Relaunching a 150 yr old institution for a new generation

Sanctuary Birmingham (with Emery Agency)

Pastor Scott Runyon


Almost invisible in plain sight

“We need to restart this.”

We’ve all heard stories of people who made a decision to start something big. Someone who made the courageous decision to jump into the middle of a need with a plan and action to start something new. But rarely do we witness a group of people say, “We need to restart this.” Because more times than not when a mission mutates over time into a monument to the past, it doesn’t recover.

It remains almost invisible in plain sight…for decades.

Unless there’s a group of people with the nerve to do something about it.


Golden history and hard reality

This is a story of a downtown church outside of Detroit. For over a century it was known as First Baptist Church of Birmingham, Michigan. A vibrant light set in a beautiful gothic structure, it had impacted generations of families with mercy and care. But, now, they were at a crossroad facing a difficult truth. They were known more for their architecture than their purpose. A beautiful building was not the legacy they hoped to leave to the next generation.

“Our past was rich and in technicolor. But our present felt faded and weary. That just didn’t represent the hope of the Gospel to us. We were tired and we were concerned. Without bold and audacious decisions, there would be no future for FBC Birmingham. We had to answer some difficult questions. Did we want to continue as a church? Or did we want to throw in the towel? When we made the decision to not quit, we knew this would mean a total restart. But we had no idea how to even start.”


From gasping to survive to a dream to thrive

With unified messaging, visuals, a new logo, and website, Sanctuary relaunched with the fresh clarity that had impacted their community eras ago. A new identity rallied an aging congregation to face the challenge of change with optimism and get more emboldened about what is to come than holding onto what used to be.

Sanctuary is a Christian congregation committed to being good neighbors to all we encounter. We recognize all people have wounds to be healed, gifts to offer, questions to ask, and stories to share. We are a community of people who choose love over judgement and hostility. We are committed to listen, care, welcome, and challenge regardless of affiliation, gender, race, age, sexual orientation, ethnicity, finances, or ability.


The Result

We rarely get to brace for a shock like this. But we can be prepared with a response framework so that when it happens, we’re not frantically trying to figure out the next step or reinvent the approach. We know emotional stakes are high when the news is difficult and quickly spreading.

Getting a plan and toolkit in place provided us with much needed headspace and eliminated any panic response that could cause subsequent pain for our people. There’s always a crisis around the corner, but our response doesn’t have to be one.