Firestarter: Substance Church

Firestarter: Substance Church

May 10, 2012 by

Firestarter is a way to recognize churches that have ignited ideas and sparked brilliant communication. The hope is that this project will fan the flame and spread those creative embers to other church communicators. Learn more about Firestarter.

From my first exposure to Substance Church it was clear that they were the perfect candidate for a Firestarter. This church in Minneapolis is being used by God in some pretty remarkable ways. They currently report that 70% of their church is under 30 years old, 50% of the people there did not go to church prior to attending Substance, and the one that really got my attention, they have 116% attendance in their small groups.

And no, that isn’t a typo. 116%.

I recently spoke with Associate Pastor Mark Mellen about their approach to communicating small groups to their church. Pastor Mark stated that Substance is a church “of small groups” and not a church “with small groups” and that they are the “foundation of our church.” Substance often says, “We don’t believe that church starts till the service ends,” and after a brief discussion with them you quickly understand that small groups are not just one of many options at Substance, they are the option.

Substance communicates small groups from the beginning of their Starting Point class (beginners class) right through every Sunday service where their announcements always end with a push toward small groups.

It’s easy to see why they have such high small group participation. Small groups are at the core of the Substance identity and they communicate that effectively to their church every step of the way!

When asked what advice he would share with other churches that are moving toward a small group model, or perhaps are looking to breathe life into their small groups, he stated that it “has to be something that the senior pastor believes in or it won’t permeate your community.” This belief that leadership must be on board is worked out in many ways at Substance and one that caught my attention was that fact that all staff and interns are required to lead small groups. Mark said that “just between those two groups you have 65 small group leaders!”

The small group approach is one that many churches have tried, some successfully, and some not. It is refreshing to see a young church getting people connected into community in such an exciting way.

Firestarter is a way to recognize churches that have ignited ideas and sparked brilliant communication and Substance is certainly one of those churches, especially in the area of small group ministry.

Mark made it clear that the heart of leadership at Substance is to be a resource to other churches. If you are a leader in your church and want more information on the Substance approach to small groups you can email Mark Mellen and he will be glad to help you. You can also visit for more information.

Do you know of a church that should be recognized as a Firestarter? Let us know by nominating a church as a Firestarter.

Post By:

Adam Legg

Adam Legg is the creative arts and communications pastor at ChangePoint in Anchorage, Alaska, a regular blogger at, and can be found on Twitter. He enjoys travel, art, music and sports, and he's pretty sure YouTube is the greatest invention ever.
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2 Responses to “Firestarter: Substance Church”

  • matthew sandahl
    May 11, 2012

    God is really moving at Substance! It’s a place full of energy!

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  • Travis Johansen
    June 11, 2017

    We can definitely attest to the emphasis on small groups (called Subgroups due to the name Substance Church). Despite Mark Mellen no longer being on staff, subgroups are still strong!

    A few years ago a couple attending Substance had a dream for reaching married couples and started a movement. It continues to this day with 7 groups meeting every other week in homes across the Twin Cities metro during the summer and about 10 groups in the fall/spring.

    If anyone has questions or wants to check how we are doing our groups you can access our info at

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