“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.“
When Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran opened its doors nearly 50 years ago, they had no way of knowing how dramatically San Antonio would expand over the next half century. At the time, the church sat far away from the city center—just to the northwest of what is now Interstate 410.
While the church has been able to expand its footprint over the years— school facilities were built in a series of building programs in the 1980s, a new church building was added in 1997—the congregation is again ready to expand. The Medical Center area just down the road from Shepherd of the Hills has seen a great deal of new construction in recent years. Over the years, as more young families have entered the surrounding neighborhood, Shepherd’s school (previously just pre-K–5) added middle-school grades. (Shepherd is also the home congregation of the Texas District’s president, Rev. Mike Newman.)
Suddenly, the gym / community center that had long served the church’s and school’s needs was starting to look a little small. So in 2015, Shepherd of the Hills began discussing the possibility of constructing a new building. The congregation applied to Texas District’s Church Extension Fund for a loan and the groundbreaking took place on April 28. Construction is projected to take 15 months to complete.
When asked why a new community center is so important to his congregation, Pastor Chris Kennedy cites a host of reasons. For one thing, meeting the needs of middle-school requires a larger gym. “We want to attract students to our school and physical facilities matter to parents’ decisions,” he says. The space will have a stage that can be used for drama productions. The Sunday morning contemporary service may be held there. The space can be rented out for receptions, athletics, and fine arts events. And in the new facility, Bible studies will have their own dedicated space for the first time.
Shepherd has no room to expand its overall property, so adding a building meant decommissioning an existing one. The original church building has not been used since the worship center was completed in 1997, so it will be taken down next week. The stained glass and light fixtures from this original building will be preserved and incorporated into the new structure.
Charter members and new additions to the congregation alike are excited about the changes, and many turned out for the groundbreaking. After a late morning service, the congregation walked down to decommission the old building, and then members came forward to turn dirt for the new facility [pictured below]. Kid-sized shovels were available so children could participate as well. “The groundbreaking ceremony was very energizing,” says Pastor Chris. “We want to use all these things that are happening as catalysts for building momentum.”
That momentum has also taken Shepherd’s ministry to the Alamo Ranch community, where Shepherd recently helped to launch a new church plant, Alamo Hills Church. The weekly service in Alamo Ranch currently meets in a movie theater and draws about 80 people each weekend. Shepherd is tithing 10% of the money they have raised for their own building to Alamo Hills so they can have a dedicated building as well.
Shepherd’s commitment to expanding the spaces for God’s ministry made them a natural partner for CEF. “Approaching CEF for funding was a no-brainer for us,” says Pastor Chris. “We wouldn’t consider anyone else. CEF is very ministry-minded. We want our members to support and invest with CEF.”
As Shepherd enters the early days of construction, each moment is full of fresh possibility. Recently, a new sidewalk was poured for the playground, and Pastor Chris reports his excitement at walking on the newly-dried concrete. “We’re trying to take every little moment and make it special,” he says.