Last week, the Ballard (WA) News-Tribune posted an article with reaction to the recent closing of Mars Hill locations in downtown Seattle and the University district. Mars Hill leaders hope that the people who attended the closed locations will move to the Ballard campus. In describing that campus to the Ballard paper, church spokesperson Justin Dean is quoted as saying:
The Ballard church has been growing and is in a strong position to support those coming in from other churches.
I say “quoted as saying” because it is hard to believe he was quoted properly.*
I have comments from several Ballard attenders and former leaders who tell me that attendance at Ballard has followed the downward trend of the other locations. Reports are consistent that attendance has gone from about 1,100 adults/week a year ago to around 450 adults/week this September thus far.
I asked Justin Dean for comment and/or attendance figures, but have not received a reply. I will post any information I get.
I want to add that Dean again placed the blame for the recent declines on the leadership of the church.
“Some of our churches can no longer support the ongoing costs associated with their buildings and paid staff. We acknowledge that the reason for much of the decrease in attendance and giving falls to us, the leadership of Mars Hill,” said spokesperson for Mars Hill, Justin Dean.
This statement could be a positive sign. However, it is unclear what the leadership is owning. Perhaps, they believe they have done a lousy PR job. Or perhaps they acknowledge the validity of various concerns which former members and leaders have raised.
The question about growth at Ballard is a case in point. Is the statement a factual one with public disclosure coming to back it up? Or is it spin? Or is it an unfortunate misquote? Mars Hill Church can show positive movement by a transparent explanation or signal business as usual by allowing the disconnect between rhetoric and reality hang out there without comment.
*I realized after I posted this that my wording implies that the reporter may have been in error. I have been assured by the writer of the newspaper article that Dean was indeed quoted correctly. I can also add that I never heard from Dean.