You could say that Beulah Alliance Church has kept its missional edge as a 95-year-old church by operating like a school kid struggling with math: Multiply any way you can.
Based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Beulah has used its “diverse multiplication” approach over the past six years to:
- Plant a church 25 minutes from its main campus
- Merge with a Hispanic congregation
- Launch a multisite video venue
- Start an Arabic congregation in its facility on Saturday nights
- Help start three churches in Vietnam
In all, more than 50 church plants trace their roots back to Beulah through its history.
“We embraced the reality that unique populations of people would be reached in different ways, and that it was dependent on leadership and opportunity,” says Senior Pastor Keith Taylor. “We observed that church plants in the past had exponentially increased the church’s reach across the area.
“So we were committed to multiplying into new populations, including some of the ethnic populations that were rapidly growing in our community.”
Multiplication vs. Relocation
As an older congregation, Beulah made the decision to keep multiplying itself versus relocating to another part of the city and building a bigger facility to replace its 1,300-seat auditorium.
“We were in doubt that the younger generation would be attracted to an even larger venue,” Keith explains. “There were very few examples of thriving congregations in western Canada that filled larger venues. So why not multiply congregations and meeting times, rather than build a larger auditorium?”
The church has had to get creative with facilities for its multiplication efforts.
Beulah’s church plant 25 minutes away from the main campus has grown to 225 attenders in a rented Community Center. The video venue meets in a movie theater, and has grown to 200 on the weekend. For the merger with the Hispanic church, Beulah purchased the ethnic church’s facility, and started an English-speaking service there.
The Arabic-speaking church on the main campus meets in Beulah’s chapel during the mother church’s Saturday night service, and Arabic children attend the English kid’s program. In Vietnam, the church has partnered with an ex-patriot congregation in Hanoi to start a multi-site congregation there and a new international church in Ho Chi Minh City.
“A remarkably robust economy in our city over the past ten years has challenged multiplication due to the limited options for gathering space,” Keith adds. “Yet we are still desiring to reach out!”
Mission Continues from a Seed
Beulah’s desire to stay mission-driven and externally focused as it heads toward completing its first 100 years in ministry goes back to the DNA instilled by the church’s founder in 1922.
“Our founder had a deep sense of mission,” Keith says. “He saw himself not coming here not only to pastor a local church, but with a mission to reach northern Canada. He came with a missional mindset. It’s been our challenge to figure out how to express that in each decade of our existence.”
The church’s multiplication moves have come from a heart to “take spiritual responsibility” for 1% of its city—or 10,000 people. “We started asking ourselves what that would look like,” Keith says. “It made us dream different dreams.”
Keith believes that one of the challenges of being a “mature” congregation is that the organizational life cycle from launch-and-growth to plateau-and-decline is even shorter for an older congregation than for a young one.
Typically, a church plant or younger church may see continued growth for 10 to 15 years before it has to “recalibrate” and re-establish a fresh vision for reaching a community, Keith explains. But he believes that cycle for an older church is more like six to eight years.
“It’s easier for an older church to slip into maintenance mode, where we’re just running the systems and pulling the levers,” says Keith, who has been at Beulah 25 years and led the church through four major revisioning and planning cycles. “You have to re-engineer what’s going to reach the community and revitalize often, or you get stuck.”
Multiplication Begets Mission
Beulah has seen its multiplication mindset spark innovation and ministry creativity in laypeople who are launching their own missional initiatives. One member got the vision for building schools in Africa, and has raised financial support and a team for the ministry without any paid staff involvement. Another Beulah member launched an Alpha program for youth at a First Nations school where she teaches. The impact was so great, the Band counsel approved her to take 20 of the kids to a major Christian youth rally in Edmonton.
“There is nothing as unifying and empowering to a church as when it begins to move on mission,” Keith says. “Right now as a church, we may have multiple expressions. But for other churches who want to walk this path, it’s just starting at some point to say, ‘How do we get outside of ourselves and begin to move?’
“So I would say to other pastors, ‘Take steps. Move, push toward getting the church outwardly focused on mission’ and see what happens.“