One of Charlotte's largest churches is spreading north.
Mecklenburg Community Church, where around 5,000 people meet weekly, recently opened satellite campuses at the YMCA branch in Mooresville and a school in Mountain Island Lake.
"It's really about our mission, which is to bring the message of Christ to the city," said Lindsay Mitchell, the church's director of communications. "It was an opportunity to reach farther than where our north Charlotte campus is located."
The new locations are the first of several; campuses in Mint Hill and Kannapolis are scheduled to open in 2012. Mecklenburg Community Church is one of several Charlotte megachurches that is reaching out to surrounding areas through smaller versions of its main campus.
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The Rev. James Emery White, Meck's senior pastor, rotates between the church sites on Sundays and those where he doesn't preach live receive a video feed of his sermon. Each satellite campus has a dedicated pastor on site and live worship each Sunday.
Meck, as the church is called, was founded in 1992, when White moved to Charlotte with his family to start a church. He wanted to reach people who were interested in spiritual issues but who felt like church wasn't for them. The church met in a hotel and then in several schools before moving into its permanent campus at 8335 Browne Road in 1998.
Meck is nondenominational and it is known for its use of contemporary music, drama and media presentations as well as practical biblical messages.
Mitchell said the decision to expand to new locations came after much prayer, and the church's leadership began looking for areas where it could open new campuses. Many church members were making a long drive into Charlotte to attend Meck's services, and the new sites are closer to home for them.
A satellite campus had been meeting in the Lake Norman area, but Mitchell said the lease ran out for the church's meeting place there.
The new campus is a regrouping of that original effort. The Lake Norman service meets at Lowe's YMCA, 170 Joe V. Knox Ave. in Mooresville.
"It seemed like a natural thing to go back," said Mitchell.
In Mountain Island Lake, Mitchell said, there was "not really a church there that's doing what we're doing.
"They really just don't have a lot of options (for church) right now."
Each site has Sunday services at 9:30 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. and children's programs.
To get the word out about the new locations, the church sent out mailers advertising a new sermon series and service sites.
"We feel like that's something that a person who never goes to church or may not like church may connect with rather than sharing (that) there's a church around the corner," Mitchell said. "People may connect more with a series or topic that may be interesting to them."
After the mailing, the church "really just let our people do the rest.
"We've already heard a lot of stories from people who live in (those areas) and now feel like they can invite their friends to church because they're not having to make a huge drive to get there," Mitchell said.
The new campuses launched in February, and Mitchell said church leaders are pleased with how they are going.
"It's really an exciting time," Mitchell said. "It seems as the weeks go on we're starting to solidify more of a presence in the area."