When our family moved to Milwaukee 11 years ago, we came armed with God’s calling mixed with a lot of excitement and uncertainty. Soon after moving here, I had a conversation with another pastor, who had a lot of experience with church planting in Milwaukee. He said, “I don’t know if you know this, but Milwaukee is known as the ‘graveyard for new churches and planters.’ Planters go there to die.” I didn’t know that and I wish I hadn’t!
I left that conversation and did some research. He was right! At the time, Milwaukee was #1 in the country in “new church failure” rate. I left that conversation with a pit in my stomach. God, what had we gotten ourselves into!?
Fast forward 11 years, and we are grateful with all God is doing. However, we have seen more new churches not make it than make it by far! That needed to change.
One of the commitments I made to God from the beginning of church planting in Milwaukee is that if God would give us influence, we would use that influence to help/partner with other churches in our area. As a leader, I have always believed that we are not just called to lead a church, but be a part of leading THE CHURCH in our community.
The question I go back to is, “How do we best reach a city?” The answer is never just the church I lead. The answer is churches partnering together to reach a city. When I say partner, I mean so much more than just getting together to share best practices and encourage one another (even though that’s important). I mean a commitment to reproducing new churches and campuses together.
This led to what we loosely call “The SE Wisconsin Network.” Currently, this network is made of approximately 13 churches (and growing) that are committed to reproducing campuses/churches so we can reach an entire community.
In Milwaukee, we are seeing churches truly partnering together. We are seeing churches develop church planting residents, use the different churches and their approaches to provide a more diverse experience, and pool financial resources. Moreover, we are in the process of praying and planning for how many more new campuses and churches God wants to start in the next 5 years.
I am more hopeful than ever before about the future of church planting in Milwaukee and around the world. Some of it has to do with all the great resources that better prepare planters for planting. However, what excites me the most is the formation of local networks that are committed to reproducing new churches.
I believe this is the future of church planting. Imagine how much more we can do together than on our own. Imagine what God can do if we expand our vision from small ‘c’ church to capital “C” Church. In Milwaukee, the “graveyard for new churches” label is on its way to officially being buried.
Mark Weigt, Lead Pastor
The Ridge Community Church (Milwaukee, WI)
Mark is the Lead Pastor of The Ridge Community Church located just outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Mark’s passion is creating churches non-church people like to attend, which is why he planted The Ridge in 2006 to help people find and follow God. The Ridge is accomplishing its mission through two campuses and an online campus. Mark has a business degree from the University of Miami and a Masters of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky.
Are you a catalytic leader who is ready to start a great church in the Milwaukee area? Stadia is ready to help!