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Better Together

We're Joining with LCBC!

We’re joining with LCBC Church! This is an exciting time in the life of our church, so we want you to know what to expect as we begin this new chapter as part of the LCBC family. Watch as Mark provides a brief roadmap for the next few weeks and months.

First Steps & Growth Track

First Steps/Growth Track is an environment that will introduce you to LCBC in a smaller setting, where you’ll meet others and learn how to navigate your best next step to grow in your faith. There are three class date and location options to choose from:

Saturday, June 19, 9:00–12:00 PM, Dickson City
Sunday, June 27, 3:00-6:00 PM, Clarks Summit
Sunday, July 18, 3:00-6:00 PM, Wilkes-Barre

If you have already attended First Steps, please feel free to come one hour later than the posted time to attend Growth Track only! 

Leadership Conversations

Listen in as Mark Stuenzi and David Ashcraft, Senior Pastor of LCBC, discuss the vision and mission behind uniting our two churches for greater impact in NEPA. 

Parker Hill + LCBC Stories

Discover just a few of the stories of people who have experienced life at both Parker Hill and LCBC.

Merger FAQs

LCBC (which stands for Lives Changed by Christ) began in 1986 when a local couple invited family and friends to come to their home to pray for their son, who was sixteen at the time and had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. After a few months they began to talk about officially becoming a church but realized that the Lancaster area didn’t need another church like all the others. Instead, they asked the question, “What if there was a church where people far from God felt comfortable?” Senior Pastor, David Ashcraft, has been leading LCBC since he was called to Lancaster in February of 1991. About fifteen years ago, the LCBC Manheim campus reached capacity and township officials indicated further expansion was not possible at this location. The question was asked, “Are we finished introducing people to Jesus, or do we need to do something to allow for growth?” At this time the idea of multi-site–multiple locations for one church–was introduced. In fact, a team from LCBC met with Parker Hill in 2005 to learn more about our approach to multi-site. Since that time, LCBC has grown to include 15 campuses, ranging in size from 100 to 5,600 people in weekly attendance. For additional information about LCBC, visit LCBCchurch.com.

Simply put, a merger would allow us to be even more effective in our mission of helping people find the way back to God.

By joining forces with a like-minded Pennsylvania church, we can reach a new level of effectiveness that we would not attain on our own. Together, we can move forward faster and we can accomplish greater things. 

A merger would remove a number of limitations to accomplishing our mission. Because of staff transitions, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and future financial obstacles, we will have some very challenging days ahead of us as we rebuild. In a merger with LCBC, we would be able to regain momentum much more quickly, continue to operate all three of our campuses, fill vacant staff positions, and move to even greater levels of effectiveness. Merging with LCBC will also provide a seamless transition in leadership as Pastor Mark wraps up his time here at
Parker Hill. 

Through this merger, our staff members will have access to experienced leaders and proven systems. They will have the opportunity to build relationships and collaborate with ministry peers from other campuses across central and eastern Pennsylvania. Historically, it has taken us 12-24 months to fill leadership positions on our staff. LCBC has a two-year leadership development program which provides them with a pipeline of well-trained potential staff members.

By sharing resources, leadership, and central office staff with LCBC, we can be much better stewards of the financial gifts entrusted to us by God’s people.

The bottom line is that LCBC has developed one of the most effective ministry models for reaching those far from Christ, and we see a great deal of benefit to our region in becoming part of it.

LCBC and Parker Hill have developed an almost identical approach to creating churches that effectively engage the people of Pennsylvania. We have remarkable similarities in mission and methodology. Our staff has enjoyed a close working relationship with the LCBC staff for more than 15 years. In fact, for the last ten years, Mark Stuenzi has met with David Ashcraft (LCBC’s Lead Pastor) on a regular basis for mutual encouragement and prayer. Our deep relationship with LCBC makes it easy for us to work together to advance the gospel in Pennsylvania. 

Because LCBC and Parker Hill are so similar, there would be relatively little change experienced by the average attender. The most observable change will be receiving our weekend teaching from LCBC teaching pastors. This change will happen gradually, as Mark phases out of his teaching role by the end of 2021. LCBC has a team of several teaching pastors. Occasionally, Leslie McCarthy, a lay leader who serves as part of LCBC’s women’s ministry, is invited to teach in the weekend service—especially when the topic of the message would be better addressed from a woman’s perspective. Most of the other changes will be behind the scenes and will be in the form of systems and resources that will bolster our effectiveness. One thing that won’t change is our mission. We will keep doing what we have always done: help people find the way back to God. We will continue to provide a compelling worship experience (online and in-person). As part of LCBC, we will continue to help people get connected in authentic community, take next steps, and grow in their faith—and we will still be a church that is for NEPA! We believe that this merger will help us do what we’ve always done, but do it even better!

Because of stress-related health issues, Mark will be ending his time as Parker Hill’s Lead Pastor by the end of this year. Replacing a Lead Pastor in a large church after a long tenure is always challenging and can be disruptive. We would be looking for someone who is skilled in teaching and also has experience in leading a multi-site church. Because of that, our pool of potential candidates would be fairly small. We believe that this merger would actually be a more seamless transition for the church. In his book Better Together: Making Church Mergers Work, Jim Tomberlin says: “Succession by merging with a respected local church pastor with a proven track record who is already culturally acclimated is far less risky than the traditional nationwide pastor search process.” It’s also important to remember that we’re considering this merger for reasons that are far greater than just filling a Lead Pastor position. Ultimately, this decision is being driven by our commitment to our mission of helping people find the way back to God.

Church mergers are increasingly embraced as a way to share resources and accomplish the mission more effectively. Both LCBC and Parker Hill have experience with church mergers. LCBC has participated in five mergers with other churches (in each case, the other church approached LCBC about the possibility of a merger–LCBC has never pursued a merger with another church). In 2004, Parker Hill merged with Faith Community Church. These mergers resulted in renewed growth and greater impact for the Gospel.

In a merger, all Parker Hill Church assets and liabilities would be transferred to LCBC Church. All of our current cash assets would be set aside to be used exclusively for the ministry needs of our three locations here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The two properties that we own (in Clarks Summit and Dickson City) would be transferred to the ownership of LCBC Church. The lease on our Wilkes-Barre Campus would be transferred to LCBC Church. Our Dickson City Campus is owned under a land contract and has a buy-out price of $3,200,000. This land contract would be paid off completely as part of the merger.

In 2010, we launched our Dickson City Campus in a building that was previously occupied by a movie theatre. This campus is situated in a high-visibility location on the Scranton-Carbondale Highway. It has proven to be an ideal spot for reaching people with the Gospel in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Prior to launching the Dickson City campus, we worked with the property owners to create a unique financial arrangement. The building owners were not ready to sell the property, but the church wanted to avoid a typical lease agreement. So, we entered into what is called a land contract. Under this arrangement, the owners hold the property title in escrow and the church makes monthly (interest-only) payments. According to the land contract, we have the option to buy out the property in 2029 for $3,200,000. This debt will be completely eliminated as part of the merger.

748 Parker Hill families made a three-year financial commitment to our most recent capital campaign, For NEPA. In a merger, all of our For NEPA gifts would be set aside to be used exclusively here in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

All Parker Hill employees have been given the opportunity to continue on staff with LCBC. Most of our staff will continue to serve in their current roles. Other staff members will have a change in responsibilities, and several will relocate to Lancaster to serve in the LCBC central offices or leadership roles.

Yes, the staff at your campus will continue to serve in their current roles. Some of our other staff who currently serve in central office roles will join our campus staff teams. 

We currently give monthly financial support to four outside ministry organizations. These organizations are: NEPA Youth for Christ, 410 Bridge, BEE World, and Keystone Mission. LCBC has made a commitment to continue our financial support of these organizations for a minimum of three years, just as we did for the missionaries that were supported by Faith Community Church when we merged with them in 2004.

Yes, we will continue to be a church that is For NEPA! We will continue our school partnerships, Night to Shine, and other community outreach efforts. In a merger, we will be able to keep funding these efforts at the same level. This is another area where the philosophy of LCBC and Parker Hill are closely aligned. We both believe that it’s essential for churches to look beyond their walls and love the people of their community in tangible ways. Each LCBC campus chooses local organizations that they want to serve and support financially. For example, the LCBC York Campus (Where Mark Fitch is the Campus Pastor) partners with York Benevolent Association, Habitat for Humanity, the Youth Development Center, and three elementary schools.

For some, the prospect of a merger can stir up fear about what might be lost. One of those potential losses is influence—the sense that you will have less of a voice in the direction of the church. For the average Parker Hill attender, this will not be a deeply felt loss. In a church the size of Parker Hill, any individual member has limited influence on the overall direction of the church. For some of our highly involved members, there may, indeed, be a sense of lost influence. This will be especially true for those who currently serve alongside our staff in volunteer leadership roles. Although some of us may feel a sense of loss, it’s important to remember what we gain: greater effectiveness in our mission of helping people find the way back to God. It’s also important to remember that the most important ways we can support the mission of any church is not through our vote or opinion, but by serving others. Jesus taught that the greatest leaders in his kingdom are those who are willing to serve.

A merger would mean that we join forces with another church and become part of a larger movement across the state of Pennsylvania. Obviously, this would mean that we lose some degree of autonomy and unique identity. Conversely, it means that we gain something greater: support, synergy, and greater effectiveness in our mission of helping people find the way back to God. It’s also important to remember that scripture never encourages autonomy among Christians, but it does call us to unity. And our identity as a church is found in Christ, not in our history or name.

Last November, Mark announced that he will finish his time at Parker Hill by the end of 2021. Recently, LCBC offered Mark the opportunity to serve with LCBC Church after a merger. In this new role, Mark will leverage his leadership experience as a consultant to other churches throughout the state of Pennsylvania. This will allow Mark to continue serving in God’s Kingdom, without the pressures of leadership and teaching deadlines.

Your experience will be no different than your experience at Parker Hill, because LCBC is a multi-site church, like ours. After a merger, the same campus pastor and staff will lead and care for the attenders at your campus. The beauty of multi-site is that a church like Parker Hill is divided into smaller campuses of 1,000, 650, and 350 people. Even though LCBC is a church of 17,000 people, their campuses are as small as 100 people. We believe that our people will actually receive better care after a merger, because we will have a higher staff-to-attender ratio at each of our campuses.

Given the fact that the LCBC offices are in Lancaster, it can feel as though we would be losing a personal relationship with our lead pastor. However, this is more of a perceived loss than an actual loss. Because of the size of our church, the vast majority of our attenders don’t have a close, personal relationship with Mark Stuenzi. There is certainly a sense of personal connection that comes from listening to someone teach every week, but it isn’t possible for a lead pastor in a large church to stay personally connected with all the attenders. Over the years, as the church has grown from 40 people to more than 2,000 people, Mark has had to shift his focus from leading our people personally to leading other leaders who can connect with our people on a more personal level. Mark’s role has been to teach, lead, and cast vision for the future. David Ashcraft’s role at LCBC is the same. Our campus teams will continue to play the vital role of caring for and discipling our people at their campus. In fact, a merger will ensure that our campus pastors will be mentored by seasoned leaders, helping them be even more effective in their current roles. It is also important to note that a healthy leadership culture is woven into the fabric of LCBC Church. Even though the leaders of LCBC don’t live in our neighborhood, they are part of a community of believers
where they are encouraged, evaluated and held accountable for their leadership.

Yes, all three of our campuses would receive the weekend teaching by video. In fact, we will transition to video teaching at all three campuses even if we don’t move forward with a merger, because video teaching is better stewardship of staff time and resources. We have used video teaching since 2004 and we have found that it is an extremely effective tool. We see the same response to the teaching at all three of our campuses regardless of whether the teaching is delivered by video or in person. For several years, the teaching at our Dickson City campus was delivered by video, and we saw no significant increase in engagement at the campus when we moved the live teaching to that location.

Yes, LCBC and Parker Hill have a very similar groups philosophy and strategy (in fact, our previous Groups Pastor, Jason Castelli, is the Groups Pastor at LCBC now). All of our current groups are in line with LCBC’s philosophy and will remain the same.

Parker Hill members will have the opportunity to become Partners (members) of LCBC after attending their First Steps and Growth Track classes. We believe that this experience will be valuable in helping all of us become more familiar with LCBC’s values and ministry strategy. In fact, we are offering the first part of these classes, called First Steps, in April for anyone at Parker Hill—whether you are currently a member or not. This 90-minute class will be offered April 25 & 26 at the Dickson City campus. First Steps will be taught by Mark Fitch and Jason Castelli of LCBC Church. For more details about the First Steps class, visit parkerhill.org/lcbc.

In a merger, we would adopt the LCBC Church name over a period of time. However, you would likely begin to see changes in some signage and environments soon after the merger is approved. A public awareness campaign would take place during the summer, so it is important that those being introduced to LCBC for the first time are able to easily identify locations without confusion. Ultimately, our plan is to ensure that LCBC fully inherits the goodwill and name recognition in our community that Parker Hill currently enjoys.  It’s also important to remember that the name of a church is far less important than the people of a church and the spirit of those people. In fact, “Parker Hill Church” is the third name our church has had in the last 45 years.

Our leaders have been developing an alternate plan that
would be implemented if a merger does not occur. Because of staff transitions, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and future financial obstacles, we will have to regroup and rebuild. Over this past year, our giving fell short of our budget by $413,395 (14.1%) and we expect that deficit to grow significantly in the next 12 months. Our current in-person weekend attendance is about 30% of our pre-Covid attendance, and our volunteer crew has decreased by 65%. In light of these factors, if a merger does not occur, we will have to make some challenging strategic and financial decisions. If a merger does not occur, we will have an interim teaching pastor in place by the end of this year while we conduct a search for a new lead pastor. When it becomes financially prudent, we will start the process of filling our vacant staff positions. Above all else, we will continue to be faithful to our mission and trust God for the outcome. At the same time, we firmly believe that our Kingdom impact in NEPA can be far greater if we join forces with LCBC. We can be even better together!

Take Your Next Step!

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