Dear Church Family,
2024 is going to be an incredible year at Anderson Hills! I’m thankful for everything that God did in 2023, and I believe that God will continue to build on that work as He has for over 200 years. I want to share three examples of obedience; one that shaped the past, and two that are shaping our future, including some important staffing changes we are planning during 2024.
First, we became a multisite church in 2019 when we partnered with Salem Church, whose roots go all the way back to 1805. In its early years, Salem was visited by many famous preachers, including Bishop Francis Asbury (one of the most influential Methodist leaders). Salem has a long history of faithfulness, but it has remained a small church throughout its history. Eventually, Salem could not financially sustain future ministry, and the door opened for Anderson Hills to become a multisite church.
Becoming multisite is more than just having another physical location; it is a massive shift in ministry strategy. We felt the Lord calling us to say “yes” to this opportunity to reach new people and breathe new life into a historic church. We raised $450,000 to remodel the church building and parsonage, and made some essential repairs at McCormick. We reopened Salem in September 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The timing wasn’t ideal, but God is always faithful! Our vision for Salem was, and is, to be a place of healing and hope.
Our initial multi-site strategy was “One Church in Two Locations.” This was a logical choice because we started the Salem Campus with faith, but without a financial surplus in our operating budget. That means that we needed to do two things: spend some savings to help Salem grow to become financially self-sustaining and adopt an efficient structure that duplicates Anderson's ministry whenever possible (using the same sermons, children’s curriculum, classes, and such). This is an efficient strategy to maximize ministry budgets and staff resources.
However, this strategy has a significant flaw because Salem is seven minutes away from Anderson. A second campus that mostly duplicates the ministry of the original campus is not strategic. Its ministries can feel like smaller versions of what we already do effectively. We saw the need for Salem to be more unique, so I empowered Pastor SueLee to make some changes to the worship services to best fit the needs of that campus. This was not a radical shift for Anderson Hills, considering that we have two unique styles of worship at the Anderson Campus already.
God is blessing these changes, and we are seeing new growth at Salem! Salem giving has grown by 56% between 2021 and 2023. In 2023, Salem funded 70% of its expenses, and the rest came from our savings. I view that as our continued act of obedience to God’s call.
Second, Pastor SueLee Jin sensed God calling her to lead the Salem Campus, and God has blessed her ministry with great fruitfulness. She has led us through the initial challenges of launching a campus, has brought spiritual and numeric growth, and has overseen the launch of numerous effective ministries. I am so thankful for her leadership!
If you know SueLee, you know that she is a person whose life is led by the Holy Spirit. A few months ago, she shared with me that she feels called to step away from leading Salem in September 2024, as she believes it is time for new full-time pastoral leadership to take Salem to the next level. While I will miss her leadership at Salem, I appreciate her obedience to God’s voice and her integrity and care in giving us a lot of time to plan.
Third, Erik Wilson and I have shared many hours of conversation about a new call from God in his life: the call to pastoral ministry. While Erik is an incredible worship leader and musician, he also has a pastor’s heart, a call to preach, and a deep passion for serving the Lord in whatever way He calls. While I do not want to lose Erik as our Contemporary Worship Leader, I have complete confidence that this is God’s call, and that God’s best work in Erik’s life is ahead in pastoral ministry. He has been excelling in seminary classes and will qualify for ordination at Anderson Hills late this summer.
I felt led by God to invite Erik to pray about becoming the Salem Pastor. As he was considering this, SueLee told me that she was feeling the same thing. She has been praying for the next pastor who operates with the gift of the Holy Spirit, loves to pray, loves Jesus, and works with other pastors in the community. As she was praying, Erik came to her heart. After prayerful consideration, Erik has affirmed that this is God’s call.
Erik’s first Sunday as Salem Pastor will be September 8, 2024. The long lead time will ensure an effective transition at Salem, and give us more time to conduct a thorough search for our next Director of Modern Worship (formerly called Director of Contemporary Worship). We will begin this search immediately.
We are also prayerfully discerning with Pastor SueLee about the possibility of a part-time pastoral role at Anderson. We will keep you posted on our progress in these important areas.
Additionally, we believe this is a perfect opportunity for us to further our vision for enhancing the uniqueness of Salem. In fact, we believe in this vision so strongly that we are going to consider this a re-launch, with a new name and branding, website, and oversight of its own ministries. Salem will still be part of Anderson Hills, and I will continue to be Erik’s supervisor. But as its full-time pastor, he will be empowered to lead Salem in similar ways that I lead Anderson. This is a new model of ministry for us, and I believe that it is exactly what we need to reach many new people at Salem and to help it grow to a place of financial self-sustainability. We expect that will happen within three years, because that is one of the key indicators of health.
I know this news is significant, and I invite you to visit andersonhills.org/transition for the most up-to-date information throughout this process. As always, we are committed to keeping you informed of our progress. Most importantly, I ask you to pray for SueLee, Erik, our future Director of Modern Worship, Salem, and our Worship Center services at Anderson. Pray that God will “wreck our roofs” bringing opportunities and growth we’ve never before imagined.
Even though we will miss Erik being in the role he has been in, we are excited that he will still be a part of the AndersonHills family and do great things in new ways. Healthy churches provide the soil for staff to grow into their calling from God, and I’m really thankful that Erik can continue to do that here. I am thankful to serve with leaders who are obedient to God’s call above all else. Nothing is more important, and there’s nothing that God can’t do. We continue to pray for God's kingdom to come at both campuses of AHC as it is in heaven with the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. We will keep you updated on the process on our web page andersonhills.org/transition.
Praying with you for God’s best,