Clinton native works towards opening of Collective Church - May 2, 2019
BY DENNY SCOTT
Clinton-native Tyler Fromm recently moved across Canada, leaving Calgary, Alberta, to start a new church in London, Ontario.
Fromm, alongside his wife Lee, is an estimated five months away from launching Collective Church in London, a non-denominational place of Christian worship. He also plans to be the church’s pastor.
It was no small feat for Fromm to pack up his family, including Lee and their two young children, Ava and Parker, and return to London. However, he is excited about the challenge and opportunity of creating a new church with a goal of serving that community.
“Any time you’re risking something, there better be a compelling reason to do so,” he said. “This whole adventure is incredibly compelling to my family, so much so that we moved our two kids and whole family across the country.”
That risk, however, was something that Fromm wanted to mitigate, so he and Lee have partnered with ARC Churches, a church start-up organization, to help make their dream a reality.
“ARC’s model is launching large and well-funded churches,” he said. “Most churches in Canada hover around the 80-person mark, and a lot of church start-ups struggle to get past the 100-person mark.”
ARC has launched approximately 800 churches in the United States and 19 in Canada with a 93 per cent success rate.
“My wife Lee and I knew that, if we were going to do this, we wanted the best chance to be successful. That’s why we’re working with an organization like ARC. We want to do this well. We moved across the country and made significant sacrifices because we believe in this and we believe in London.”
The aim is to have a larger church, Fromm said, because small churches aren’t sustainable, and under ARC’s plan, the first service needs to have a large number of people there to build momentum and reach “critical mass”.
“That way, when you’re into month six, year one or year two, you are sustainable, and you can make it work,” he said.
To build up to that, since moving back to London, several months ago, the Fromms have been building their launch team, hosting monthly interest parties and engaging with people who may join the church.
“We want to have a degree of momentum going forward to make this work,” he said.
Fromm said they want a group of 50 people before the public launch of the church on Sept. 22.
“Depending on your launch team, a church will see an average of four people per team member,” he said. “With numbers like that, you have a couple hundred people to the first service and you can grow from there.”
He said that the church is working on crossing that threshold through engaging with the community and building relationships.
Fromm also hopes that he and the church become long-term parts of London, saying he wants to start the church and pastor it for as long as he can.
“I want to be in one place,” he said. “I think that consistency matters. Relationships aren’t quick, and I think, when you move to a new city, it can be easy to have people perceive that you’re coming, then moving on to something else. Our commitment, however, is to our family and to this city.”
The church, in what’s called the 100 for 100 program, is aiming to raise $100,000 to launch. ARC Churches, which has created approximately 90 churches in the US and 19 in Ontario, will match the first $50,000, dollar for dollar, giving the organization $150,000 when it starts.
The name for the program comes from the fact that, in London, there are over 100,000 people without a religious affiliation in the community, or 29.9 per cent of the population. So that $100,000 is being raised to bring Jesus to those 100,000 people who have no religious affiliation.
It’s a big task but, thanks to his history with faith, Fromm believes that the Collective Church can make it work.
Fromm is a graduate of Central Huron Secondary School (CHSS) who studied graphic design at York University. Some time later, he travelled to Calgary to obtain his Masters in Art, Leadership and Ministry at Ambrose University and Seminary.
His educational experiences and his experiences with faith led him to believe that this church is a way to overcome some of the challenges that more traditional denominations face regularly.
“I’ve been part of the denominational world, and I think there are some great things about it,” he said. “Denominations can have a lot of baggage, though.”
Fromm explained that he grew up in the Baptist denomination of the Christian church, and his father was what was called a “church planter”, or someone who created churches in a community from the ground up.
“The Baptist denomination, like many other denominations, can look very different from one church to the next and still be called Baptist,” he said.
There aren’t many thriving Christian denominations in Canada,” Fromm said, and that can be related to the old-fashioned way some churches still operate.
“Their message is good, but their method is antiquated,” he said. “For us, doing the non-denominational route was the better move.”
Fromm explained that there is terminology used that can confuse everyone from parishioners to the pastors, and that, even in higher church circles, it can be hard to explain how one denomination is different from another. For that reason, he said that Collective Church will focus on the most important part of the church: Jesus.
“[Being non-denominational Christian] is an intentional decision,” he said. “That’s not the most important part of the church. We wanted to emphasize what is actually the most important thing, and that would be Jesus.”
Even the name of the church is meant to focus on what people can do when they work together despite differences.
“A collective is a group of individuals with a common purpose,” Fromm said, saying he wants to respect the uniqueness in everyone. “The traditional church world pursues uniformity, but we need to pursue unity.”
Fromm said everyone at the church doesn’t need to look or behave the same way, but only acknowledge there is a great purpose.
“Who we are, uniquely, is necessary,” he said. “We need to be united around a common purpose, not common behaviours, necessarily.”
Looking back, Fromm said he had no idea he would be starting a church, but much of what he learned in his childhood has helped him realize he can achieve this dream.
“There have been some entrepreneurial patterns in my life where I have started things or built things, and that all started with a vision,” he said. “I think, for me, when I was in high school, I had a vision of what the church could be and how it would be different from what it was.”
He said watching the church his dad was growing and the challenges there definitely highlighted the need to be part of a bigger, well-established organization like ARC, but even with it, there is some hesitancy.
“This isn’t something easy, or safe to do,” he said. “But I have realized [creating this church] is what I’m built to do and what I’m designed to do.”
Some of that surety comes from CHSS, Fromm said.
“I just imagined how things could be,” he said. “I’ve always been drawn to creative expression and imagining what wasn’t and then making it happen.”
Fromm pointed to retired teacher Stephen Oliver and the impact he had on Fromm’s belief that he could make what he imagined and make it real.
“Whether it was doing the [now defunct] Imago Film Festival or coffee houses at the school, I realized I could imagine things, work my butt off and make it happen,” he said. “Mr. Oliver had a profound impact on me, showing me that I could accomplish what I imagine in my head.”
For more information on the Collective Church, visit it online at collectivechurch.ca or email firstname.lastname@example.org.