Thursday, September 06, 2007

Church Planting Problems

A few years ago our presbytery bought a piece of property in one of the a growing suburban areas near Houston for a prospective NCD. For several years the NCD committee tried to organize a church plant in that area. Several applications for a mission program grant were made to the powers-that-be at the General Assembly offices of the PCUSA in Louisville, Kentucky in 2004. The grant requests were denied and the effort abandoned. Presbytery still owns the vacant land and has listed it for sale. Meanwhile, the area around it continues its explosive growth.

I live in the area where this property is located. It is one of the fastest growing counties in the country. New housing developments spring up like mushrooms after the rain as the Houston metro area expands relentlessly southwest of the city center. New churches of every denomination and non-denomination, as well as mosques and Hindu temples are being organized as Anglos, Asians, African-Americans, Africans, and Hispanics are now living and working in the area. The PCUSA ought to be trying to organize new churches in two or more different areas of the county. The most recent church chartered in our presbytery is located in the far western portion of this county.

The Methodists, the Baptists, the Church of Christ and all sorts of Bible churches have opened in these new subdivisions. The Catholics aren't there because of the shortage of priests. The PCUSA, with its surplus of ministers, is AWOL, in my opinion.

Why? Because the powers-that-be in Louisville didn't understand what is going on in this community. They think the area was mostly Hispanic and that the local folks were not taking that into account in the "target group." Clearly they were looking at data that was already outdated when they read it. Don't they understand that when an area is rapidly changing from small town/rural to suburban/exurban, the longtime residents are not going to be your target group for an NCD?

I've lived here for 20 years. I know that the most significant non-Anglo ethnic group in these new communities is not Hispanic, but Asians of all nationalities. My daughters were in a distinct minority as Anglos in the very diverse public high school they attended. There were more Asians than any other group in that school population. This is also true of my neighborhood.

I'm afraid that the powers-that-be in Louisville are living in a time warp. They don't understand the changing nature of suburban/exurban communities which are attracting Asians, Hispanics who are native English speakers, Africans from Africa and African Americans along with the traditional Anglo-American base. Despite their ethnic differences, these people have economic and educational commonalities that draw them to these new communities which are a fertile field for evangelism. For everyone but the PCUSA, apparently.

It is so frustrating not to be able to get any assistance from "headquarters" for planting a new churches in a community like this.


amom said...

And why do they see a problem with the community even if it was Hispanic? Are Hispanics not also a "fertile field" for evangelism?

Quotidian Grace said...

Of course they are.

The problem is that the GA thought this area was heavily Hispanic and denied the grant because they thought it didn't take that into account.

My point is that this area is not heavily Hispanic--it is much more ethnically diverse and the application reflected that fact. I'm assuming GA was looking at outdated data for a much wider area than what the application targeted.

Gannet Girl said...

I don't know how appreciative of this you'll be, but:

A couple of weeks ago Chicago Son told me that a move might be in his future, and he was thinking Texas (Austin, specifically).

TEXAS? I asked.

Mom, he said, Texas, is the hot place to be right now.

It sounds as though our national office is as much in the dark as I was. I at least have Greek as an excuse now.

(And yes, I have given considerable thought to the argument for Prebsy ministers studying one Biblical language plus, perhaps, Spanish, rather than both of the former.)

Presbyterian Gal said...


QG?, I think this call is for you.......

Just sayin.

Anonymous said...

(or should I say DDD sister?*) -

I am not an expert on NCDs, but I didn't think the GA had the responsibility to fund them. I thought that was a Presbytery role -- but I could be wrong.

Anyway, are there large churches in your Presbytery willing to take this on - like the way churches were started years ago? Four churches each pledging 250K over some period of time, and then at least a church could get started.

Again, I could be wrong, but I believe our Presbytery is trying to fund our NCDs. I don't think GA has $ for this anymore.

Delta love, Jan
Alpha Sigma Chapter, UNC :)

thechurchgeek said...

I agree with Jan, GA should have no role. It needs to be either be the presbytery or better yet a congregation with a vision for new churches who are in the business of such things.

Why on earth would the presbytery buy land b4 having a church? What happened to starting a church in a mall or a shopping center or a school? It seems all backwards.

Lorna (see through faith) said...

keep telling them

praying that ears will be opened and hearts too


and btw I love your passion !!!!!!!!
and beatrice ... more pics please she's such a darling, like her erm mum :)

Quotidian Grace said...

Jan (Delta Greetings! I'm Alpha Beta, Cornell U. '67),

I agree that church plants are the responsibility of the presbytery these days. The applications were for relatively small grants from a specific fund for the purpose and would not have funded the proposed church here. The "big three" churches in our presbytery are involved in assisting new church plants, but in an area of explosive growth every little bit of assistance is crucial.


The land was purchased in anticipation of the development that has taken place. Residential developers in this area set aside tracts of land dedicated to "church use" as part of the overall plan for new subdivisions. About ten years ago, we paid a fraction of what it would cost us today to buy the same land which is at the entrance to a large master planned development. The property must be sold for church use--not commercial use--so we have to sell it to another denomination or independent church.

If land dedicated to church use is not bought early in the development phase, you will pay a premium later IF you can find property in the area that can be developed for a church under existing deed restrictions.

It's not realistic to wait to purchase the land until a congregation is built up. New churches out here have the land purchased and meet in schools, strip centers etc until they can afford construction of a building.

DennisS said...

Have you been in concact with Eric Hoey, Director of Evangelism and Church Growth? I've got his contact info if you can't find it.

Honestly, a plan probably should have been in place several years ago, but I'm sure there is still time to get a church plant going in that area, and eventually build.

Here, in the Western half of Kansas, the most recent Presbyterian church plant was 1913. That congregation has membership of 7 or 8 currently.

There are 26 congregations in the Western half, in a 200 by 200 mile area, with the largest reporting attendance of 125 last year. All 26 began from 1872 to 1913, with the majority of those which are still around being established by 1886.

This is an area of farm and business consolidations and declining population. There are lots of once thriving towns which are now basically ghost towns.

It would be great to have the hope and fresh vitality of a church plant. I certainly hope and pray a church plant can get started soon in your area - with or without a grant from the denomination.

Anonymous said...

To be fair, there were a lot of very legitimate reasons that the GA Mission Grant committee decided not to fund that church plant. One of which is that land ought not be the driving force behind a church plant, people and mission and leadership are what's needed.

Could we eventually have a church that would feel called to build a building on that land? Perhaps. But more important than the $$ (which I believe we could get from neighboring churches) is the leadership, knowledge of the population and the cultural innuendos, the commitment to evangelism/transformation of people's lives (not just gathering Presbyterians in the area), and a strong sense of what our mission is in the area. Are you game?

The NCD committee of the presbytery decided to try to sell the property because they weren't convinced that land is the reason to start a church. When the presbytery thought it could make $2 million on the sale of the property there was no argument about starting an NCD out there. Now that the property is proving more difficult to sell, it may be worth holding on to ... BUT .. that still doesn't mean we can just get some money and build a building ... a growing church is not a slam/dunk these days, even in the fast growing areas.

Purechristianithink said...

My old Presbytery almost decided not to do an NCD in one particular fast-growing area because the demographics didn't seem to line up. Then someone pointed out that the zip code for that area had changed two years previously and the committee had just paid big bucks for an in-depth demographic study of the area covered by THE OLD ZIP CODE which now includes only a very small, primarily industrial/commercial zone several miles from the proposed NCD site. No wonder the demographics didn't look promising.

Jon said...

I also found this a bit strong: "Because the powers-that-be in Louisville didn't understand what is going on in this community."

Darrell Guder talks about how the first step in most PCUSA NCD planning is to raise $700,000. What not start with a Bible study of folks in the area? Why would you even think to blame our headquarters for this?

I feel like we've now starved our denomination. There's no help coming from there, because it's been so shaken and defunded. Anyway... just my two cents.

Quotidian Grace said...


Presbytery did start with a Bible study for the folks in this area. It was successful enough that for more than a year weekly Sunday worship was conducted for the prospective NCD congregation, in addition to the purchase of the property by presbytery's NCD committee for the future church.

Anonymous said...

Missed opportunities for the PCUSA...

You could fill a boat with them...

The Lord will build a church where there needs to be a church, whether or not He uses the PCUSA to do it.

I find some consolation in that.