Growth helps fill church pews
Northwest Harris County’s population grew almost 15 percent from 2010 to 2016, according to last year’s U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.
Area churches, such as St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church, have felt the need to expand as the population grows.
“The area has changed so much in five years. With the number of houses, retail environments, growth and development, we realized that we need a larger space to bring people together,” Rev. Les Carpenter, rector at St. Aidan’s, said.
The church hosted a groundbreaking Saturday to celebrate a planned 3,100 square feet expansion that will bump their Fry Road building up to more than 10,000 square feet.
Carpenter said that their current building works for worship, but that’s about it. The new space includes a large entrance and a hall for fellowship.
“What we lack is a gathering space for parties, celebrations and to be able to support multipurpose use for the community more broadly,” Carpenter said.
They expect the project, funded by a $1.5 million capital campaign, to take six to nine months.
Yet, it’s not just about the building. Carpenter said they need a more diverse space in order to accommodate their more diverse congregation.
“We’ve noticed in the past year that as Cypress becomes more diverse generationally, we’ve been seeking to bring those multigenerational people together,” Carpenter said.
Population and development in this area seem to be growing simultaneously, as seen by the residential, industrial and commercial development that surrounds the completed sections of the Grand Parkway, or Texas 99, and bleeding into other sections of northwest Harris county.
A map released by the Houston Planning Department shows that within three miles of the Grand Parkway’s completed sections, more than 50,000 acres of development have either been established or planned within the past five years.
One church chose to purposefully plant a campus near Bridgeland and the Grand Parkway because of its projection for development.
Houston’s First Baptist Church leaders looked at where there was population growth and a lack of an evangelical presence, and they settled on Cypress — where they already had members who commuted to their main campus along the Katy Freeway.
The church’s Cypress Campus first met in an elementary school for four years. This month, they celebrated one year of residency in their $34 million church built from scratch: a 100,000 square foot building on 36.5 acres of land.
They’re now in the community and have strategic partnerships in the Cypress area: they’ve adopted schools to encourage teachers, and they work with local parachurch ministries.
Campus Pastor Jason Swiggart was confident that the church would expand as the need arises.
“This place gives us the ability to reach people who don’t have a church home. People think the suburbs are very homogeneous as far as race and socioeconomic levels, but out here we have the diversity of Houston. My neighbors are from all over the world and all different ages as well,” Swiggart said.
Also in Cypress, Christ the Redeemer Catholic Church is on the tail-end of their growth project.
In August, they expect to open their $13 million Redeemer Activity Center at 11507 Huffmeister Road.
The building is the third stage of a plan to meet the needs of the church’s over 6,000 families, and is to house the youth ministry program, parish space and area for the on-campus Catholic school as well as an auditorium.
Megan Dillingham, the church’s advancement director, said that they have seen a big need for additional space in order to provide programs for both their attendees and community members.
“This is a good model of the growth in the Cypress area, and it’s indicative of how this portion has exploded over the last decade,” Dillingham said.
Other churches have also expanded to accommodate the growing area in the past few years, such as Second Baptist Church, Champion Forest Baptist Church and The Family of the Faith.