Growing New Churches

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It’s a place to hear alternative rock music and talk about the latest episode of Lost. It’s not a coffee house though. Providence United Methodist is a new kind of church, based in a gym and geared to the non-traditional. Reed Galin reports.  

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(Locator: Mt. Juliet, Tennessee)

Band plays: “Amazing love, I know it’s true.”

Meredith Denning, Providence United Methodist Church: “It’s a really new church. But there’s also a really young pastor. So there’s just a new young vibe to it. It’s really cool.”

Daphne Coomer, Providence United Methodist Church: “The statistics show that so few people go to church. There needed to be something new and close and something that maybe, you know, they wouldn’t step in a church, but they’ll step in a gym to get started.”

Setting up shop in a gym is one creative way Providence United Methodist Church in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, is attracting new people.

(Church service) “You complete me, and I’m crying (laughs).”

Pastor Jacob Armstrong says it’s all part of the master plan.

The Rev. Jacob Armstrong, Providence United Methodist Church: “There’s a lot of new people to this community who just don’t have a church home yet, but there’s also a vast amount of people that don’t go to church. And so we wanted to give them an experience where they can encounter God.”

Different approaches to attracting the crowds have included billboards, a Web presence—and anchoring the church near a shopping district.

(Locator: Houston, Texas)

The Rev. Rudy Rasmus, St. John’s United Methodist Church: “I believe the future of this denomination will really rest on the churches that will be planted.”

The Rev. Rudy Rasmus of St. John’s United Methodist in Houston hopes the process can reverse a trend that has seen mainline churches losing members for years.

The Rev. Kevin Kloster, Celebration United Methodist Church: “We had ads in the local paper pretty much all of the time.”

Other progressive pastors, like Kevin Kloster of Celebration United Methodist in Brandon, South Dakota, say the challenge of breaking new ground is exciting.

The Rev. Kevin Kloster, Celebration United Methodist Church: “If we’re going to reach unchurched people, I think what we have to do is listen to what their needs are and develop worship and programming around those needs.”

That kind of strategy appears to be bringing people through unconventional, but welcoming doors.

The Rev. Jacob Armstrong: “It’s kind of like being on a roller coaster. I mean, this morning we gathered behind the stage back there and prayed. We don’t know who’s going to be out there when we come around the corner. God’s continuing to bless us with folks.”


Providence United Methodist initiated a six-week “Campaign of Kindness,” performing random acts of kindness that included paying for someone’s gas, helping single moms and giving up grudges. They raised over $3,900 to purchase a well for an African village. Attendance is averaging over 300 each week.

You can learn more about Providence UMC by calling 615-443-PUMC (7862) or visiting their Web site.

Also, see: Church has place in new planned community

Posted: March 11, 2009