Houston Church’s Social-Impact Initiative Creates a Launch Pad for Outreach

The Church: First Presbyterian Church of Houston in Texas
The Challenge: Accelerate the impact of entrepreneurial activity in the church to advance the cause of the gospel in the city and around the world.
One Big Idea: Connect gospel-minded entrepreneurs to the social, intellectual and financial areas of the church to create a ministry launch pad for outreach.

Four years ago, Christopher was born under a Houston freeway to a mother so consumed by addiction that she couldn’t care for her newborn. Thanks to the congregation of First Presbyterian Church of Houston, for the past two years Christopher has attended Nehemiah Center, a high-quality, early-childhood ministry supported by the church. Christopher graduated from preschool last spring and now is a happy, healthy kindergartener who is nurtured both educationally and spiritually by loving FPC Houston volunteers.

This year, the church launched Project Flourish, a comprehensive social-impact initiative designed to address community outreach. The church has invited individuals to submit innovative, gospel-oriented ideas for improving both the city and the world. Through the initiative, FPC Houston hopes to see some cool, cutting-edge concepts that push the boundaries of solving big issues in the big city.

In December, after pitching their ideas to a group of judges, up to 10 finalists will be selected to receive a portion of a $250,000 prize pool. FPC Houston plans to select more than 150 mentors from the church’s membership (roughly 10 percent of their 1,500 worshippers) and mobilize them as skills coaches to work one-on-one with those whose ideas are selected.

“These are people in the pews who have skills in marketing, finance, accounting, law,” says Austin Hermann, the director of ministry empowerment at FPC Houston. “They will provide consulting support driven by entrepreneurial business acumen and ensure the applicants are prepared to pitch to the judges.”

On October 14, the Project Flourish team will host a weekend workshop during which participants take sessions on business planning, pitch-practice and fundraising, all designed to nurture and refine their ideas.

“It’s essentially a day intended to bless the participants by helping them with specific needs they have in order to launch these ventures,” says Hermann.

The big thing he stresses regarding this ministry is that everyone is equipped to serve in their circles of influence by using their skills, experience, networking and expertise.

“We encourage and empower people to serve their mission in their context,” says Hermann. For example, a seasoned accountant should recognize that the 20 years he’s spent in the field goes beyond simply earning a paycheck. The knowledge that he’s gained and the relationships he’s formed can be leveraged to help these entrepreneurs create a launch pad for change.

Though Project Flourish is the newest of FPC Houston’s outreach ministries, it’s but one of many ways they fulfill their mission to carry the gospel to their city and the world.

“We’ve developed a multidimensional strategy to outreach, which allows us to serve locally and globally, prayerfully supporting existing ministries, initiating new ideas and encouraging the launch of new initiatives,” says Jim Birchfield, senior pastor of FPC Houston. “For example, we have a robust strategy for relational evangelism that includes training and equipping members of the church to feel comfortable in sharing the gospel relationally in their daily circles of influence.”

In addition, FPC Houston recently participated in a Houston church plant and hopes to plant three more churches within the next two to three years. Finally, several ministries—all launched through FPC members or ministries—serve Houston, including the Nehemiah Center; a partnership with Cullen Middle School, a public school in Houston that features an after-school tutoring program, individual student mentoring and a teacher-appreciation program; and Main Street Ministries, through a project called Family Hope, which helps families living in the margins to regain stability and stay off the streets.

“When I was introduced to Family Hope, my life was unraveling,” confides a Houston mother. “I was standing in a food line, unsure of my future. Now I’ve ‘learned to fish,’ and my family will never go hungry again.”

Though this is the first year for Project Flourish, the church hopes for it to be an ongoing ministry.

“Project Flourish is just formalizing a process we’ve been engaged in for years,” explains Hermann. “We’re focused on engaging people where they are—to use what they do 9 to 5, Monday through Friday—for the sake of the kingdom in Houston.”

Houston, Texas

Christy Heitger-Ewing
Christy Heitger-Ewinghttp://christyheitger-ewing.com/

Christy Heitger-Ewing is a contributing writer for Outreach magazine. In addition, Christy pens the “Now & Then” column in Cabin Life magazine. She also writes regularly for Christian publications such as Encounter, Insight, and the Lookout. She is the author of Cabin Glory: Amusing Tales of Time Spent at the Family Retreat.