Two Churches, One Mission: The shared ministry of Madison Christian Community

The Madison Christian Community provides a beautiful example of how two faith communities can share resources and worship as one body. Is your church potentially moving to a combined, joint, yoked, or merged congregational structure? Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how Emily Wixson makes it work.

Madison Christian Community Wixson coordinates scheduling for The Madison Christian Community in Madison, Wisconsin, an ecumenical partnership between Community of Hope (United Church of Christ) and Advent Lutheran Church (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America) that has been working together in this way for a half-century.

With the mission of “Living Faithfully and Lovingly with God, Neighbor, and Creation,” the two churches share a single building with separate worship spaces but collaborate on just about everything else.

Other than denominational distinctions, the primary difference in the two communities is size: Community of Hope is “an intimate congregation” of some 75 members, Wixson explained, while Advent Lutheran has 335 registered members.

As a whole, she noted that Madison Christian Community presently has 248 active volunteers, of whom 145 participated in the most recent scheduling cycle.

Partners in Outreach

Madison Christian CommunityThe relatively easy part of scheduling volunteers pertains to those areas where the churches work together. “Most of our outreach ministries are shared,” Wixson said, including religious education for all ages, service in the wider community, care of the church premises, and environmental stewardship efforts. Ministry Scheduler Pro provides a huge assist in that endeavor.

“MSP works perfectly for an organization such as ours with a high degree of participation and a long history of member-initiated groups and ministries,” said Wixson. The software also helps her manage affinity groups such as Lutheran World Relief Quilters, the Food Pantry Garden Team, social justice outreach, and social groups.

It’s a “staggering” list of ministries, said Wixson, which is made easier to manage through her use of functions such as Ministry Folders and Custom Fields. In addition, all group leaders, pastors, administrative staff, and music leaders can schedule from anywhere using Web Admin access to share the responsibility for quickly making schedule tweaks and changes.

Together in worship

Still, when it comes time for those joint liturgies, the two-community structure of Madison Christian makes things a bit more complex. Each congregation celebrates special services throughout the year but holds combined ecumenical services for World Communion Sunday, Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, All Saints Day, a weekly Advent service, and Christmas Eve.

“While the Community of Hope services are relatively simple using the same set of ministries, Advent Lutheran uses both new and “classical” liturgy settings with more complex ministry requirements,” she said. “Combined services with both congregations have their own mix of ministries.”

MSP helps handle complicated scheduling scenarios for these combined services by keeping track of details, like which congregation a volunteer belongs to or tracking if a volunteer plays specific instruments for music ministries.

Madison Christian Community“We recently allowed wind instruments to participate in worship,” Wixson said. “I quickly added wind instrument positions – for example, English horn, bassoon – to services and easily notified those musicians of openings in the schedule.”
She noted that when unanticipated schedule or venue disruptions happen, MSP helps smooth out such transitions.

“There were many times during the last two years that we had to pivot our services to online, or convert from online-only to in-person, or make a service a shared service rather than separate congregation services,” Wixson recalled. “MSP made it easy to modify a service and send a message to volunteers about the changes in real-time.”

It’s beautiful when two faith communities can do ministry and worship together. However, the logistics of ministry and scheduling becomes more complicated. Take a look at our Tips for Clustered Churches resource, or speak with one of our reps for more information on how Ministry Scheduler Pro can make the merge more manageable.

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