North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

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January 10, 2013

Church of the Highlands comes to Fultondale

FULTONDALE — The largest church in metro Birmingham is expanding its reach into north Jefferson County.

Church of the High?lands, an independent megachurch based in the Grant’s Mill area of southeast Jefferson County, will open a new campus in Fultondale in February.

The church will meet at Fultondale Elementary School, with the first worship service scheduled for Feb. 3. Two services will be held each Sunday, at 9:30 and 11:30 a.m.

Church of the Highlands is one of the most successful proponents of a concept known as “multi-site” churches, where individual worship teams and campus pastors are present at satellite churches but the sermon is presented via video screens. In Highlands’ case, Pastor Chris Hodges presents his sermon live, which is then streamed to worshippers at satellite campuses via an Internet connection.

“The screens are so large that you feel like you’re at our Grant’s Mill location,” Fultondale Campus Pastor Blake Creel said. “Every?body basically watches a screen, even if you’re at Grant’s Mill, because of the distance to the stage.”

The Fultondale campus will launch one day before the church’s twelfth birthday. The multi-site concept came when a church in the Riverchase area lost its pastor and asked Highlands to take it over, Creel said.

Since then, the church has expanded to eight physical campuses, including Greystone, Woodlawn, Tuscaloosa, Auburn, Riverchase and Montgomery; the Fultondale campus is the ninth. At least 13,000 people attend the church each week, and Outreach Magazine named it as the nation’s fastest-growing church five years ago.

The new campus comes in large part at the request of existing members from around Fultondale, who had to travel to Grant’s Mill or Riverchase each Sunday.

“We estimate that 700 to 800 people are attending from those areas,” Creel said.

Each service can hold about 600 worshippers.

Church of the Highlands is not affiliated with a denomination. “We don’t want to label it. We try to stay away from that — there are too many pre-conceived notions that come with denominational labels,” Creel said.

In advance of the opening, the church has begun training sessions for small-group leadership. Those sessions are held each Sunday at 6 p.m. at the Gardendale Civic Center.

More information about the new campus can be found online at www.churchofthehighlands.com/campuses/fultondale

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