Church Collaboration

 How Churches Can Work Together for Mission

Option 2:  Parish Model

How Does This Site Define Parish Model?

Parish Model describes a situation where two or more churches remain separate but form a joint structure to share staff and/or support  specific ministries. The group  is sometimes called a “cluster”,  “ministry”, or “yoked churches”.  Governance can be an informal joint board or a  separate non-profit corporation. When pastors or other staff are shared the board usually hires and supervises the staff or pastor and each church contributes a proportionate share of the cost. Each congregation, however, keeps its own facility and identity.

 Many parish collaborations are rural. Multiple-point parishes are common in areas with low population density. Such rural  parishes are outside the scope of this site, but we can highlight one example, the Healing Waters Parish in Yellow Medicine County in Minnesota. The Healing Waters Parish ( started with 6 churches and 3 pastors and  now has 3 churches and one pastor as rural population declines.  but it is still works.  The Parish sponsors a joint youth program and occasionally worships together, but each church maintains its own building with its own worship service each Sunday. The Parish Model is less common outside rural areas, in part because urban church buildings tend to be larger and more expensive to maintain.

 An interesting non-rural parish example is Wildfire Ministry, a group of eight ELCA congregations in the northwest suburbs of Minneapolis.  Wildfire sponsors joint confirmation, VBS, service projects and Lenten services. It is taking a faith-based community organizing approach to relate to its communities. See or for more information.

Track Record and Case Studies

Groups of churches working together or sharing staff seems to make a lot of sense. Mutural support and cooperation is generally more effective than compition. There are some wonderful examples of such partnerships that strengthen the individual congregations, including the three cases on this page. The Parish Model track record, however, is not as strong as one might expect. It sometimes takes years of meetings to get anything off the ground, and some of the parishes that have formed sputtered out quickly. It’s not  easy to engage and involve the broader membership of the churches, and its  difficult to put together an organizational structure that doesn't require endless coordination meetings.

 In 2009 this site identified 10 inspiring Parish Model case studies throughout the United States.  A decade later nine have apparently disbanded. The one case study of the ten that is  still functioning—and apparently flourishing—is the New City Parish. New City Parish is a 25-year-old non-profit urban coalition of eight Evangelical Lutheran Churches  in the Los Angeles area. It’s focus is on transforming communities through collaborative, holistic ministries and social outreach programs. More information and a nice video are at

Parish Model Lite

In the "lite" version of the parish model two or more churches share a program without setting up a separate organizational structure. Joint confirmation classes or youth programs are the most common examples. In some cases leaders from each church share responsibilities for staffing the joint program, while in other situations one church provides the staffing (a youth worker, for example) while the other church contributes a share of the salary expense. These examples enjoy some of the benefits of the parish model without as much administrative overhead and tend to work well.

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