S.D. church makes "fastest-growing" list

October 21, 2013

By Sam Hodges*

Oct. 18, 2013 | SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (UMNS)

Oh for the problem of where to fit in a fifth Sunday worship service.

Such happy headaches face Embrace Church in Sioux Falls, S.D., and its 31-year-old pastor, the Rev. Adam Weber.

Embrace is the sole United Methodist church on Outreach magazine’s recently released list of the top 50 fastest-growing U.S. churches in 2013.

Though the denomination is absent from the name, Weber emphasized that the church’s identity is decidedly United Methodist.

“We may not have it by label, but I hope and pray we’re the most United Methodist by heart,” said Weber. “John Wesley did anything to reach the next person for Jesus. That is our heart to the `t.’”

LifeWay Research compiled both “fastest growing” and “largest” lists for Outreach, using self-reported data from evangelical Protestant churches as defined by the American Religious Data Archive. (Some 27,000 churches were contacted, though not all responded.)

Only churches that averaged more than 1,000 in worship were eligible for the list of fastest-growing churches. Rankings were determined by a formula that averages percentage and numerical gain.

Seeing new faces each week

Embrace ranked 40th overall, and fourth in growth rate, having seen a 65 percent attendance rise. When the survey was done in February and March (but excluding Easter Sunday), the church averaged 1,112 in worship. Since then, Embrace has spurted to 1,300 for four services.

“Every week we look out and we’re seeing new faces,” Weber said.

Embrace Church began in 2007, an initiative of Cornerstone (United Methodist) Church in Watertown, S.D.

“Many of our young adults from Cornerstone end up moving to Sioux Falls,” said the Rev. Roger Spahr, Cornerstone’s pastor. “Two of those were my own kids and many of their friends who loved the Lord but didn't seem to be connecting in any church very naturally.”

Weber had come to faith as a youth at Cornerstone. In 2007, he was finishing a master of divinity degree at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky.

Spahr had identified Weber as having what it took to lead a church plant. “So I went to the (Dakotas regional Annual) conference leadership with a proposal,” he said.

Weber was chosen to lead the new church and flew back monthly for services until finishing at Asbury.

Read the full UMNS article HERE.

*Hodges is a Dallas-based writer for United Methodist News Service.