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Growth of Church at Woodforest leads to new facilities

September 13, 2018

The church that calls itself the “front porch church” is finally getting a real front porch.

The Church at Woodforest, a campus of The Woodlands United Methodist Church, has been meeting in Jean Stewart Elementary School along Fish Creek Thoroughfare since officials launched the new house of worship in January 2016.

The church has experienced so much growth over the past couple years, though, that officials are embarking on the first phase of a building project on about 13 acres of land next door.

The Rev. Brent Parker, the Woodforest campus pastor, said that although they started out with about 30 families who were committed to the campus, each year they’ve had dozens of new families join the church.

“It’s unheard of what’s going on out there. I wake up most mornings scared, super grateful and super humbled,” Parker said. “There’s no way this should be happening.”

However, Parker said that ever since they turned their lights on, people started coming out like bugs flocking to a porch light at night. That’s why they’re nicknamed the “front porch church.”

“I don’t want to compare people to bugs, but I’m convinced that the desire for Jesus didn’t just show up when we got there, it was strong already,” Parker said.

Now, Parker expects to grow to a church with 750 to 850 worship service participants.

According to Angela Branch, the church’s executive director of administration, phase one of the project is a 19,000 square foot building with a multi-purpose worship center, gymnasium, children’s space and commons area — all budgeted at $7.9 million.

The funds for the construction came from the $30 million REACH campaign directed by church as a whole. Through and through, the Woodforest campus is connected to The Woodlands United Methodist Church.

Parker explained that when families join the Woodforest campus, they’re also becoming members of The Woodlands United Methodist Church. The same goes for any financial contributions.

“We keep financial records separate so we know how we’re doing, but we’ve been in the black since day one. People have been super faithful in giving,” Parker said.

While a groundbreaking service is to be held Sunday, Sept. 23 beginning at 5 p.m., Parker said trees started coming down on the property the second week of September.

Parker anticipates about 10 to 11 months of construction, which would give leaders the keys to the building by the end of July, 2019. Parker said he hopes to launch services in the building at the start of the 2019-20 school year.

The church was purposefully planted in the relatively new Woodforest development in between The Woodlands and Conroe. The Johnson Development Corp. is the community development leader.

Faith Pitman, Director of Marketing for the company, said that the development began in 2009 and still has four or five years to go. The Church at Woodforest is the first church in the community.

“When we look back at what we planned…we knew (a church) was going to a fiber to keep the community together and promote good stability,” Pitman said. “We’re blessed to have (The Church at Woodforest) as part of the community.”

Pitman said that there aren’t any plans for other churches to move into the community right now, but could potentially add another church or two.

Regardless, the Woodforest campus has predicted two more phases of their building project: an educational space and a stand-alone worship space to be completed in the future.

Ultimately, Parker said he envisions the facility being as much of a community center as a church.