By Kent E. Fillinger
“Pray for One.” Bo Chancey sent an e-mail to everyone at Manchester (New Hampshire) Christian Church on the Thursday before he preached his first sermon there. He told them his inaugural message would be for each person to pray for one person to follow Christ. That Sunday, Chancey told the 1,200 who had gathered that if everyone would consistently pray for one person, the church would double in size in two years.
Chancey continued to reinforce his “pray for one” message in his various communications. “Pray for one” is now part of the church’s cultural language. People regularly approach Chancey and say, “Here’s my one!” or “I’m a one!” Said Chancey, “Everything the church does is aligned behind this very simple, but not shallow vision.”
Within the first eight months, attendance grew from 1,200 to 2,000, and the leadership realized the “pray for one” initiative was working. Soon it became obvious that the church needed to make room for one. Manchester Christian grew 39 percent in 2011 (Chancey’s first year), and the church considered expanding its existing facility. The problem? Leaders realized the church needed more seats right away, and the time it would to take build or relocate could cost valuable momentum.
Chancey served previously at Compass Christian Church, a multisite church based in Colleyville, Texas, but he didn’t come to Manchester with a multisite agenda. The church’s strategic leadership team realized multisite was the fastest and most cost-effective way to add more seats. Chancey challenged the church to seize the opportunity through giving, and the church again responded, committing $3.2 million to start new sites.
Last year the church added two new sites within a 10-mile radius of its original campus, and grew another 15 percent to an average attendance of 2,410. Manchester doubled in size in two years, just as Chancey had predicted. The church hosted an outdoor Easter service last year that was attended by 5,600; according to a local newspaper, it was the largest religious gathering in the history of the state of New Hampshire.
The close proximity of the three campuses allows Manchester to share ministries and programs across all three sites. Chancey and his team want to keep the identity of all the sites the same so people will feel like they are at Manchester Christian regardless of which site they attend. The church sent 300 people to each of the new locations to create vibrancy in the new sites, and also to free up 600 needed seats at the original campus.
Chancey’s background and career path to Manchester is noteworthy. He grew up in the Presbyterian Church and graduated from Texas A&M with a degree in history and speech communication. He received offers from several Presbyterian churches to serve in student ministry, but he and his wife felt called to worship and serve at Compass Christian Church.
Chancey started his “ministry career” interning as a part-time janitor at Compass for nine months while looking for volunteer ministry opportunities in the church. An awkward moment occurred one day in a staff meeting when he discovered the church had hired a new janitor, which meant he was out of a job. But the elders saw his ministry calling and hired him to work part-time as a student minister at the church. Chancey also worked odd jobs to make ends meet.
After six months, Compass hired Chancey full-time, and he eventually became a teaching pastor there. Chancey didn’t even have a résumé before interviewing for the position at Manchester because he always looked for a ministry calling and not a career opportunity.
Manchester is averaging 2,800 in attendance this year as it continues to “pray for one” and make room for one.