If the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach, sometimes the way to a person’s faith is through their children. The Family of Faith Lutheran Church, a 300-person congregation located on the northwest edges of Houston, is surrounded by rapidly expanding neighborhoods that attract younger families. For Pastor Doug Krengel, this demographic shift presents the perfect opportunity for growth.
While some suburban churches have trended towards megachurch sizes, Pastor Doug has a different tack: build multiple small ministries with preschools at their center. Bring families to the door by offering daycare in a market that desperately needs it – and then provide the community of faith that keeps the family coming to the church long after the children have outgrown the preschool.
This strategy is based on considerable research: Pastor Doug is currently earning a doctorate in Organizational Leadership from Concordia University in Chicago, and he is using the expansion of The Family of Faith as his main case study. Studying the church records, for example, showed that the existing preschool had brought in 16 guest families just since April. In addition, reading broadly in marketing literature taught Pastor Doug that many of the most successful marketing strategies involve appealing to younger mothers. And what those younger mothers typically want are more daycare options and more community. “We want her to see us as a partner, as good news,” he says. “When she pulls up to The Family of Faith, we want her to know she’s got people watching her back, helping her life.”
So they began looking for a new plot of land nearby to build another preschool facility and take their success further. After an extensive search in a very active real estate market, they found a one-acre plot in the new Miramesa subdivision, a 15-minute drive from the original church. The purchase and development of the land were enabled by dollars from the Texas District Church Extension Fund and the sale of a little unused land at the original facility. “We had a lot of grass – it was beautiful grass – but the grass wasn’t doing much for the Lord Jesus Christ,” says Pastor Doug.
The new preschool will occupy an 11,400 square foot building with separate rooms for worship, infants, 18-month-olds, 2 year olds, 3 year olds, and preschool-aged children. There will be plenty of play space outside and inside, a kitchen and teacher’s lounge, two offices, and a welcome area. Vacation Bible School and youth programs will be held in the building as well. The facility is designed to accommodate 90–125 children, with Sunday worship (also led by Pastor Doug) being held for their families.
Sixty people attended the groundbreaking last month, and the construction begins within the next month.
Both the preschool at the original location and the new preschool will continue to operate under the expert leadership of Cora Nash, who has directed the existing preschool for four years, has a degree from Texas A&M, corporate experience, and is fluent in Spanish. “I’m not sure we would have done this project without her,” says Pastor Doug.
Nash and Pastor Doug agree that the key to the project is keeping a small-church feel in a rapidly growing city. “There are some great things about being small,” says Pastor Doug. “It’s intimate; it’s a positive thing that we know each other. You’re not just a nameless face in a crowd. When you pray for people here, you know who you’re praying for.”