Reaching and growing

Berkley First is a second campus of Birmingham First United Methodist Church. Their official launch was January 8, 2017, led by Rev. Zack Dunlap. ~Facebook/Berkley First

Three churches on the Detroit Renaissance District birthed new faith communities on January 8, 2017.

Senior Editor-Writer, Michigan Area

You come home from a weekend training event. You unpack your overnight case, file all the handouts, and email a voucher for the trip expenses. Then what happens? Sometimes … not much. But for three pastors on the Detroit Renaissance District a whole lot has happened since they attended the REACH Summit hosted by The Michigan Area. 

January 8, 2017 was a remarkable day as reported by the Rev. Dirk Elliott, Michigan Area’s Director of New Church Development and a leader in the REACH Network. Three new faith communities were launched that day on the Renaissance District. 

Berkley First United Methodist Church closed two years ago. The congregation gave all their assets to Birmingham First UMC with the understanding that a new church would someday rise up. 

That someday was January 8th when the rebirth of Berkley First happened as a second campus of Birmingham First under the leadership of Rev. Zack Dunlap. There were 158 people in the congregation. To prepare for this new venture in disciple making, Zack spent a year at Christ UMC in Fairview Heights, IL in a new church start residency program sponsored by Path 1, an initiative of Discipleship Ministries. 

Rev. Jon Reynolds leads “The Open Door,” a new faith community meeting at St. Paul’s UMC in Rochester. ~Facebook/Dirk Elliott

Meanwhile, in Rochester, 175 people gathered as a new faith community at St. Paul’s UMC. Called “The Open Door,” these new disciples met in Hickey Hall at the same time the congregation worshiped in the sanctuary. Rev. Jon Reynolds is the leader for what is being called a “modern, relevant, transformational” experience. Elliott notes, “It was exciting to note that there was no drain on the traditional service. These were new folks in attendance.” Rev. David Eardley is the Lead Pastor at Rochester St. Paul’s. 

Birmingham and Berkley are less than five miles apart from each other. The faith communities in Rochester share a building. The third new multi-site is “not even in the backyard,” says Elliott. Friendship Church in Shelby Township is a video venue, second campus of Friendship UMC in Canton, 90 minutes away.  

New Hope UMC closed two years ago leaving a great building in a fast-growing location. Travis Dalsis now serves as the pastor of Friendship Church Shelby Campus. On Jan. 8, around 100 people in Shelby Township heard and watched Canton’s Lead Pastor, Rev. Mike Norton, preach with the aid of a screen rising up from the floor.  

Travis Dalsis visits the Kid Palooza photo booth at Friendship Church Shelby Campus where, “Everyone’s welcome and everyone’s new.” ~Facebook/Friendship Church Shelby Campus

Norton expresses the excitement and intentionality occurring around multi-site development. He says, “Leading up to the Grand Opening, staff and volunteers of Friendship Church in Shelby Township had a presence at local festivals, art shows, farm markets, sponsored trunk or treat, and living nativity events.” Such presence was “meant to connect to individuals who will become the first participants of the new church.” Travis Dalsis adds, “It all paid off! We love meeting so many new people each week. We feel the momentum as each new person comes on board. We are totally optimistic about our potential for bearing great fruit here in Shelby.”  

While these three multi-site launches are each unique, they share a common starting point. Zack Dunlap, Jon Reynolds, David Eardley and Mike Norton all participated in REACH Network Groups focused on multiplying ministries and starting new worship services. In addition to coaching, the three new faith communities have also received grants from the New Church Development program of The Michigan Area. For more about REACH click here. 

Dirk Elliott concludes, “It is very exciting to see new faith communities reaching new people. The purpose of this effort is not just to reshuffle people from existing churches but to make new disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of world.” 

And the reach even extends beyond the formal network. Mike Norton adds, “Friendship Church is interested in having conversations with others are curious if this approach has potential for their ministry situation. Mike may be reached at



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