photo by doitintheroad. Used in accordance with Creative Commons.

This is the fourth post in a series about Asian American church models. Dr. Benjamin Shin, in a lecture for the Doctor of Ministry in Asian American Ministry at Talbot School of Theology, discusses these different models. Credit is also given to Dr. Hoover Wong, who discussed this model in his writing and teaching.

This fourth model is the “Townhouse” model. Like the “Duplex” model, this church has two congregations side-by-side on the same campus. H0wever, unlike the Duplex model, which has one leadership, a Townhouse has two distinct leaderships. It is two distinct churches, sharing the same facilities.

The Townhouse church is often a progression from the Duplex model. The English congregation has developed and grown, and has developed strong leadership. The mother-tongue congregation has given its blessing to the English congregation to start its own church with its own leadership. However, both churches remain on the same campus, sharing the facilities.

Here are some advantages of the “Townhouse”:

  • This model still keeps the family together.
    Like the “Room for Rent” and “Duplex” model, the entire family can come in the same car and be “together” at the same church campus. They can even have lunch together. Even though the family is split into different places, many Asian families value the proximity.
  • Each church pursues its own mission.
    Casting vision for each church is easier and each church can invest into their ways of approaching ministry without interference from the other group. The English-speaking church is free to pursue new avenues of relationships, new outreach opportunities, and new worship styles.
  • This model allows the development of leadership.
    English congregation leaders in “Room for Rent” models and “Duplex” models often report feeling stifled by the mother-tongue congregation leaders. The Townhouse model allows for leadership to develop on both sides as they make independent decisions. This especially comes into play when leadership discusses finances and budgets.
  • More Americanized churchgoers may feel more comfortable here.
    In this model, the English-speaking church has the autonomy to make wide-reaching decisions like its approach to ministry, music style, and involvement in the community. In this environment, the more Americanized generation feels more at home.

And, here are some disadvantages:

  • Difficulty for the two churches to work together.
    Members of the Townhouse desire to be together, even though they are separate. The two churches do share facilities, resources, supplies, finances, and even staff. This can create conflicts or competition over these shared elements. For example, if both churches are using the main worship space, who decides how it will be decorated or what worship time goes to which group?
  • Financial instability.
    In many Asian American churches, it is the mother tongue congregation that has a higher rate of giving to the church. If a church becomes two churches and is a Townhouse, the English-speaking church may suffer from a shortage of funds as they grow to support themselves.
  • Difference in Expectations.
    The mother tongue culture and the American culture will often have different expectations  when it comes to sharing the facilities. In many Asian cultures, the younger generation is expected to defer to the older. In a Townhouse, this can become a source of conflict if the English-speaking church expects a certain level of autonomy. Another example is in the expectations of how the church building is to be cared for. For many of the Asian culture, the church building is the ‘house of God’ and should be revered and cared for. For more Americanized individuals, the church is the people, not the building.

Here is what the Townhouse model looks like:

credit: Benjamin Shin
credit: Benjamin Shin

Do you have any experience with a “Townhouse” church? Are there any advantages or disadvantages you would add?

Related Posts:

“Room for Rent”: Asian American Church Models
“Duplex”: Asian American Church Models
“Triplex”: Asian American Church Models
English Congregation: “Just an Older Version of Youth Ministry”
Advantages and Opportunities of an Immigrant Church