Zondervan Acquires Megachurch's Community-Building Program

In keeping with its vision for digital growth, Christian communications company Zondervan has acquired The City, a proprietary online community-building software program created by one of America's most recognized megachurches.

"The City is an essential part of the way our members and our staff communicate every day," explained Mark Driscoll, founding and preaching pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, in an announcement Tuesday. "Thanks to Zondervan, churches and organizations around the world will have access to this resource to help people meet Jesus and build community."

Developed over the past two years by Mars Hill's pastor of technology, Zack Hubert, The City was created in response to the megachurch's need to improve communication, better engage with members, support small groups, build a stronger church community and free up administrative resources.

Within two months of launch, over 85 percent of the church's more than 7,000 members had signed up and more than 75 percent visit the site every single day.

"The City is the most creative, dynamic church-building resource that I have seen, and we are thrilled to be able to make it available to churches of all sizes and denominations," said Moe Girkins, president and CEO of Zondervan, in Tuesday's announcement. "The impact The City has had on Mars Hill is nothing short of remarkable, and I'm confident other churches will be attracted to the substantial community-building benefits that come from offering this unique resource to their church members."

Zondervan's latest acquisition comes just weeks after it acquired BibleGateway, the world's most popular Bible browsing website, and Gospel.com, which has offered website hosting to more than 250 ministries.

"We have a vision that if we create a lot of synergy across all Christian content providers, we can have more impact on the Internet," Girkins told Christianity Today magazine following Zondervan's acquisition of BibleGateway late last month.

During the interview, Girkins also alluded to its planned acquisition of The City, stating that the company believes "a successful Christian social network will begin with people already in community and in churches."

"As far as social networking, we actually are getting pretty excited about the possibilities, but that will be the next press release," she said.

According to Zondervan, current plans for The City include building out the program's current features and offering scalable and customizable modules to churches nationwide who want to create their own vibrant, interactive community for members.

With the program, members of each church's social network will be able to post and maintain their personal profile, find spiritual resources, sign up for volunteer opportunities, engage with their small group members, join book/study groups, maintain a journal, access news, and connect and share personal feelings, experiences, needs, and prayer requests with other church members. And since each church member has a unique username and password, the community is assured a secure and reliable network.

"The City is much more than a social network as it helps churches to solve their greatest challenges – whether it's church planning, fundraising, developing small groups, building the global church, bolstering a sense of community or improving communications among members," commented Girkins.

"We are excited to take this incredibly valuable resource that Mars Hill has created and bring it to other churches throughout the U.S. and around the world."

As a result of the acquisition, The City creator Zack Hubert, who spent eight years in management at Amazon.com, will be joining Zondervan as Vice President of Church Community Networks.

A virtual tour of The City's features can be found at www.onthecity.org.