Three New-Church-Starts Succeed in Multiplying Ministry

Date Posted: 3/26/2015

In the last two years, the Texas Annual Conference has launched 11 new churches by multiplying existing ministries in new locations. The Story in Houston and Galveston Central launched in mid-February and Faithbridge launches a new campus in The Woodlands on Easter Sunday.
Portable church? Musical sermons? Church in the park? Yes, yes and yes -- as three of the Texas Annual Conference’s newest churches are fruitfully expanding the gospel in new places in new ways.
February 22: Launch Day for The Story in Houston and Galveston Central Church
“Launch Day at The Story in Houston was overwhelming,” says Rev. Eric Huffman, of St. Luke’s UMC Houston’s newest worship community. “We welcomed 478 people to worship, many of whom were previously unaffiliated with the Church. We are working to encourage our people to invite a friend to The Story over the next several weeks, and we're honing our hospitality and discipleship processes. We are so grateful to St. Luke's UMC for being an amazing, supportive mother church.”  Services are held in the Activities Center building on the church campus at 11:05. Banners welcome guests of all ages as do StoryKids volunteers in bright green shirts.
To foster awareness and attendance, Eric blazed an active Facebook trail leading up to this big day. He continues to stay on the radar of social media platforms with announcements related to present and upcoming sermon series and activities for children. One timely post on March 1, reads, “I’m preaching about Noah’s Ark today and Houston is literally flooding. Well played, God, or Satan, whoever is doing this to me.”

The weather did not dampen the worship, however, and March 9 brought another interesting Facebook post: “Bishop Janice Huie surprised us by coming to The Story yesterday. It’s an honor to serve under her leadership in ‘thee’ Texas Conference.”

Next steps include hosting a 10 a.m. service outdoors. Adds Eric, “We're looking forward to a big Easter celebration at Discovery Green Park in downtown Houston, and we can't wait to see how God uses this new congregation to change lives and transform the world!” Additionally, the church is already hosting a team to the Dominican Republic this June with Go Ministries. “Everyone has a story, and every story matters to God," adds Eric. See more at:
Excitement has also been building at Galveston Central, about 50 miles south of The Story, in a United Methodist church that originated on Galveston Island some 130 years ago. Prior to the February 22 launch of a new worship community in this location, Pastor Michael Geinger started a grassroots momentum that included informal discussion groups, leadership recruitment, workdays to refurbish the worship space – and a series of preview services prior to launch Sunday. “In keeping with our “church past, church future” tagline we have an ancient/modern feel to our worship space,” he explains, “with a variety of seating options ranging from pews to sofas. We also start every service with a song from the radio – such as It’s Time by Imagine Dragons or You Found Me by the Fray.” Galveston Central is true to it's description: "church.different in other ways as well. In keeping with the relaxed style of island life, Galveston Central has featured a musical sermon, and rumors abound that the pastor prefers preaching barefoot.
Launch Day guests were invited to grab coffee, a cupcake and a sofa there at 3308 Avenue O. One attendee describes it this way on Facebook, “It is abundantly clear that God is doing something special at Galveston Central. Worship, led by the talented Brandon Williams, is incredible. The pastor, Michael Gienger, is a naturally gifted speaker who delivers a message that is both relatable and based firmly in the word. Michael's wife, Moriah, is the sweetest person you will ever meet and can make anyone feel right at home. The service I attended today was one of the most impactful I've ever experienced. There is nothing fake or phony about Central. If you are looking for a Christ-centered church or just want to see what Christianity is about, Galveston Central is worth a visit.”
Galveston Central offers online giving, unabashedly encourages attendees to bring friends, and offers “Deeper Groups” for ongoing Bible study and discussion.
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Portable Church Knows the Best is Yet to Come
Faithbridge, Spring will officially launch a new campus in The Woodlands area to the public on Easter Sunday. “In January, we launched an evening service in a nearby YMCA,” says Campus Pastor Wayne Risher, “then moved to our regular worship services every Sunday morning in a school in February, which we refer to as our ‘soft launch’. It has been quite the experience driven by a handful of staff,” he adds, “yet powered by unpaid servants who faithfully volunteer each week to set up portable church for the mission field in our community.”
The February and March preview services featured the same “honest, thought-provoking sermons, engaging music and dynamic kids ministry that is distinctive to Faithbridge,” Wayne explains, “and our Small Groups will continue planning and setting out the empty chair for those who are not here yet.”
Wayne says it is humbling to know that his helpers are not the only pioneers starting a new worship campus of Faithbridgers. “We plan to take a very similar approach as we start a new worship campus of Faithbridge in The Woodlands, just as Pastor Ken did when he started Faithbridge in Klein back in 1998.” Read that story here. Adds Wayne, “Already in just our short soft-launch period, we are averaging 120 adults, students and children in Sunday worship. Many of these folks are what we call ‘rocket boosters’ who joined us from our first campus in Klein. We are praying that our Easter launch will help us begin engaging more and more local families, continuing the Faithbridge tradition of healthy growth through discipleship one life at a time.”
Beyond the Halfway Point
Rev. Jeff Olive, New Church Development Director for the conference attends launches of new churches and anticipates attending Launch Day for Faithbridge in The Woodlands.  “We have had good success with multi-siting existing churches,” notes Jeff. It has become a more common and acceptable way of starting new churches. Pastors are discovering a great benefit of multiplying the strength of their mission and vision in another location. I see the future of new churches in the Texas Annual Conference as one where the norm for healthy churches is to multiply their ministry in new locations.” Adds Jeff, “When I started this position I developed a plan to start 20 new churches in four years. As of this summer we will be two years into this goal and right on target with 11 new churches in the Texas Annual Conference in the past two years.”