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Interview with Bill Swaringim

Interview with Bill Swaringim

Recently, Worship Facilities caught up with Bill Swaringim, director of technical arts at The Crossing Church, to talk about the growth of their ministry and its carefully cultivated culture that continues to draw in local communities.

The Crossing Church is a truly relevant and outward focused church located in Chesterfield, Missouri. In 2009, they opened more doors to the surrounding St. Louis area with a multi-site ministry. Today the main site, plus two satellite locations, are flourishing with a message of authenticity in delivering the good news of The Gospel. Recently, Worship Facilities caught up with Bill Swaringim, director of technical arts, to talk about the growth of their ministry and its carefully cultivated culture that continues to draw in local communities.

Jim Wagner: How did your church get its start?
Bill Swaringam:  A few families were gathered and recognized that church should look different. Church should be relevant, it should be grace filled, it should be driven for reasons that the Bible calls us to in gathering. Not that churches don't do this. But this group felt like they were called to do church differently. As a result, The Crossing began with eight people gathered in a living room twenty years ago. Those eight people turned into ten thousand every weekend. And through our growth we always want to hold those core values high to remain relevant and authentic. We want to be a grace-filled, grace-soaked congregation that could meet people where they are at. I've been with The Crossing for about eight years and I have been trying to keep up with God because the vision of this place is about reaching people and life change. We celebrate baptisms once a year. And this last year we baptized over four hundred people. So, it's evident that God is at work here. That kind of life change is only something He could spark.

Wagner: What did the process of going multi-site look like for The Crossing?
Swaringam: Well, In 2009, we went multi-site with our vision. We recognized that people were driving a long way to attend The Crossing.  And, that's a really hard ask, to request a friend or a family member get in the car and drive with them thirty or forty-five minutes. So, we asked the question of how do we grow our ministry in different neighborhoods of St. Louis? We wanted to allow people sitting in our seats to invite their friends and family. The leadership took a long hard look at what multi-site would encompass at The Crossing. After a year or so of looking around at what other churches were doing, we came up with our own formula for what multi-site would be for our church. Everything we do is about being authentic to who we are as a church and so we incorporated that into our plan. And, it's worked for our congregation. Our first multi-site in 2009 was a leased Sears hardware and lawnmower facility. Today, this is our campus in Fenton, Missouri which seats about 550.  We run four services a weekend on that campus with two serving running into overflow.

Now, with three campuses, we are figuring out how to offset the continued growth at those campuses and continue our reach in the St Louis area. It's a real affirmation to us tech guys. It's all worth it.

Wagner: Can you describe the culture of The Crossing, and how it enables your teams to function together?
Swaringam:  Not only are those core values that I talked about earlier for our congregation. They also apply to our church staff and for our leadership.  Spiritual and emotional health flow top down. It is modeled all the time. We don't have a formal membership, but if we had a membership class, it would be our Body Life class. This is a class where we discuss what God has called us to, not only as followers of Christ, but as the Body of Christ. In this vision class we talk about our core values and principals. For example, we teach people in our church that we won't tolerate gossip. This is ministry and we're going to do life around that. Health is an important word both spiritually and emotionally. Not just to speak and assume, but to live out as Believers and as a body of Believers. In Matthew 18 it's written that if you've done something to offend me, then I need to go talk to you. This is a high value for us, so we won't have a bunch of people talking bad about each other.

Wagner: What is an aspect of your role that keeps your ministry running strong?
Swaringam: It would be my role of having the chance to impact others.  I'm a pastor's kid. I can remember in one of the churches that my dad pastored, there was a guy named Gary who sat behind the church soundboard. He had control of all these knobs and buttons. When I was nine years old, I came into the service with my mother and saw that man. I said, "Hey mom, can I sit here?" Not only did he let me sit next to him, but he allowed me to push a button.  I was in from that moment on. When I look back at that and recognize the fulfillment I get from being able to mentor others at whatever level they are, whether it's a younger guy on staff or a more seasoned volunteer, I hope I'm paying back what Gary did for me.

Wagner: What is unique about the rebuild of your worship venue in Chesterfield, Missouri?
Swaringam: The new room has 1200 seats. Our vision for this room is to keep it intimate and also to serve our other campuses and online viewers.  It was extremely difficult to balance the values of inside the room' experience with the outside the room' experience.  But I think we did a pretty good job.  And we are continuing to explore different ways to do both. One of our key values is to engage people in the room. We do that in part by keeping them close. Our lead pastor, Greg Holder, does not want to stand on a "platform" and deliver the gospel.  So, the design and the height of the stage was built strategically to engage people and as a result our stage goes even lower and deeper into the room then we originally planned.
When we say authentic, it's really about blurring the lines. From our pastor to our worship leader—to the person delivering the announcements, the style which we present is very conversational. We don't want to deliver in such a way that we are looking down on someone. We don't want to create a disconnect or imply that we are a spiritual authority. We don't ever want anyone to think that we have it all together, that we're unattainable or untouchable because we're on that stage.  God's grace covers all of us.

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