Join our pastors, the Ministry Model Committee, and our Board of Trustees as we embrace renewal within The Chapel! We envision a future of multiplying fruitful churches in pursuit of seeing the Great Commission fulfilled - a future that is deeply rooted in our rich history as an evangelical non-denominational church. For 88 years, our steadfast commitment to take hold of the gospel of Jesus Christ and share Him with the world has both bolstered us in seasons of trial and emboldened us in new endeavors with self-sacrifice and generosity.
A change like this inevitably raises many excellent questions. We want to invite you into the process of seeking answers to all of them, as openly, honestly, and efficiently as possible. We have made significant progress, and we are still very much "in the process." Therefore, many of the answers we're seeking are still yet to be uncovered in the future.
We want to step into the future that God has for us with hope, joy, and excitement, and we know that, realistically, there are many, many complex issues that we will need to navigate along the way. There are many decisions to make, and a significant percentage of these decisions will be best made by the future local elder boards that each local church assembles, after an official member vote takes place. That means we likely won't be able to answer all of your questions until later in this process.
For now, here is what we do know, and what we can confidently tell you. Click through these tabs to see all of the available information about what you can expect through this transitional phase, or scroll to the next section to see the newest information available (updated 8/25/22). At the end of the day, we have great confidence in how the Spirit is leading and moving in our midst, and it is our prayer that He will strengthen and embolden each of us to face change with great fortitude and trust.
Q: Help me understand what is being proposed. What is the new ministry model you envision?
A: Truly, there is much that will remain the same. The Chapel's longstanding commitment to strong Bible preaching, our confidence in Scripture, our focus on evangelism, our priorities of grace and truth - these remain in place, as always. The core of The Chapel remains unchanged.
What we propose, in essence, can be compared to pouring water from a 7-gallon barrel into many single-gallon buckets. Though the vessels now holding the water are a different size and shape, the contents inside have not changed. We propose a shift to a model of ministry that allows each of our 7 churches to operate locally and independently, receiving oversight and authority from a local elder board, rather than from a single Board of Trustees or a single Senior Pastor at the top of a larger organization.
Q: Why is this proposed model better than what exists within The Chapel's structure now?
A: One of the primary ways that we believe this model will serve our congregations better is that we are introducing a more robust plurality of leadership, where there is too often a singularity now. Put simply, while now there is only one man who oversees the entire church structure, we are replacing this position with a group in each location that can best identify and work to meet the specific needs of that location. No longer will an abundance of power or authority rest on the shoulders of one man alone. While Lead Pastors will still exist in each location, the heavy burden of responsibility will now be shared in a healthier way among many.
We will recreate our constitution(s) for each church to align with who we are as a family of churches moving forward. This model places all of the ability and responsibility to make decisions for the church within that church. This will afford each church an even greater opportunity to be contextualized within their community. (For example, people in Medina will be the ones making decisions that will have an impact in Medina.) Churches in local communities can more effectively position themselves to reach people in their area.
This model also strengthens our commitment to godly leadership. A model of independent local churches creates additional opportunities for men to serve in church leadership locally. Right now, there are 12 men on our Board of Trustees—this model allows for multiplication by a factor of seven as we appoint local elder boards for each church. A model that prioritizes more godly leaders lends itself to more wise decision-making and more accountability.
Q: What is the biblical basis or rationale for a new model that includes local elder oversight?
A: The Biblical norm for church leadership is a plurality of God-ordained elders. It is the primary pattern for church leadership given in the New Testament. Nowhere in Scripture do we find a local assembly ruled by majority opinion, or by one pastor/elder. Biblically, the focal point of all church leadership is local eldership. It is the elders who are charged with ruling, teaching, feeding, and protecting the church, and it is the elders who are accountable to God on behalf of the church. (See Acts 11:29-30, 14:23; 1st Timothy 1:3, 3:1-7, 4:7, 6:3-5; Titus 1:6-9, 1:13, 3:2, 3:9; 1st Peter 5:1-2)
Q: What was the biblical basis or rationale for the former/existing model? Are you saying that it’s no longer biblical?
A: At times in The Chapel's history, some Senior Pastors have interacted with the Trustees in a way that affirms their responsibility as overseers for the church beyond just a fiduciary role. In these moments, The Chapel has functioned very much like a church with a “plurality of elders.” However, the language of our constitution has never explicitly mandated such a relationship between the Senior Pastor and the Trustees, and so there was much room for interpretation here. This vulnerability enabled Senior Pastors to hold more positional authority than was wise, if they chose to interpret the constitution's vagueness here in a different way.
A healthy church is regularly re-examining itself and its practices in light of the Scriptures. While our existing church model is not operating explicitly outside of the guidelines we have in Scripture, we acknowledge the opportunity before us to become even more consistent with what we understand the Bible to say, by writing an explicit plurality of authority into our church constitution(s).
Q: How do we ease the transition into becoming multiple independent churches that are spiritually and qualitatively healthy?
A: We discern together. We have many conversations. We gain input from one another. We pray. We’re not in a hurry to rush this through. Some elements of this transition will take effect relatively quickly; others may take many months. Lead Pastors from each campus have already begun joining the monthly Trustee Board meetings, where they act as local representatives from each church, offering aid and input as the process continues to unfold.
Q: When will members be asked to vote?
A: A formal member vote is scheduled to take place on Sunday, September 25, 2022.
Q: What are we voting on?
A: The 9/25/22 vote offers members of The Chapel an avenue to formally declare their own affirmation of the five statements recommended by the Ministry Model Committee and the Board of Trustees, dealing with the role of elders and the realignment of Chapel campuses as seven independent local churches, governed by seven local elder boards. This vote also includes the affirmation of the transference of land and properties, as deemed appropriate by the Board of Trustees. For clarification, Camp Carl is not included in the authorization provided by an affirmative vote on this ballot. Any additional items requiring a subsequent vote, including any future changes to Camp Carl’s governance structure, will be communicated with the appropriate notice.
Q: How soon after the member vote will the results be shared with the congregation?
A:Ballots will be counted by representatives at each Chapel location immediately following church services on September 25. They will then be recounted independently for accuracy at a central repository the same day. We then intend to communicate the final results of the vote to our congregations via email and our church website, within several days of the vote. We will also communicate the results during our regular Sunday morning worship services on Sunday, October 2.
Q: If we agree that local elder oversight is the right model, won’t we need to wait for these elders to be appointed before any other decisions can be made?
A: We agree that there are some decisions best left to the future elder boards.
Q: How long will the full transition take?
A: Some implications of this decision can be implemented relatively soon after an affirming vote from the members. Others may take many months to be fully implemented. This vote will authorize the appropriate conveyance of assets and properties, which is one of several complexities to navigate. See below for our current understanding of how this vote will impact our Saturate Ministry, our Global Outreach Ministry, and Camp Carl.
Our current timeline for the churches to launch is being held with open hands. Our intention is to establish independence for the Saturate Campuses (Kenmore, Cuyahoga Falls, Nordonia, Medina) one at a time between April and June of 2023 and to establish independence for Green, Wadsworth and Akron simultaneously on September 1, 2023. The Board of Trustees and the Lead Pastors are more committed to launching each church wisely than we are to a timeline. The timeline will be adjusted if necessary. We hold these dates in mind loosely, and with much flexibility, as we know that there are many contributing factors at play, that could influence a shift in either direction.
Q: What do elders do?
A: We desire to see church elders hold a robust function of authority within their local churches, offering oversight to church vision, pastoral accountability, doctrine, church health, and more. We are still working through the specifics of term lengths/limits, the right number of elders for each board, and more.
Q: How is a Trustee different from an elder?
A: The difference isn’t in the name; it is in the robustness of function. It becomes a matter of what the Trustees are responsible for. In very recent history, the Trustees were responsible for fiduciary matters almost exclusively. In the future, we desire to see elders carry more responsibility over a wider variety of processes and ministry outcomes.
Q: What happens to the existing Board of Trustees if/when the new model takes effect?
A: The highest body of oversight and authority for our churches will be held by the newly-established local elders. There will no longer be one board that is responsible for the entire family of Chapel churches.
Q: Will any of the existing Trustees transition into an elder role at their church / campus?
A: Perhaps. However, no current Trustees will automatically become an elder of their local church; rather, an appropriate selection process will be followed.
Q: Will members vote for elders, or will they be appointed by the Lead Pastor in each location?
A: The Chapel’s pastors, ministry leaders, and Trustees are now considering the process by which elders will be selected. While we have not arrived at a firm decision regarding the selection process, we begin with a wealth of Biblical insight regarding selection criteria. Because we desire high levels of accountability, we are evaluating the appropriate makeup of each church's local elder board, seeking to include both Chapel pastors and qualified men of the congregation.
Q: Can women serve as elders? Why or why not?
A: No, women cannot serve as elders. Our biblical conviction has always been that the highest level of responsibility and authority for the church is reserved for qualified men. For more on this, see our document on complementarianism.
Q: Will The Chapel still have a Senior Pastor who leads over all campuses?
A. Because there will be no higher governing authority than the local elder boards, this means that The Chapel, organizationally, will no longer require a Senior Pastor. Instead, we anticipate each local church will need its own Lead Pastor. However, at this time, Chapel members are being asked to vote only on the foundational principle of becoming seven independent local churches.
Q: Is the vote limited to formal members of The Chapel? If so, why? How is “member” defined?
A: According to our church constitution, only formal members of The Chapel may participate in an official church vote. We define a "member" as anyone who has completed our formal steps to membership and signed our membership covenant.
Q: If I’m not a member, but I want to vote, can I become a member before the vote takes place?
A: This summer, all of our Chapel campuses have offered opportunities for church attendees to complete the membership process. If you are unsure whether or not you’re listed as a formal member in our church database, please contact your campus directly and we will be glad to verify your membership status.
Q: How much information will be disclosed to members prior to the vote?
A: We desire to include you in this process and will make a consistent effort to bring you in as it is unfolding. Right now, we don’t have all the answers, but we will give you as much information as we have available, knowing that some decisions will be best left to the local elder boards after their installation.
Q: It sounds like the vote will be for an agreement in principle only. Who will oversee the business decisions needed to execute the new model after the September vote?
A: The current Board of Trustees, in partnership with the current Lead Pastors, have formed work groups and subcommittees to examine various aspects and implications of this member vote. These groups have been meeting through much of 2022 to identify appropriate actions that we must take in order to make the smoothest transition possible. We desire to firmly launch each campus into their future as an independent local church when the time is right. Lead Pastors from each campus have already begun joining the monthly Trustee Board meetings, where they act as local representatives from each church, offering aid and input as the process continues to unfold.
Our pastors, Board of Trustees, Ministry Model Committee, and various subcommittees have worked diligently through the spring and summer months to consider the implications of an affirmative member vote, considering many voices along the way. The following FAQs have been made available, in the hope that we can offer more clarity to our members and attendees as we prayerfully consider together how the Lord is paving the way for The Chapel to step into the future He has prepared for us. (Updated August 25, 2022)
Q: After each campus is launched, will each church maintain The Chapel’s current beliefs, doctrinal statement, and vision/mission statement?
A: At the time of launch, each church will affirm the long-standing beliefs and doctrinal statements of The Chapel. Each church will be committed to advancing the gospel, fulfilling the Great Commission, and living out the Great Commandment with independent authority to determine their vision/mission statement.
Q: How will a plurality of elders be different than our current governance structure?
A: Our current constitution requires a few specific items to be voted on by the membership while most decisions are made by the Senior Pastor. The Trustees currently provide oversight of the Senior Pastor, primarily in fiduciary matters related to managing finances and properties. In the new model, each local church will be led by a plurality of elders. Each elder board will be comprised of both pastors and laymen. This plurality of elders will serve as the highest human authority of each church. There will no longer be a separate Board of Trustees. The Lead Pastor of each church will also serve on the elder board and his vote will count the same as each other elder vote.
Q: Who will select a new Lead Pastor for Akron?
A: We understand that there are many questions surrounding the selection of a new Lead Pastor for the Akron Campus. Tap the button below to learn more about what is anticipated for Akron.
Q: How will elders be selected?
A: The Board of Trustees and Lead Pastors of each campus have already been in discussions about the elder selection process and will develop the details in the coming months. Local elders will be in place while the church is still a campus of The Chapel. This will enable each campus to begin using an elder board and functioning as a unified leadership body before they become independent. Having an established and functioning elder board in place will be one of the minimum requirements necessary for a campus to be eligible to launch as an independent church.
Q: When will each campus transition to a local church?
A: Over a period of time based on the readiness of each church. The Board of Trustees, pastors, and prospective local elders at each campus will work together to determine when the campus is ready to launch as an independent church. Our current timeline for the churches to launch is being held with open hands. Our intention is to establish independence for the Saturate Campuses (Kenmore, Cuyahoga Falls, Nordonia, Medina) one at a time between April and June of 2023, and to establish independence for Green, Wadsworth, and Akron simultaneously on September 1, 2023. The Board of Trustees and the Lead Pastors are more committed to launching each church wisely than we are to a timeline. The timeline will be adjusted if necessary.
Q: What document will govern each new church?
A: Scripture is the ultimate governing document of each church. Additionally, under state law, as long as each church remains a campus of The Chapel it will be governed by The Chapel’s current constitution. Before a campus can launch as an independent church, it will be required to have both a functioning elder board and its own new constitution. The Chapel’s Board of Trustees will work together with each Lead Pastor and the local elders of each campus to create a new constitution for each new church during the transition process. We anticipate that the final version of each new constitution will ultimately be approved by the respective local elders and local members. The Trustees will work with legal counsel to ensure proper procedure is followed under our existing constitution and state law as it relates to legally launching each campus as its own church.
Q: How will the future independent churches interact with one another?
A: On a voluntary basis to be determined by the pastoral staff and future elders of each church. As an example, The Chapel currently participates in a consortium of churches that licenses and ordains pastors.
Q: Will each of The Chapel churches keep their current names?
A: While the churches may choose to maintain The Chapel in their name, each church, under the leadership of its elders, will have the authority to choose its own name.
Q: How will the member vote take place?
A: The member vote will be held during church services on Sunday, September 25. All persons in attendance, at all locations of The Chapel, will be invited to fill out a ballot. Printed ballots will be distributed to all in attendance and will include fields for name, address, and membership status (for verification purposes, if necessary). All ballots submitted will be counted; however, only ballots submitted by members of The Chapel will be included in the final tally. A simple majority will determine the outcome.
Voting on September 25 will be in-person only. Absentee ballots will be made available for pick-up at all Chapel locations from 9/1 through 9/18, and must be returned via in-person drop off no later than Friday, September 23, in order to be verified and tallied with the additional ballots from 9/25.
Ballots will be counted by representatives at each Chapel location immediately following church services on September 25. They will then be recounted independently for accuracy at a central repository the same day. We then intend to communicate the results that same week.
Q: What will happen to the buildings currently owned by The Chapel?
A: The properties currently used by each campus will remain with each location (Akron retains its building and contents, Green keeps its building and contents, and Wadsworth keeps its building and contents, so on and so forth.). This is the most effective way to steward these assets and maximize impact for the Kingdom.
Q: How will financial assets be distributed?
A: There are essentially three categories of financial reserves at the church – General, Outreach, and Saturate. The funds contained within Outreach and Saturate will be discussed later in this FAQ under specific headings related to each. General funds will be used by the Board of Trustees and Lead Pastors to fund ongoing operations of the church during this transition period. The period between the first campus launching as an independent church and the last one could be a meaningful amount of time based on the readiness of each church. Therefore, money will be retained in the general fund to facilitate this process to ensure each church launches successfully. The amount of funds given to support the launch of each church will depend on a variety of factors, including but not limited to, the amount of funds available in the general fund, the needs of the launching campus, the percentage of funds that campus has historically given in creating the reserve, etc. We will exercise principles of wisdom and generosity, with a unified spirit, as we seek to maximize impact for God's Kingdom.
Q: What is the future of Saturate?
A: The Lord blessed our church’s response to the Saturate campaign. Churches have been planted in Northeast Ohio and globally and Camp Carl’s infrastructure has been expanded. While our campuses transition to independent churches, each one will participate in church planting locally and globally as the Lord lays it on the hearts of its local leadership and membership.
Q: How will remaining Saturate Funds be distributed?
A: Saturate funds were allocated 60% for local church planting, 20% for global church planting and 20% for Camp Carl. Camp Carl has nearly utilized its full percentage of Saturate Funds. The funds remaining for global church planting will be used exclusively for this purpose. The majority of Saturate funds yet to be used are being held for church planting in Northeast Ohio. The Trustees are committed to ensuring these funds be used exclusively for this purpose. This includes both solidifying our Saturate plants (Kenmore, Cuyahoga Falls, Nordonia, Medina) as well as helping our more established churches (Akron, Green, Wadsworth) plant new churches in the future.
Q: What is the future of Outreach?
A: This transition is an exciting opportunity for outreach at each local church. As campuses transition to independent churches, the local leadership and membership will prayerfully determine what God is calling them to do with local outreach and global missions. Beginning with the new fiscal year in September 2022, 100% of the outreach funds given at each location will go to the local and global partners each church’s respective local leadership chooses. Missions will no longer be decided centrally. This will allow each church to focus on the outreach needs specific to its local community as well as improved involvement in specific global missions.
Q: Will the current outreach partners (global and local) still be supported?
A: Our hope is that each local campus/church continues to support many of our longstanding outreach partners. This will ultimately be decided by each local campus/church. Therefore, in order to be good and faithful stewards to our existing mission partners, the Trustees will use existing Outreach reserves to fund approximately 12 months of financial support for each of our outreach partners. This will create a period of guaranteed support with appropriate adaptability for the logistics of how we currently support Asia's Hope (Cambodia) and our other partners as we transition our outreach giving from a centralized strategy to a local one. A longer term of guaranteed support may be considered where necessary.
Q: How will any leftover Outreach funds be distributed?
A: As discussed above, any funds earmarked for Outreach will be used exclusively for Outreach. The primary use of the existing reserves will be to fund approximately 12 months of support for our existing ministry partners. A longer term of support may be considered where necessary. If there are excess reserves afterwards, the Trustees will distribute these dollars to each local church for the sole purpose of being used for local and global outreach. The amount given to each church will depend upon factors including, but not limited to, the amount of funds available to give, the need of each church to support its local and global outreach, and that church's historical percentage of total outreach giving.
Q: What about the future of Camp Carl?
A: Camp Carl represents one of the most unique and important ministries of The Chapel. Therefore, we have listed this question in the FAQs in its own section for the purpose of maximum emphasis and clarity. While we have yet to propose any formal changes to Camp, we have commissioned a Camp Evaluation Committee to examine and evaluate a variety of potential future leadership and governance structures. Camp Carl will continue in partnership and under the oversight of independent Chapel churches. The outcome of this Committee will assist the decision-making process entrusted to the Trustees.
The entire church membership will vote on any formal changes to the governance model of Camp before any campus has officially launched as an independent church, so as to ensure the broadest representation and participation of our membership during the vote. Our aim is for the ministry of Camp to continue its great work of reaching children and youth for Christ, during the transition, and afterward, have the best oversight plan for Camp's long-term wellbeing.
The Chapel has a rich, long-standing history of planting and assisting independent churches that are launched into health and autonomy. Over a dozen vibrant, growing churches exist today because of these efforts. This is multiplication for the sake of the Kingdom, and it is this legacy that inspires our vision for The Chapel's future.
After considering various aspects of a voluntary collective network, we do not expect that the independent Chapel churches will share services like Finance, IT, etc. However, we do anticipate that the future local elders of Chapel churches may very well participate in the licensure and ordination consortium for new pastors, alongside other churches previously planted by The Chapel, as is currently our norm. As independent churches, we also anticipate a continued partnership in the work and support of Camp Carl.
We understand that each independent local church will require its own church constitution and bylaws. Mission statements and core values may vary by church, but at the heart of our ministry, our theological convictions remain unchanged.
At this time, the Board of Trustees, in partnership with all of the local Lead Pastors, agree that it is prudent to create a "template constitution" that independent churches will utilize as a starting point, with the knowledge that the local elders and leaders in each location will revise as needed, to fit the unique context of their ministry. Following local revisions, constitutions will be approved by the current Board of Trustees, and then will be presented to the membership of that local congregation for a formal vote of affirmation prior to launch.
Where it is necessary to call a constitution committee, we will do so by following the appropriate steps.
We understand that there will be many complex legal and fiduciary issues to navigate in the coming months and years. Subcommittees and work groups are being formed to address questions of assets, properties, debt, legacy costs, fiscal management, tax exemption, and more. It is because of the Lord's provision and your generosity to The Chapel over many years that we are even in a position to grapple with these things, and we are grateful.
We give thanks, too, for the financial health that all seven Chapel locations presently enjoy. It is our desire to position every campus to launch into independence on the surest financial footing that we can provide, and we are confident that we will be able to do this, despite the many questions ahead, because The Chapel as an organization is financially very healthy and strong.
We desire to be sensitive to the needs of our employees through this period of transition. Our central support staff members understand that this decision does introduce a degree of uncertainty surrounding their employment, and we know that they have many questions that remain unanswered for now. We continue to encourage open discussion about these issues with them, and we would encourage the church to pray for these staff members, being mindful of the unique temptations to be anxious in which we can all come alongside in support. These good conversations are already happening and remain ongoing.
Get to know the Ministry Model Committee and familiarize yourself with the goals, objectives, and considerations they worked with throughout their process.
Read through The Chapel's current church constitution and familiarize yourself with the voting process and other important information for members.
We may not have all the answers yet, but we’re compiling a master list of questions and would gratefully add yours! Add your voice - we’re listening.