Church of the Highlands
The Church of the Highlands is a nondenominational megachurch and founding church of the Association of Related Churches. It was founded in 2001 by Chris Hodges with 34 charter members. It has since grown to more than 60,000 members, of which around 38,000 attend on any given week at one of seventeen locations. Hodges serves as senior pastor along with associate pastor Layne Schranz.
Hodges launched the church with a mass mailing and drew 300 visitors to its first service on February 4 of that year. During its first six years the church met at Mountain Brook High School's 1,000-seat auditorium. As the congregation grew, additional morning services were added to the schedule and branch locations were opened in Riverchase, Greystone, Tuscaloosa, Auburn and Montgomery, equipped with video projectors to simulcast Hodges' Sunday sermons. Hodges says that the growth of the church comes from word of mouth, and results from making the services an "experience".
In 2005 the church purchased a 125-acre site at Grants Mill Road and Overton Road for $7 million and began planning a new $15 million main campus with a 2,400 seat high-tech sanctuary. The new building, designed by Garrison Barrett Group, opened on June 24, 2007 and includes a 1,000-seat youth auditorium, offices, child care facilities, 1,700 parking spaces, and a coffee shop. Instead of holding Sunday school on campus, the church organizes small groups that meet in homes, parks and restaurants.
Cameras in the main sanctuary provide a video feed which is transmitted to the adjoining youth auditorium, and by satellite to the other campuses.
In 2008 the church finalized plans to purchase and renovate the Eastern Health Center and the historic Birmingham Fire Station No. 12 from the Jefferson County Health Department in order to create "the Dream Center", a clinic and mission outreach facility in Woodlawn. The church also provides prison ministries in numerous correctional facilities in the state. In 2017 the church began partnering with the Housing Authority of the Birmingham District to operate the Campus of Hope at Marks Village, a prototype resource center for public housing communities.
In December 2008, Outreach magazine named Church of the Highlands the fastest growing church in the nation. In a one-year period ending in spring 2008, attendance had jumped 72% to 8,168. At the time the article was published Pastor Hodges stated that attendance at the 4 locations had grown by another 2,500 members since the magazine completed its research.
In 2019 the church announced that its "Highlands College" ministerial educational program would share the Grandview campus. In early 2020 Church of the Highlands bought the adjoining Grandview Plaza office building, parking deck and warehouse/distribution center from Daniel Corporation for future expansion of the college campus.
In 2013 a new campus was launched in Fultondale. They initially met at the Fultondale Elementary School, but soon moved to Tarrant High School. By December 2013, as it was preparing to open its first Huntsville campus, the church claimed weekly attendance of around 18,600 at nine locations.
In February 2018 Church of the Highlands opened a 17th campus in Oxford. By the end of that year, it had opened an 18th campus at Parker High School in Smithfield, and a 19th in Mobile. Construction on a permanent building for the Fultondale campus began in late 2018. In April 2019 Highlands opened their 20th campus in Sylacauga.
In July 2019 the Huntsville campus opened their new building in a permanent location. In August 2019 Highlands opened their 21st campus in Columbus, Georgia. In December 2019 a permanent building for the Fultondale campus was opened in time for Christmas services that year.
- Garrison, Greg (June 24, 2007) "5,000-member church moves to new campus." The Birmingham News
- Garrison, Greg (December 7, 2008) "Birmingham's Church of the Highlands named fastest-growing church in U.S." The Birmingham News
- Garrison, Greg (February 5, 2011) "Birmingham-area Church of the Highlands grows to megachurch status with high-energy worship, low-pressure finances." The Birmingham News
- Anderson, John (December 7, 2012) "Church of the Highlands to open new Greystone campus this Sunday." The Birmingham News
- Campbell, Kay (December 20, 2013) "Birmingham's Church of the Highlands to launch Huntsville campus." The Birmingham News
- Garrison, Greg (May 2, 2016) "Alabama's largest church buys conference center on U.S. 280." The Birmingham News
- Burch, Edward (June 15, 2016) "Church of the Highlands continues to see growth." ABC3340.com
- Garrison, Greg (February 2, 2018) "Church of the Highlands set to open Oxford branch" The Birmingham News
- Garrison, Greg (October 8, 2018) "Ex-Auburn player preaches at Church of Highlands downtown branch." The Birmingham News
- Garrison, Greg (February 5, 2019) "Church of the Highlands’ 500-student college plans to move, expand." The Birmingham News
- Van der Bijl, Hanno (January 10, 2020) "Church of the Highlands buys U.S. 280 properties for college campus in $34.9M deals." Birmingham Business Journal
- Church of the Highlands website