Do you remember the old “Tootsie Pop” commercial, with the cartoon owl who was asked, “How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? One, two, three, crunch!” Okay, I realize that may a bit of a silly comparison, but I have discovered that there are many ways to plant a new church or congregation. It may happen by a missionary working in a certain community. It could happen with a group of people wanting to start a new congregation. It may be that a church wants to plant a new congregation in a certain geographic area of their community. I’d like to tell you a story of a congregation in the San Antonio area that has decided to plant a new congregation in a fast growing area of the Alamo City.
Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church, San Antonio, is beginning to celebrate the 50th anniversary (in 2019) of their congregation with a program they call “Shepherd @ 50.” The congregation wanted to do something that would benefit the community it serves by looking at two areas of focus: their school as a mission tool, and planting a new congregation in the fast growing outer west portion of San Antonio, known as Alamo Ranch.
The school at Shepherd of the Hills serves around 370 students in an age range of 6 weeks old through eighth grade. About 80 percent of these students come from families that are not members of the congregation. Many of those families are working in the Medical Center area of San Antonio. In order to better serve the students and families of the school, and to emphasize the mission outreach potential of the school, the congregation anticipates an effort to update the school’s facilities, allowing them to continue reaching a constituency that may not know about the benefits of Lutheran education.
Additionally, Shepherd of the Hills wants to serve the Alamo Ranch community by planting a church there, an area that has no LCMS presence. By using a template established by the ACTS Network, and working with Rev. Pete Mueller, ACTS Church Lakeway, and his team to learn how to successfully plant a new church, the Rev. Dr. Christopher Kennedy and his congregation have taken the first steps to target a September, 2018 launch date.
Why is this important? As mentioned earlier, there are many ways to focus on mission efforts. Many times, we think of missionaries being called and placed in an area where the Good News has not been preached. While that is certainly one way of planting new churches, many congregations have taken the “bull by the horns” to plant a new church in communities that are underserved, or not served at all.
In the case of Shepherd of the Hills, they are using the opportunity to spread the Gospel as a way to not only carry out the Great Commission but to celebrate a milestone in the life of their congregation. Please join me in lifting this congregation up in prayer, asking for the Holy Spirit to move in ways that brings the Gospel to those who have not heard!
By Lanny Moore
TPIM Development Director