The Third Church Presbyterian community meets in Richmond, Virginia with the mission “Called together for the renewal of all things through Jesus Christ.”
For Third, that means a new model for church, a decentralized Parish model. Each of the eleven parishes will consist of around 100 people, and the parish will be the main mode of community and ministry for the church. The parishes are overseen by elders, and the church still meets corporately for worship.
The model is unique, but its benefits are profound. Here are 3 ways the model differs from centralized community:
I. Parishioners will be able to develop deeper relationships as a small community.
Often, churches of a certain size can leave attendees feeling distant or unconnected, as if the size of the church in its sheer volume means that they can’t be a significant part of it. This desire for a ‘small church feel’ is part of the Parish model, because in the small communities, the larger church is broken into smaller communities where people can easily connect, be known and serve together.
This is a microcosm of the church at large, unified, but separated into different communities. This model is designed to foster a sense of family and closeness that may not easily arise out of a large church environment, especially one where people primarily go on Sunday alone.
II. It enables a distributed form of congregational ministry.
Every neighborhood is different, and the Parish model allows each group to think contextually and uniquely about service, ministry and evangelism in their respective neighborhoods.
When the work of the church is highlighted for a parishioner as an act of service in ones own neighborhood, the hope is that those acts of service deepen the bond between the community and the church. This model allows for incarnational ministry, because it maximizes the knowledge about a neighborhood that the people who live there will have.
Additionally, what this means is that people are more motivated to serve their communities. Service becomes an act of love investment in ones local context, and in the company of a small community of developing, deepening relationships, that service can be the platform for profound growth and ministry.
III. It allows for polycentric pastoral leadership.
The fivefold model of ministry means that one person is not enough.
What the Parish model fosters is a combined leadership team, one where more people are involved because more parishes requires more elders and pastors.
What that means for the church is that many leaders are allowed an opportunity to collaborate for the kingdom. It allows a space for each persons theogenetic code to be useful in the context of local ministry leadership. This means the leadership of the church is interwoven, strengthened by peoples’ unique giftings.
The Third Church plans to make the leap to this new model of ministry starting early next year. To learn more about the Third Church or to find their service times or contact info, please visit their website here.