In a little over six years, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in McKinney, Texas, grew from a small home Bible study to a lively worshipping community meeting in the YMCA’s gym to a substantial congregation in its own sanctuary-cum-parish hall — complete with educational and office space, a large kitchen, parking, and ample acreage for future growth. A few months after moving into its new building, the 9:15 and the 11:00 Sunday morning services are comfortably full. Classroom space for Children’s Church is already cramped for nursery through toddlers, preschoolers through first grade, and second through fifth grades. And on Sundays, the narthex is a bustling center of activity as coffee, doughnuts, and juice are served; outreach and other ministry events and activities are promoted and volunteers enlisted; and early worshippers linger to chat and catch a conversation with friends—and even tardy family members—as they arrive for the next service. That’s not always easy, however, because the parking lot won’t quite hold all their cars. Luckily, St. Andrew’s befriended the private preschool next door and can use their lot in a pinch on Sundays.
This report chronicles the growth of St. Andrew’s via a number of sources: St. Andrew’s participation and giving trends from 2005-2011; U.S. census data and other psycho-demographic information about the local community; interviews of key informants, including diocesan staff and the vicar; focus groups of vestry members, new members, and staff; and participant-observation of worship services and children’s church. The congregation’s story is necessary for a full understanding of its growth and current vitality. Indeed, the support of the Diocese of Dallas, including 11 acres of prime property in the middle of a large (and growing) suburban development about 30 miles outside of Dallas, and the initial full support of a church planter and later a complementary associate, was critical. St. Andrew’s would not exist as a congregation without these baseline resources. But land and money do not always yield a successful church start. In this case, the secret lies in the kind of clergy that support secured; the mix of people, resources, and needs the particular context provided; and the temper, tolerance, and gifts of laity who were drawn into this new congregation’s happy momentum.
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