Key Cities Initiative: Responding to the city

The Key Cities Initiative is a vision to plant “reproducing” Mennonite Brethren churches in Canada’s cities through partnerships between the Canadian MB Conference and provincial MB conferences.

The Key Cities Initiative vision was birthed at the 1997 interdenominational Canadian Church Planting Congress held in Brampton, Ontario. The challenge was given for Canadian evangelical denominations to plant 10,000 churches by the year 2015. This could be attained if every evangelical denomination in Canada achieved 5% annual growth in the number of its churches. For Mennonite Brethren, this would mean an initial increase of 11 churches per year.

This congress was attended by 25 Mennonite Brethren leaders, who considered an appropriate MB response. They accepted the challenge to work toward increasing the number of churches by 5% annually. Participants cited the need to work together to accomplish this task, including strategic targeting of the key cities of Canada.

The Key Cities type of program is not without precedent. Mennonite Brethren have historically focused mission efforts on certain countries or cities. During the 1970s and 1980s, the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination identified particular cities around the world for its mission efforts, including Lima, Peru. The Nazarene Church’s worldwide mission had a similar strategy; in 1990, it initiated “Target Toronto”, which resulted in 27 churches and ministries being begun in Toronto that year.

In response to this challenge and at the invitation of some provincial MB conference boards of church extension, the Canadian MB Conference Board of Evangelism developed a proposal called Key Cities Initiative. The proposal specified that in response to an invitation from a provincial MB conference, the Canadian Conference Board of Evangelism would enter into a partnership to identify a key city and then develop a church planting strategy for that city. The genius behind the program was that it would bring together the personnel, prayer and financial resources of MB churches across the country.

At the 1998 Canadian MB Conference convention in Willingdon Church, Burnaby, B.C., a recommendation was passed to implement the KCI proposal. The proposal specified that the Canadian Conference Board of Evangelism would focus on one key city/province in each two-year period for the next 10 years. The initiatives launched in this way would continue under provincial conference guidance for a 5-to-10-year period, with the goal of planting about 10 churches.

There are several key elements to this plan.


The vision for the Key Cities Initiative is not that it be seen as a “term project”. Rather, the intent is to begin a church planting movement which will continue after the KCI focus shifts to another city. Hence the vision to plant “reproducing” churches. Since church planting is considered one of the most effective means for evangelism, the hope is that the churches planted under KCI will in turn plant other churches.


While the actual budgets for each Key City may vary from province to province, it is assumed that there will be a three-way funding

formula shared by the Canadian Conference, the provincial conference and joint fundraising.


While finances are a significant issue, they are not the largest obstacle to church planting. The lack of qualified leadership has historically been the greatest hindrance to long-term, effective new church development. We will need effective strategies for leadership recruitment and development.

In 1998, the first Key City to be identified was Calgary, Alberta. The vision is to plant at least 10 reproducing churches, primarily in Calgary. This project, known as “Mission Calgary”, is now in year four.

In 2000, Toronto, Ontario was named Key City #2. Known as “Love Toronto”, this initiative calls for the planting of at least five “reproducing” churches. It is anticipated that additional churches focused on specific language or ethnic groups, as well as various compassionate ministries, will also be started.

In 2002, the Board of Evangelism is proposing that Montreal be accepted as Key City #3.

Ewald Unruh is Executive Director for the Canadian MB Conference Board of Evangelism.

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