Saddleback to Open a Private Church Campus on Easter…

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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  There are 33 Comments:

  • Posted by Milton Stanley

    Hmm. This one really raises some fundamental questions about congregations, doesn’t it?  Whether or not Saddleback’s plan is a good idea today, the Laguna Woods Village situation may have at least a loose precedent from church history. In the early centuries, when being a Christian could get you killed, weren’t most church meetings precisely the kind described here: members and invited guests only?

    Also, the English teacher in me wants to make a niggling semantic point: when you wrote “blind-sighted,” didn’t you really mean “blind-sided”?

    Nit-picking aside, thanks for bringing these issues to our attention. Peace.

  • Posted by

    I am not sure with the statement “follow the money” I think follow the Great Commission. If you have an opportunity to share and create an environment for people to grow in Jesus go for it. If it is harder to get in cease opportunity and be thankful for it.

  • Posted by

    I would think that we could all at least wait until they have their first service before we decide if it is a good or a bad idea!  And, what does “follow the money” mean?  What money?!

  • Posted by

    As a Church body, we do a service at a retirement / disabled persons facility. This facility only welcomes residents and family / guests. HMMMMMM!!!!

    Also I am the Chaplain for my son’s Boy Scout troop. Recently we had a camp out at an (undisclosed) Navy base on the coast. We invited all of the base personnel to our beach worship service that Sunday, which of course excluded the general public. HMMMMMM!!!!

    (You know,,,,, come to think of it, the Military bases have a closed campus, as it were. Can you have Church at the Base Chapelís and thus avoid the terrible, political correctness)? HMMMMM!!!!!

    Guilty as charged, and silly us, we just thought we were doing the outreach that Jesus requires of us. HMMMMM!!!!!!

  • Posted by Peter Hamm

    There is no problem here, and no controversy except that which is manufactured.

  • Posted by

    I know someone who pastors a church in a gated retirement community… Leisure World.  How is this different?  I can’t remember anyone even hinting at criticizing this guy.

    I think this is silly.  The gospel needs to go everywhere.

  • Posted by

    I have had the joy to pastor in 3 different gated communiites, each with a inter-denominational chapel. They ranged in number of regular weekly worshippers from 50 to 500. The larger one commits 50% of its budget to missions and benevolences, and is very active in ministering, not only in their immediate community, but the world outside the gates.

  • Posted by John Bunn
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