Monday, August 20, 2012

Mars Hill Wedgwood/Lake City: an open and shut case

The campus that was finally known as Mars Hill Lake City was originally Mars Hill Wedgwood. The address was:

3524 NE 95th Street
Seattle, WA 98115

Mars Hill Lake City: The open and shut case

The campus that was finally known as Mars Hill Lake City was originally Mars Hill Wedgwood. The address was:

3524 NE 95th Street
Seattle, WA 98115

The site was functioning as a Mars Hill campus from later 2007 to the summer of 2010. This was one of the smallest campuses in the Martian orbit but as you will see the campus was not only distinguished by being small but by what a non-profit fundraising professional might consider its loyal and robust donor base.

This campus was also the campus that Paul Petry was at with his family in 2007 the year he and Bent Meyer got fired.  Here is Jonna Petry's account from pages 3 and 4 of her story published at Joyful Exiles. 

The last happy thing that transpired during our time at Mars Hill Church was near Christmas in 2006. Mark had asked the elders to consider which of them felt called to lead the new Wedgwood campus in NE Seattle (formerly Anchor Baptist Church) and to let him know.  We had been thinking and praying about what was next for us as Mars Hill Church continued to grow and this opportunity seemed perfect. We went to Mark at the staff Christmas party to express this.  He was delighted, saying it was a confirmation for him. He said Paul was just the elder he had in mind. Mark brought over Lief Moi (his best friend, co-founder and right hand man at the time) to share the good news.  Lief expressed delight as well.  How excited we were.

Then something happened in late January or February. There was a shift. Mark had been seeking all kinds of information and strategy for another reorganization plan in order to "grow the church to the `next level'" and had recently had meetings with Larry Osborn in California amongst others. Paul had one meeting with the executive elders about taking on the lead pastor role at Wedgwood. One Executive Elder, Steve Tompkins, insinuated that Paul had many people who looked up to him in the church and that could potentially lead to a church split. Steve asked Paul what he had to say about that. Paul was really shocked and hurt at the poison of this remark and no doubt this had something to do with the outcome.

Many drastic changes occurred in the spring of 2007. Mark pressured all the elected executive elders [with the exception of Jamie Munson} to resign their posts, saying a new structure was necessary.  Mark also decided that Lief would no longer function as the pastor of the Ballard campus (the primary and largest campus where Mark taught mostly in person) and as a result the two of them had a horrible falling out.  This was an ominous sign for me because Mark had often spoken about his love and appreciation for Lief's willingness to go "toe-to-toe" with him and how this was vital for the health of the church.

Nobody talked to Paul about Wedgwood again until May, when in a sort of backhanded way, Paul heard from another elder, James Harleman (a former executive elder who had just resigned from that position under Mark's pressure), that Paul was no longer being considered for the position, that James was in fact going to lead Wedgwood.  That was really hard, but we covered over our stinging disappointment and chose to believe that God must have something else in mind for us.

Again, in September-October 2007 Paul Petry and Bent Meyer were fired and the rest is pretty substantially documented through primary correspondence at Joyful Exiles.

Of note is that Jonna Petry mentions an incident in which Steve Tompkins is said to have insinuated that Paul Petry had many people who looked up to him and that this could potentially lead to a church split.  Full disclosure, I attended the Lake City campus for about a year. There were people who wondered whether Lake City could potentially form a splinter church whether or not Petry was the pastor.  I informally heard people wonder whether such a thing couldn't have happened with even Harleman as the campus pastor there.  But these theories were not particularly compelling, especially since splitting off wasn't what happened.  By the summer of 2010 the campus was shut down and the various members and attenders went to other campuses.

But while Lake City existed it had a relatively early and notable reputation for giving. Let's take what Driscoll said about the Lake City campus from the Generous part 2a presentation:

December 21, 2008 Generous Part 2A)

And what’s happening now, nationally – it’s interesting as I talk to pastors – they are freaking out because their giving is going down to our levels, where we just tend to live. We tend to be a fairly lean church.

So, here’s the little friendly competition. I’ll show you what’s going on between campuses. Number one is Lake City, who I hear this morning had zero people when we started services. So, that may ruin everything for them. They were doing well ‘til today.

The average person at Lake City gives $216.00 a month, and about $2,600.00 a year. So, go, Lake City!

Number two is Shoreline, up north, $205.00 a month, about $2,400.00 a year. Tied with them is West Seattle. So West Seattle and Shoreline are neck and neck.

Number three is Bellevue, one of our newest campuses, with Pastor Jesse – about $190.00 a month, and about – just under $2,300.00 a year. Olympia, our newest campus, way down south, is a smaller campus, but so far doing well in generosity – $174.00 a month, or about $2,000.00 a year.

Downtown – $154.00 a month, about $1,800.00 a year. Ballard gets no gold star on its chart. Ballard is the Mariners of Mars Hill campuses.


It is the Seahawks of Mars Hill campuses. We hope it doesn’t become the Sonics of Mars Hill campuses, but it is at $130.00 a month, or about $1,500.00 a year. And part of our problem going into the year end, so you know, is that about half of the attendance is at Ballard. So, if things were flipped and the preponderance of our attendance was at any one of the other campuses, we would actually have met and exceeded budget. But because of the struggles at Ballard, we’re really in a pain point.

Basically, the campuses are floating financially. They’re all at or near – close to – within striking distance of budget. Not Ballard – Ballard – Pastor Jamie’ll get into the details – we’re in the middle of going from a staff of 27 to a staff of 16, possibly less at Ballard. So, big adjustment at Ballard for 2009. Some people being reallocated positions in the organization. Others losing their jobs. And so, this is a hard season for the Ballard campus, particularly, and Ballard is struggling most mightily.

During this time we at the Lake City campus sometimes heard that not only was the campus doing pretty well but that the campus was also helping to subsidize Ballard because Ballard was not doing so well.  Regular readers will note that some anonymous comments have indicated that systemic deficits and layoffs came to be expected at Ballard but that this was not the case for campuses. 

According to the FY 2009 report "It's All About Jesus" the campus breakdown for FY09 high attendance was as follows.  The average giving per adult was $2,514.  This was the second highest figure to Mars Hill Shoreline, which had an average giving per adult in FY 2009 of $2,601. So Lake City had gotten to second place but not by a particularly large margin. 

From July 2009 to June 2010 the average annual giving per adult at Lake City was $2,945, the highest of any campus during the FY2010 year.  The average monthly giving per adult was $245. The average weekly attendance was 302.  This was one of the smallest campuses in the church, though Olympia and the U-district were even smaller at 250 and 223 respectively.  But if you count the number of adult attenders the figures change. Lake City had an average weekly adult attendence of 222.  That's right.  By contrast, Olympia's adult attendence average per month was 197 and for the U-district it was 223 (for obvious reasons). So Lake City was second smallest to Olympia for adult attendence.  But, the point should be noted again, in FY2010 they had the highest annual giving per adult and the highest average monthly giving per adult.

Then with the start of FY 2011 the campus was pretty much shut down.  Lead Pastor Jamie Munson explained the situation to the Seattle Times:

Published Friday, August 13, 2010 at 10pm
By Janet I Tu
Seattle Times Staff reporter

But not everything has gone smoothly for Mars Hill financially.
For the fiscal year that ended June 30, the church was $1 million short of its giving target and had to lay off 12 employees — about 10 percent of its staff, Lead Pastor Jamie Munson said a few months ago. Its budget was $14 million.

It also ended services at its Lake City location, which over its three years hadn't been drawing as many people as expected, Munson said.

Now something that might be worth noting is that the Lake City campus launched Anchor Church in September of 2009. 

By the time the Lake City campus closed in the summer of 2010 attendence had dwindled down to a very small amount.  Word that the campus was going to get shut down was sent out, if memory serves, a few months before the end of the fiscal year 2009.  I made a point of attending the closing services there even though by then I had stopped being a member and had decided to go elsewhere for church.  Circa 2008 to 2010 attendence of sermons preached by the campus pastor could be bigger than attendance for the Driscoll video feed.  I’d begun by this time to hear people share that the campus pastors  were preaching better sermons than Driscoll. More traditional pastors might suggest that these campus pastors actually had a real communal link to the people they preached to so, duh, of course their sermons were going to be better.  But I digress.  A survey of the annual reports indicates that Lake City was a campus that was small but had a robust and loyal donor base.  Yeah, I put it in those terms but I mean that affectionately. 

When Munson told the Seattle Times that Lake City was not drawing as many people as had been expected did Munson tell the Seattle Time's Janet Tu how many people he hoped would be attending the Lake City campus? But if it's never been about numbers but lives transformed by Jesus then ... closing down a campus because it didn't draw the expected numbers could have used a bit more explanation. 

Now some guy (you can go see for yourself) posted the following comment at Wenatchee The Hatchet earlier this year.

more from the same guy said...
As long as you are doing property research you may also find it interesting that the Lake City Campus was purchased in July of 2006 for 2.0 million after being on the market for almost 2 years with a starting list price of 3 million. In January of this year Mars Hill sold the building to its then current tenants for 1.3 million. I am not sure how much went into capitol improvements for the property but my guess is that the church lost close to a million on that deal. The current tax assessed value on that property is just over 2 million

Lake City and Downtown were properties that were acquired before the 2008 housing bubble.  If youwant to dig a bit to find out who may have been involved in that process thismay be a useful resource.

Whether or not Mars Hill lost money on the sale I'm not quite situated to establish.  But observing the patterns of donor giving I would suggest that since many people who went to Lake City were originally from Ballard assimilating them back into Ballard could have helped.   That's not what happened as best I can guess, many went over to the Shoreline campus, though I can't say how many of those have stayed even there.  Harleman was executive pastor at the Shoreline campus for a while and now is not listed as a pastor anywhere, neither is Chad Toulouse who, for a brief while, replaced Harleman as executive pastor. Neither Harleman nor Toulouse are executive pastors at Shoreline now and neither, so far as I can tell, seem to be listed as pastors at Mars Hill in any capacity.  

Where they are now is not something I will necessarily field at this blog. Longtime readers of this blog have by now figured out that I only write a fraction of the stuff I know, most of it based on stuff I can establish from primary sources and direct observation from my time at the religious institution.  

Those with access to publicly accessible records and so on are welcome to contribute if they find stuff.  So far as I am aware Lake City was the only campus in the history of Mars Hill that was shut down.  The Leary building got dropped in favor of Mars Hill Ballard but that wasn't a shut down case.  Lake City may be said, so far, to be the only open and shut campus in the history of the institution that I'm aware of.  If there are other cases people can weigh in, though. 

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