How did this merger idea come about?
The mission of Grace City Church is to make and mature disciples of Jesus. Our vision is to be a centrally located, inclusive/diverse church that intentionally pursues younger generations and takes the gospel to the everyday street level where people live, work, gather, and create. Our purpose is the glory of God and the genuine good of our neighbors.
Years ago, as the Lord was calling us to uproot from East Denver and replant in the heart of downtown, that shift was accompanied with a conviction that we needed to learn from — and partner with — others who had significant experience doing Gospel-centered ministry in specifically urban contexts. This led us to partner with two main church planting networks: Redeemer City to City and Acts 29. We also built relationships with the Denver Institute for Faith and Work and Made to Flourish — two nonprofits that focus on the connection between faith and work for the common good.
In following the Spirit’s leading step by step, we began to cross paths with Park Church on a regular basis. We belonged to the same networks; we were often doing the same kinds of ministry in the same place at the same time; we were attending the same conferences; etc. Over a couple years, our awareness of each other’s ministries grew into a mutual respect and a friendship between some of our leadership and theirs. We began talking about potential opportunities for partnering together for the glory of God and the good of our city. And in August 2020, this conversation became a question: What would be possible if we actually partnered to do ministry together?
Why are we considering a merger?
The main reasons are 1) alignment, 2) opportunity, and 3) fruitfulness.
1) Alignment: Each local church is part of the larger “invisible” Church that includes Christians everywhere. All who believe the Gospel belong to this universal Church and are brothers and sisters in Christ. At the same time, we recognize there are many different traditions, denominations, networks, and styles of local churches that do not all share the same secondary and tertiary beliefs – let alone customs, ministries, or worship practices.
One of the main reasons Grace City and Park began to consider a merger was because of the unique and extraordinary degree of alignment between our two congregations. Though Park is many times larger, and certainly experiences a different size dynamic, our two churches are very closely aligned in many other ways that are significant: our theology, our church planting networks, our mission and vision for city-centric Gospel ministry, our priority of multiplication, and several of our specific local partnerships with nonprofits.
2) Opportunity: We believe the Spirit of God has been directing the stories of our two churches for many years to present us now with this exceptionally providential opportunity to merge.
Park’s 10-year vision includes planting additional congregations of Park Church around the city. One of the most strategic locations is downtown – where Grace City has just invested in a brand new, but underutilized, facility at the prime intersection of Broadway and Park Avenue.
Grace City has a strategic Gospel vision for the renewal of our surrounding neighborhoods, but we often lack the human and financial resources to execute critical elements of that vision. We have a shallow bench for many key roles, and some other key pieces are missing altogether. As a much larger church, Park often has staff and/or volunteers committed to these very roles that we lack. It makes sense to recognize these giftings and abilities, and leverage them now for the sake of the Gospel.
Because of COVID, the official, public downtown launch of Grace City was put on hold back in the Spring of 2020. As we think retrospectively about the providential timing of things, we believe God had us tap the brakes on our vision/schedule so that we could dream and strategize together with Park for a future that’s bigger and better than what we ever could’ve imagined on our own.
3) Fruitfulness: There’s a popular saying in Christian circles that “God just wants us to be faithful.” But it’s not quite true. God also calls us to be fruitful. We are to steward our resources and opportunities as best we can to bring forth much fruit for the kingdom. Another core reason for this merger is that we believe, by working together, we will become significantly more fruitful in making and maturing disciples of Jesus.
What are the benefits of this proposed merger?
1) Immediately reach a much larger and more diverse demographic. With a larger and more diverse staff, as well as 100-200 more people joining the downtown congregation, this accelerates our ability to love and serve all our neighbors.
2) Improve and multiply the Gospel-in-real-life contexts for both congregations. A merger fulfills our vision to have Gospel Communities in all 9 sectors of the metro area, which gives both congregations more options to choose from (based on schedule and geography). Grace City will gain access to new development and discipleship opportunities like vocational cohorts, symposiums, conferences, and retreats. Park will gain access to new street-level service and social justice opportunities, especially amongst our marginalized neighbors downtown.
3) Eliminate the duplication of effort and expenses; choreograph to go further faster.
4) Allow staff to streamline their roles to focus on a few key areas of expertise that benefit both congregations. For example, Matt will be freed up to focus on vision, strategy, preaching, and counseling.
5) Provide immediate support and encouragement to the downtown congregation. A merger means instant critical mass, renewed energy and vision, additional counseling/discipleship resources, and exposure to many new friendship opportunities for the downtown congregation.
In the merger, what will change?
Our name and branding will change to Park Church Downtown.
You will see more people on Sundays and you will hear from some new leaders, as the merger enables us to change to more of a team-teaching approach. You will have many more options for fellowship, discipleship, outreach, and service opportunities than ever before.
What is a multisite church?
A multisite church shares mission, vision, values, philosophy of ministry, some staff, and numerous resources. We will share a big “C” gospel-centered Culture and work together as one citywide team while allowing each congregation its own little “c” culture that fits its unique neighborhood context.
We will dream, pray, and plan together, considering how multiple congregations can work together to make the greatest kingdom impact on our city. Some staff and boards will have oversight and responsibilities over multiple congregations, others will focus just on their own local congregation.
The multiple neighborhood congregation model is proven to be more effective at reaching more people for Christ than one ever-expanding megachurch model. And, since church planting and multiplication is in both churches’ DNA, we will retain both sites/congregations from Day 1 of our merger.
Who will be our pastor?
Gary McQuinn will continue to lead the Highlands congregation of Park Church and provide oversight to both congregations. Matt Hand will continue to lead the Downtown congregation. Miguel Warren will join us downtown as a congregational pastor and part of our preaching team, while continuing to oversee small group development for both congregations.
Richard Lawrence is working closely with Joel Limpic (Park’s pastor of liturgy & arts) to grow and merge our worship teams, as well as our AV and livestream ministries.
A number of other pastors, elders, and staff members will split time serving both congregations. The merger will give us immediate access to more leadership in the areas of men’s/women’s ministries, college ministries, family/youth/children’s ministries, counseling and formation ministries, and much more.
Will our church have a new name and what will it be?
Yes, Grace City Church will become Park Church Downtown.
What will happen to our current leadership team?
One of a few things will happen with our current elders and deacons that were scheduled to serve through June 2021:
1) Some that were already planning to roll off will simply roll off in the merger.
2) Others that were planning to remain on will be given the opportunity to maintain similar responsibilities within the downtown congregation, even though not everyone will retain the exact same title and role.
3) As soon as reasonably possible, we would like some elders from each congregation serving on one joint oversight board for the entire church. These elders will be chosen based on their qualifications, pastoral giftings, and experience — not based on trying to get the same number or percentage from each congregation.
4) We also want some form of localized leadership (i.e. congregational elders and deacons). Though the details and timing are still being worked out, it’s likely some current leaders will be equipped and ordained to serve on these teams with additional, new leaders in the near future.
What will happen to the church’s facilities?
Grace City doesn’t own any facilities, but the current leases with Asterisk and Broadway will be extended so that we can continue to worship, grow, and serve in our current location. More staff from Park will come work with Matt downtown at the Broadway offices. Going forward, a number of joint Park Church events, conferences, and symposiums will be hosted at Asterisk for all to enjoy.
What will the worship services be like?
Richard Lawrence has been meeting with the worship leaders at Park Church for several months, and they are working together to integrate our philosophies of worship, our liturgies, and our respective styles. We will change a few things downtown to better match the current practices of Park Church (e.g. weekly communion), but the overall liturgy will remain similar to what you are accustomed to.
We will be integrating musicians/artists from Park Church, platforming additional leaders, upgrading our livestream video capabilities, and gradually adapting to reflect the diversity of our growing faith community.
For the majority of the year, both congregations will share a preaching and worship calendar, so that multiple leaders can speak/lead at either congregation.
Note that if we get enough people wanting to attend downtown in person while our attendance is still restricted, we will shift from a single Sunday morning service to two Sunday services, times TBD.
Who will be the main preacher(s) and how will the sermons be delivered?
Matt Hand will remain the main preaching pastor downtown, but we will be adding other voices to better reflect the unity and diversity of our team. Miguel Warren will be preaching downtown approximately once a month. Other pastors from Park Church Highlands will also preach downtown on occasion; Matt will also preach at the Highlands on occasion, so that we are building a camaraderie and shared voice between the two congregations.
Our general format of practical, in-person, expository preaching is the preferred format of both churches. So you will hear similar Gospel-rich content from a diversity of voices going forward.
How will the budget and finances be managed?
Park’s budget is currently set and managed by their finance department (overseen by elders) and a third party accounting firm. We will accept their oversight and best practices as a part of this merger. Some of our congregational leadership will participate in the annual budget planning process. Tithes and offerings will be designated to a specific congregation but we will operate with one central budget.
How will current membership be transferred?
Current members of Grace City will automatically become members of Park Church. However, we encourage both members and those interested in membership to attend Park’s Foundation Class in the near future as a way of learning about and integrating into our new, larger family. Details on class times will be shared ASAP, but the first is tentatively planned for mid-April.
Will our networks or affiliations change?
No. Grace City and Park Church are both non-denominational and already share the same networks and affiliations, so these will remain the same.
What will happen to our supported missionaries and organizations?
They will all be fully funded for at least another year. Beyond that, all missionaries and church planters will be subject to the renewal/funding process that our congregations will share at that point. Additionally, we encourage you to support a missionary or church planter directly, if you so desire.
What will the merger cost? Can we afford it?
Due to years of generous giving and faithful stewardship at both Grace City and Park Church, both congregations are in a very healthy position financially. There are some relatively minor legal and rebranding costs that can easily be covered by the current assets of the two congregations. The rebranding team (who often does our sermon graphics) is in on staff at Park.
What does this mean for Gospel Communities?
This Spring, our Gospel Communities will continue as normal so that you have space to process this transition/merger with friends. As more people join our downtown congregation, we will add more Gospel Communities. Though new small groups will be congregation-based, we understand that some people will choose to participate in a group that includes members from both congregations. At least initially, Miguel Warren will provide training and oversight for the Gospel Communities of both congregations.
What does this mean for GraceKids and teens?
Both churches use The Gospel Project curriculum, and we’ll continue to use the same curriculum in both locations each Sunday. Park Church has both a Director of Family Ministries and a Family Ministry Coordinator on staff who will be working closely with our downtown congregation to train and schedule volunteers to help with the care and discipleship of our kids. Due to the anticipated influx of young families with children, we will formalize check-in/out and other procedures and likely open all three classrooms to serve as many of our youngest members as possible (pending a dropoff in COVID numbers).
Our teen ministry will be combined across both congregations, so that our middle and high schoolers are able to do life together with more youth who are striving to live for Christ in the city. Together, our groups reach an important critical mass that enables us to hire a full-time Student Ministry Director, who will partner with our current key volunteers to serve our youth.
Who will decide if this merger happens?
The leadership teams of both churches unanimously recommend this merger after 5 months of prayer, meditation, and candid conversations that left no stone unturned. We are asking you as members of Grace City to vote in support of this recommended merger.
According to our bylaws, the vehicle for accomplishing this merger is technically a vote to dissolve Grace City Church and roll our assets forward into a combined Park Church. [NOTE: Oftentimes the dissolution of a church means it has failed, grown unhealthy over time, or died. In our case, this merger is driven not by survival but by mission. We are healthy and growing — and so a vote in favor of dissolution is simply a positive and necessary step to officially merge with Park Church.]
In terms of “who will decide,” we simply need a majority vote of members present at a special meeting to approve the leadership’s recommendation to dissolve and merge our assets with Park Church. That said, we would love to see overwhelming and enthusiastic support, given the potential that this merger has to catalyze a Gospel movement in both of our congregations and neighborhoods.
What is the timeline for this proposed merger?
We are announcing our merger plans on January 24. We will host a virtual family meeting on the evening of January 31 to answer questions, share vision, and pray together. Both churches will spend a month in prayer and we will host two worship, prayer, and vision nights at Asterisk during the month of February. On February 21, Grace City will hold a formal churchwide vote to dissolve and merge into Park Church.
During the month of March, we plan to hold preview services and prayer times as we learn how to integrate our teams. On Easter Sunday, April 4, we plan to publicly launch Park Church Downtown. Over the next year we will continue growing and integrating as one church in two congregations.
What are my next steps?
1) Process: What are you thinking about this big announcement? What are you feeling? What questions, doubts, fears, suggestions, and joys do you have?
2) Pray: Humbly surrender all that you feel to the kind lordship of Christ. Thank him for his providential leadership in our lives. Pour out your praise for all the ways this merger excites you. Join us in praying for Spirit-filled unity, peace, and joy throughout this transition. Ask God to show you how he wants you to be involved in this new endeavor.
3) Pass along: Please share your feedback with our leadership team so we can walk you through whatever questions you have, equip you for a healthy transition, and care for your heart/mind/soul/emotions during this season.
4) Participate: Join us for our live Q&A. Join us for one or both of these important prayer & vision nights. Take ownership of your church and let God work through you.