Parish Model FAQ

Someone from Third recently asked me, "What is this whole 'Parish thing' about again?" in a passing hallway conversation. In fact, I find myself fielding questions all the time about the change we are making toward a Parish model of ministry at Third. Below are some basic questions and answers that hopefully you will find helpful, but we also encourage you to continue asking questions in the months ahead. It’s important we are all in this together as we seek to make this important shift.

What is the “Parish model” that you all keep talking about?

Beginning in January 2018, our congregation will be organized into eleven geographic areas called “Parish Areas.” Each Parish Area comprises about 75-115 adult covenant partners of Third plus children and regular attenders. The Parishes are being formed geographically according to where people live, and every person at Third will be automatically incorporated into a Parish. (See diagram on the following page.)

The primary purpose of the Parish Area is to serve as a vehicle for connection and care. Each Parish Area will have a team of several deacons and shepherding elders who oversee the practical and spiritual care of all those within the Parish Area. The Parish Areas also serve as a way for visitors and regular attenders to quickly get connected with someone else in the church.

This diagram demonstrates the relationship between the parish areas, the parish groups and our church, to the metro Richmond region. 

Each Parish Area will also have a collection of groups called “Parish Groups.” Parish Groups can consist of about 15-20 adults plus children, generally the amount of people that can fit into a home. Parish Groups are completely voluntary mid-sized communities of people who are seeking to grow as disciples of Jesus together and reach out to and love their neighbors.

Why are we doing this?

We are doing this for two important reasons: community and mission. Regarding community, we want to make it easy for people to enter into relationships at Third, receive care and love in community, and grow as followers of Jesus with other believers.  Regarding mission, we want to empower the people of Third to love their actual neighbors in all the many different neighborhoods all over Richmond where we live, so that the grace and goodness of Jesus can be more fully known.

Will the 100 or so people in a Parish Area meet together?

No, at least not in this first stage.  There may be a time when large-scale Parish-wide events take place, but we don’t foresee planning for that in the immediate future. Right now, the larger Parish area is being used to help direct our care and connection efforts. 

What work is being done on Parishes behind the scenes right now? 

Working Group 3 is still working diligently and prayerfully on the logistics and planning for Parishes. Our plan is to publicly launch the Parish model in January 2018, so currently we are working on finalizing the exact boundary lines of the Parishes, and organizing and equipping teams of deacons and shepherding elders for each Parish. 

What about Parish Groups—I hear that some Parish Groups have already started. Is that true?

You’re right! Some pilot groups are in place in certain areas to establish rhythms and give feedback on how things work for our launch in January. If you’re interested in being a part of this process or want to see if there’s a Parish Group in your neighborhood area, contact Beth Nichols

When can I find out what Parish Area I'm in, who else is in it, and who the deacons and shepherding elders are that are leading my Parish Area? 

Our goal, again, is launching the Parish model in January of 2018, so we’re hoping all the details will be finalized and shared by then. As any maps are finished or leadership established before that time, we will share with you at that point—hopefully this fall! 

What about my current small group? Are Parish Groups replacing existing small groups? 

No. We are encouraging new people to join Parish Groups and will be seeking to start many more of them, but we know that different kinds of groups serve different purposes.

Will we keep having worship services on Sundays and Sunday morning classes?

Yes! Sunday morning will not look much different.

Who will be supporting this new structure on our staff?

We are currently searching for a new Pastor of Discipleship and Parish Ministry who will oversee this aspect of our church life. In addition, Tom Barila has been shifting his role to include support of the deacons and shepherding elders leading each Parish Area (in addition to Sunday morning discipleship), and Beth Nichols will be supporting the leaders and formation of the Parish Groups.

What can I do to be a part of this?

First, please pray! This is a big change and we need the Lord to build this—or else we labor in vain (Psalm 127). Pray that God would lead us to the right new pastoral leader, and that God would truly use this change to see people grow in Christ and come to know Christ. 

Second, consider forming or being a part of a Parish Group. We will need many new leaders and people to get involved in these groups. Contact Beth Nichols if you are interested.

- Corey Widmer and Working Group 3