In booming Austin, Texas, churches struggle to keep pace with the city's growth

www.faithandleadership.com | 3/19/2019 | Staff
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On a bright February Sunday morning, cars circled a packed parking lot at Covenant Presbyterian Church in central Austin, Texas. The second of four services -- three traditional, one contemporary -- was about to get underway.

Well-heeled worshippers streamed into the stone sanctuary. Parents hurried to drop off their children for Sunday school in the four-story education building. Visitor and new member coordinator Amy Skaggs offered coffee, doughnuts and kolaches to newcomers. Within the hour, more than 40 people would take membership vows in a basement classroom. In the last five years, Covenant has grown by 500 members.

Town - Sunday - Crowd - Campbell - Elementary

Across town on the following Sunday, a more casually dressed and ethnically diverse crowd gathered in the Campbell Elementary School cafeteria. They settled into plastic chairs as the praise and worship band’s guitars and drums reverberated through the dimly lit room. By the second song, hardly any open seats remained.

After the service, the Rev. Toriano Mayo noticed the bottleneck of worshippers at the exit. Some 500 to 600 people attend The Well’s two services each Sunday, and more people continue to show up each week. The church, he said, is running out of room.

Time - Churches - United - States - Counternarrative

At a time when many churches in the United States are struggling, some even dying, a counternarrative is playing out in booming Austin, one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation. Though not all of Austin’s congregations are thriving, some area churches are clearly being squeezed by the region’s population explosion over the last decade. And while packed pews are a cause for celebration, the rapid growth presents challenges, and perhaps even a few lessons -- lessons about hospitality, welcome and community in an era of increasing isolation.

A band leads contemporary worship in the fellowship hall at Covenant Presbyterian.

Austin - Metro - Area - Region

The Austin metro area, a five-county region, has grown from 846,000 in...
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