St. Andrew has developed an inter-ethnic ministry in the heart of Spring Branch, and the campus is home to ministries in three languages: English, Korean, and Spanish.
Upon its founding in 1956, St. Andrew Lutheran Church quickly grew to become one of the larger LCMS (Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod) congregations in the Houston area, typically seeing 250 or more in worship. Planted in the newly developing Spring Branch area on the west side of Houston, St. Andrew was well-positioned to take advantage of the booming population of the area. Over the years, however, and like many churches established in “first-ring” suburbs, within a generation the congregation plateaued and began to decline. It was doing all the right things, had excellent pastors and staff, was blessed with faithful and generous members, yet it wasn’t enough. Many of the children of church members moved out of the area to start their families in even newer suburbs farther west
Today, however, there are some 300 people worshiping as Lutherans on the St. Andrew campus on any given weekend among three ethnically distinct LCMS-affiliated ministries, plus another 80-100 people (mostly non-members) who come for weekly Family Nights, as well as a thriving preschool ministry (again, mostly non-members). St. Andrew recently completed a $700,000 building project to help accommodate the added ministry activities . What happened to bring all of this about? One church consultant has observed that congregations generally react in one of five ways when it comes to responding to changes in their community:
Hold out, in which a congregation chooses to stay the course, hoping that circumstances will change for the better.
Keep out, where the congregation actually comes to fear the community it is in, and so takes on a fortress mentality.
Move out, which is the decision to relocate out of the community.
Close out, when a congregation essentially resigns and makes plans to shut its door permanently.
Reach out, which is the conscious decision by a congregation to intentionally adapt its ministry to the area’s changing characteristics, and usually requires some amount of reinvention. (Ron Benefiel in Urban Mission, Vol. 13, No. 4)
St. Andrew has chosen to REACH OUT. This reaching out took a major step in 2009 with the invitation to a newly formed Korean congregation, Hilltop, to share St. Andrew’s facilities as well as join the LCMS. In addition, a Spanish-language ministry, Centro Familiar Cristiano has formed on the St. Andrew campus with help from LINC (Lutheran Inner-city Network Coalition).
Currently, Hilltop has services in Korean on Sunday mornings at 8:30 and 11:30, with Bible Classes for various ages in between, followed by a common meal served in the Won Way Center.
Centro Familiar Cristiano holds their worship Saturdays starting at 5:00 p.m, and also conclude their evening with a common meal in the Won Way Center around 7 p.m.
St. Andrew holds worship services on Sunday mornings at 9:30 a.m., followed Sunday School classes for all ages at 10:45 a.m.. They also offer Wednesday evening meals and Faith Lessons most of the year. St. Andrew is actively collaborating with others to develop year-round sports ministries, including soccer and Tae Kwon Do. Plans are moving forward to start a Community Garden as yet one more way to connect the people of our community with God’s salvation in Jesus Christ. None of this could have happened without the persistent dedication of St. Andrew’s members and the active presence of the Holy Spirit. St. Andrew does not hold itself up as a model of what to do, only an example of what can be done with Jesus Christ. And the reaching out continues…
To find out more about Hilltop you can visit www.hilltophouston.org or call them at 713-463-5954. The pastor is Rev. Seungwoong Ok. To find out more about Centro Familiar Cristiano Spring Branch, call 713-826-6573. The pastor is Deacon Jesus Santos.