Megachurch, major communication
Lakeside Church is tweeting to stay close
Judging by the sprawling Folsom campus alone, the nondenominational Lakeside Church appears to be a daunting beacon of Christianity. The informational church meeting, aptly titled Lakeside 101, began in an auto-shop-themed Sunday school classroom, where tables were decorated with brightly colored candy dishes and workbooks that presented the Lakeside message with easy, fill-in-the-blank activities. Sixty people filed into the room on a recent Saturday morning, eager to join the already thriving Lakeside community. The church, despite its mammoth size, is still approachable; it doesn’t intimidate as one would expect from a large institution.
Lakeside is a textbook “megachurch”; it has more than 10,000 families on its master mailing list and hosts about 2,500 congregants over four weekend services. On Easter and Christmas, the church’s most heavily attended days, the attendance doubles to 5,000. A single weeklong children’s program called Blitz brought more than 900 children and 400 volunteers to the campus. Lakeside has even opened up a new campus in Orangevale, which draws in hundreds of people to celebrate God.
Much of the attraction is the appeal of Pastor Brad Franklin, lead conductor of Lakeside’s activities and teacher of Lakeside 101. He strolled into the classroom with an amiable smile, wearing a nice shirt and slacks. He blended in with his congregants rather than standing above them. Franklin seems much more like a next-door neighbor than the chief voice of Lakeside, enthusiastically explaining that he’s motivated to learn every single name in the church. In his message to the class, Pastor Franklin began by citing an interview in Parade magazine with well-known Transformers star Shia LaBeouf.
“In Parade magazine, [LaBeouf] made a statement, ‘There is a God-shaped hole in my heart, and I don’t know how to fill it,’” Pastor Franklin said. “I’m just thinking about making that the mission statement of Lakeside. There is a God-shaped hole in this world’s heart and they don’t know how to fill it, and we can help.”
Lakeside’s goal is to fill in the faith needs of the Sacramento area, and many different people desire that help. In discussing their faith backgrounds, the class wass roughly 45 percent former Catholics. Others come from a variety of faith traditions, but they have all lost their habit of going to church. Lakeside reaches those who think their faith is lost.
“The world around us is becoming less and less Christian, less and less interested in following Christ through his church, it seems. Yet there is this hunger within people,” Franklin said.
He communicates to his congregation daily on Twitter, keeps a pastoral blog, provides a video archive of all sermons and updates his church’s status on Facebook. Utilizing this technology keeps the members of Lakeside close to the church, Franklin said, and brings the kind of flexibility and modernity lacking in the classic church environment. Their nondenominational affiliation also allows up-to-date technology to be in each service, including PowerPoint presentations and image magnification.
“I tweet once or twice a day, typically. Their question is ‘What are you doing now?’ My question is ‘What is God doing now?’” said Franklin. “I can put a tweet out and say that this is what God is doing now in my life.”
Throughout the introductory class, Franklin stressed that Lakeside is much closer-knit than the large numbers suggest. He encouraged every person to get involved in a small group which interacts on a more personal level through Bible study and mission trips. That way, each Lakeside member can feel the strength of the community bond that Franklin does his best to foster.
First and foremost, in the opening blank of that work sheet on each desk in the classroom, the statement reads, “The church is a family.” It may be a massive family, but Franklin is determined to help it grow while staying closely connected.