Mars Hill Church in Seattle has announced that it will close or consolidate some of its branches and lay off as much as 40 percent of their staff in the wake of recent negative media attention surrounding founding pastor, Mark Driscoll. The downtown Seattle and University District branches will be consolidated with the Ballard branch; church officials also informed branches in Phoenix, Ariz., and Huntington Beach, Calif., that their churches may be closed if financial conditions do not improve soon.
Church spokesperson Justin Dean explained to The Seattle Times that weekly attendance at Mars Hill at the start of the year was between 12,000 and 13,000 but has dropped in recent months to less than 9,000.
“This is definitely something we’ve been looking at for quite some time, but not to this level,” Dean said. “I think the last two months have shown us that it’s gone deeper than anticipated.”
A post on the church’s website on August 29 urged congregation members to increase their support.
“The reality is that just because we are a church does not mean we can defy economic gravity—we can only operate the ministries and programs our members and attendees provide the resources for,” the post read. “We simply cannot spend money we do not have; this is true for any church.”
Pastor Dave Bruskas added another post on September 7 saying Mars Hill will continue with plans to plant a branch in Spokane. “Even as we are forced to make some hard decisions regarding some of our locations, we are dedicated to planting new churches so that we can lead more people to Jesus,” he wrote.