Orginally published on Monday, April 06, 2009 at 6:22 AM
by Todd Rhoades
Over the years, I've heard churches described as 'country clubs'. But Saddleback this week has a bit of a controversy on it's hands. You see, for the past eight months, the church has been planning a new venue. The site that was chosen was the Laguna Woods Village, a private retirement community and club. It all seemed simple enough: use a nice facility in a community where many of Saddleback's attenders already live. And no one really thought twice when Saddleback's venue pastor, Matt McGill said: "Saddleback Church is planting a regional campus in the Laguna Woods Village for the Saddleback members who live within that community, because Saddleback Church has a large amount of attendees and small groups who have expressed a desire to have Saddleback Services on Sunday morning in their community." No problem there. But when Matt said that he hoped that other people from the Laguna Woods area would come and make Saddleback their church home, it sent up a red flag...
Why, you say?
Well, because Laguna Woods Village is a private community. Here’s what their statement about their religious ‘clubs’ says:
Some recent controversy has arisen in Laguna Woods Village over a misunderstanding of how an official club or organization may utilize GRF facilities.
Spiritual organizations (such as a church) can become officially recognized Village organizations through the application to GRF per the terms of the Recreation Division Policy Manual posted on http://www.lagunawoodsvillage.com. GRF has permitted many religious organizations to become official Village clubs or organizations.
Some of these religious organization clubs hold their meetings and worship services at the Village clubhouses. The primary membership of an official Village organization must be comprised of Village residents. Guests of residents are allowed by GRF to utilize the community facilities when accompanied by that resident- an official club meeting is no exception. But, GRF rules do not allow persons uninvited and unaccompanied by a Laguna Woods Village resident to attend their gatherings.
So… in reality… you will not be able to attend Saddleback’s new campus next Sunday (Easter) unless you are a resident of Laguna Woods Village, or are attending WITH a member of Laguna Woods Village.
So, Saddleback may have just inadvertently started America’s first ‘gated’ multi-site campus.
Not sure how this all came about, but when the Orange Country Register runs an article with the headline “Saddleback Church offers apology for Laguna Woods statement”, it can’t be all good, at least in the PR Department.
It sounds like Saddleback might have been blind sighted on this one. It sounds like they thought that anyone would be allowed to attend. Evidently, that’s not the case.
Let me be clear on my thoughts: any church should be able to have a campus anywhere they like. Is it ok to have a gated-service at an exclusive club? Yeah, I’m fine with that; although I don’t know if that would be the best use of resources. It sounds like that might not have been the desired result here anyway. It sure does seem that it limits the effect that your campus can have if you have a closed group of people to invite. Then again, maybe it makes it easier because you have a closed group of people to invite. (Although, I’m guessing that Laguna Woods Village has just as closed a policy on advertising and invitations to it’s members.)
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