructing a building. God honored their commitment with 70 years of phenomenal growth—5 increasingly larger buildings and eventual Sunday attendance of 1400. The church has always been a strong supporter of missions, giving extravagantly from its budget, sending missionaries and mission teams all over the world. The congregation relocated to its present facilities in 1956 and changed its name to Northminster. The church entered a period of decline in 1964, when the neighborhood began to transition racially. For the last 20 years the church has embraced its urban setting by building bridges of ministry to its immediate community. Its relationship-based missions include food (a pantry and a co-op), clothing (Community Market), tutoring (with Youth Life Foundation), and jobs (Advancement Center). Northminster is a racially and socioeconomically diverse congregation that is working to reveal God's Kingdom in Richmond's Northside.
What’s unique about Atlee’s philosophy of ministry?
Atlee’s defined mission and vision are very similar to those of Northminster. Atlee’s vision is to turn unbelievers and unchurched people into fully devoted followers of Christ. The mission is to reach seekers and equip believers to love God, love others, and serve the world.
Atlee’s philosophy of ministry can be best summarized by the 3 E’s of spiritual growth: Explore, Experience and Express, based on Colossians 1:9-12:
“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will (explore) through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives (experience), so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work (express), growing in the knowledge of God (explore), being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience (experience), and giving joyful thanks to the Father (express), who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.”
Becoming a fully devoted follower of Christ is a lifelong process. Through small groups Atlee provides environments where we can connect relationally to experience God’s grace by loving and being loved by others. Ministry teams and outreach opportunities allow us to express God’s grace by extending beyond ourselves to serve the world and transform lives.
What are the benefits of this merger?
The big answer: because together we can better fulfill our purpose of becoming a community of fully devoted followers of Christ, partnering with our neighbors to reveal the kingdom of God across greater Richmond. We can love God, love people, and transform lives better together as one local church than we can apart.
Together we will expand our creative and engaging ministries for children and students. On Sunday mornings, Atlee offers SunUp for infants through preschool, and UpStreet for kindergarten through 5th grade. These environments are fun places to introduce children to who God is and why faith matters. As a church we want to partner with parents to help children discover and embrace a growing relationship with Christ. By the time children leave 5th grade they will know three core truths: I can trust God no matter what, I need to make the wise choice, and I should treat others the way I want to be treated.
RISE, the ministry for middle and high school students, meets weekly to offer students an environment where they can safely come as they are and explore God’s grace and truth for their lives.
Small groups will continue to play a central role in spiritual growth, connecting members in relationships and offering even more opportunities to serve in an urban setting. As our church family grows, our span of care grows, opening the doors for new practical and tangible ways to share the gospel of Christ with our city through extension ministries.
We will continue to partner with numerous organizations, such as ACTS (Area Congregations Together in Service), Camp Hope, Embrace Richmond, missions to Ecuador, RCLI (Richmond Christian Leadership Institute), RJI (Richmond Justice Initiative), and Young Life, to highlight a few. We will also continue the partnership started in 2013 among Atlee, Embrace Richmond, and Northminster in the Life Together Advancement Center.
Will our church have a new name, and what will it be?
Yes. To best honor the history and heritage of Northminster Baptist Church, the new name will be Atlee Community Church Northminster campus.
What’s the timeline of this merger? / What are the key dates of this process?
March 2 – April 5: Northminster congregational discussions
March 30: Atlee orientation and membership class at Northminster
April 6: Northminster membership vote
April 13 & 20: Palm Sunday and Easter Service at Northminster
April 27: Celebration service for NorthminsterMay 1 – Sept 7: Atlee Northminster campus will not hold services, all attend Atlee Mechanicsville campus; an additional membership class to be offered during this period; 9:30am traditional service will continue to meet in chapel
Sept 14: Inaugural weekend service of Atlee Northminster campus in the newly renovated sanctuary
Who will be the pastor of the Northminster campus?
Pastor Jeff Boggess will serve as the Lead Pastor for all campuses of Atlee Community Church. Nelson Parker, Executive Director of Administration and Pastor of Atlee Community Church will serve as Campus Pastor for Atlee’s Northminster campus. Pastor Sammy Williams will continue to serve in a pastoral role with Atlee through the end of 2014.
What will happen to the current staff at Northminster?
At this time, all current staff members will continue to serve on staff at Atlee Community Church. The leadership of Atlee will continue to prayerfully and strategically evaluate the staffing needs of all campuses to ensure we are effectively living out our vision and mission with the resources God provides.
How will Atlee Community Church Northminster campus be staffed?
Each campus of Atlee Community Church follows a similar staffing model. The campus is led by a Campus Pastor, who leads dedicated staff over children’s ministries, student ministry, music ministry, and technical direction.
What will happen to our leadership council/elders?
The leadership council of Northminster will be released from their responsibilities and the Spiritual Management Team of Atlee Community Church will be the governing body of Atlee Northminster campus. Any member of Atlee may be nominated for consideration to serve on the Spiritual Management Team (SMT).
What will the weekend services be like?
Atlee’s weekend services are designed to assist participants to safely explore, experience, and express God’s grace and truth for our lives. Every element included in the service is evaluated with that in mind.
The services often include creative elements, such as video, drama, or dramatic readings that best support the theme of the service.
The Northminster campus’ traditional service will continue through the end of the year.
How will the budget and finances be managed?
Each campus of Atlee Community Church has an annual operating budget based on the calendar year. The budget is proposed by the Executive Director of Administration, reviewed and approved both by the Spiritual Management Team and the Trustees of Atlee, then presented to the campus membership. All Atlee members are encouraged to address any questions or concerns about the budget for their campus directly with the Executive Director of Administration or Campus Pastor.
How will the endowment funds be utilized?
The Northminster Endowment Fund will be dissolved and funds will be utilized to support the facility, staff, and ministries of the Atlee Northminster campus.
How will membership be determined?
Northminster members are encouraged and invited to transfer their membership, upon completion of Atlee’s membership class, and can indicate that desire when voting on the merger. Atlee’s membership class offers a more in-depth understanding of Atlee’s history, core values, ministry environments and expectations of members.
Once the merger happens, what will change?
The biggest change will be how the Sunday morning messages will be delivered. Though the local campus pastors occasionally speak live at the Atlee campuses, most of the messages will be delivered by Pastor Jeff Boggess via video. The messages from the 9:00am service at the Mechanicsville campus will be recorded and broadcast to the Northminster campus.
What will happen to the current facilities of Northminster?
The current facilities will become the Northminster campus of Atlee Community Church. Future plans include updates to the Northminster sanctuary in order to resume weekend services in the sanctuary, allowing the contemporary worship center to be dedicated for community outreach and ministry use. The Northminster campus will not hold services following the celebration service, until the inaugural service September 14. This time will allow Northminster staff and members to integrate with their Atlee church family, and energize the birth of the Atlee Northminster campus with a core group of the Atlee community, comprised of members from multiple campuses.
Who will decide if the merger happens?
The leadership of both Northminster and Atlee have prayerfully considered all the options and feel strongly this is the way God is leading and are ready to move forward with the merger. The leadership of Northminster will prayerfully address any concerns brought by its members. After a period of evaluation the membership will be asked to vote and with a 2/3 majority in favor the merger will continue.
What are my next steps?
Pray – for God’s direction. Pray for the leadership of Atlee and Northminster as they navigate the details of the merger. Ask God to show you the role you will play in reaching your community. Go for a prayer walk around the Northminster campus.
Engage – attend congregational discussions during the month of March. Ask questions. Be open and honest with any concerns you may have. Meet Lead Pastor Jeff Boggess and Executive Director and Pastor Nelson Parker.
Serve – in the areas of your passion, gifts, and skills. God wants to work in you and through you to change the world around you. The church isn’t a facility - it’s you.
Give – your tithes and offerings faithfully.
Celebrate – because God is obviously at work in the North Side of Richmond, and we each have the privilege of playing a part. This merger isn’t the idea of the leadership of Atlee or Northminster. It’s God’s idea.