Tripling in size did not come overnight for Shepherd of the Hills Presbyterian Church (USA) in Austin, Texas, says pastor Larry Coulter. Much of the important work happened one by one – in the newcomer’s class.
Larry says his heavy investment in newcomer incorporation (he teaches every class) has paid big dividends in building a healthy, growing congregation of more than 900 people. In this interview Larry tells us how the congregation did it.
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Larry Coulter is a student dedicated to his subject: growing healthy churches. At Shepherd Hills, he says it started with a congregational commitment to health – which means growth. Here are my notes:
People Come for Community
Larry’s research shows that 80% of newcomers are seeking community. It’s not theology, it’s not entertainment, it’s not even worship – but places where people can build friendships.
The 5 Essentials of Discipleship
Shepherd Hills uses the five-fold paradigm of worship/growth/connection/service/invitation as a foundation for personal, community, and staff formation. Larry says the most critical aspect of his ministry is the evaluation of each aspect of ministry through this paradigm. If you get anything from this interview – learn this!
Care for Everybody
Each year the staff gets together to go over EACH MEMBER by name, looking through the five-fold paradigm. Sure it’s a messy, long process, but it’s a great way to make sure not one sheep strays.
About Larry Coulter
Reverend Larry Coulter holds a BS from Texas A&M and a Masters of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary. Prior to coming to Shepherd of the Hills he served churches in Laguna Beach CA and Houston Tx. Larry has a passion for helping people grow in their relationship with Christ and be equipped for ministry in God’s work in the world. Larry serves on numerous boards including Fuller Theological Seminary in Houston and Princeton Institute of Youth Ministry. Locally Larry is the head of “In the Schools, for the Schools”, an initiative designed to mobilize school and church partnerships. Larry is avid gardener in the years when it rains. He is married to Kim, a full time artist. Together they have two college-aged children, two dogs, two miniature horses and 7 chickens.
Sponsors I Mentioned
Church Post – If you are looking to improve your church’s communications you’ve got to check out this great email platform. I’ve found it easy-to-use, reliable, and John, Debra and Kim are great to work with.
Wistia – If you’re still hosting your videos at YouTube or another ‘free’ video sharing site you know the drawbacks. Wistia helps me put out great looking videos and see who’s watching for how long. The Wistia staff is easy to work with and very professional.
The Grow My Church Store – Everything from mugs to pens to fridge magnets, this is a promotional products store aimed at helping churches become closer communities, more hospitable, and welcoming. I started this store and shop there often because I couldn’t find anywhere else to go for these products.