Planting Urban Churches

Addressing Diverse Needs and Transforming Communities

June 17, 2024

In recent years, there’s been a growing recognition among mainstream denominations and church planting movements about the significance of planting urban churches in the United States. 

As cities continue to grow and evolve and historic community churches are closing their doors, the need for disciple-making churches within urban areas becomes increasingly important. 

For any movement, church, or planter looking to plant in an urban community, it is critical that you prayerfully consider what definition of “urban” will be your focus. There are multiple definitions of what “urban” is and means. 

Clarity on the definition of urban helps to define next steps. For instance, when we at Nitrogen Urban Network speak of urban, we make a distinction using what I call the “Rings of Urban Communities.” In our context, these four rings include: 

  • Urban Core (population density, reduced and free lunch, and ethnic diversity is high)
  • Urban Gentrified (communities are often called midtown that have moved the original poor to poor middle-class people out)
  • Urban Downtown (where the homeless and upper middle class co-exist)
  • Urban Second Ring (not located center city but faces similar social challenges as urban core)

The desire to plant urban churches is present, but we have noticed a hesitation among even our most successful church planting movements. Many struggle with how to practically and successfully plant urban churches. Below, I will outline a few concepts to consider as we move to plant more urban churches. 

Diversity is Always Intentional

Any organization, movement, or church that has accepted the responsibility to have its team, congregation, and volunteers reflect its community must be relentless in making it happen or it just is not going to happen. The same can be said about urban church planting. The reality that urban church planting is hard, expensive, takes longer, and can make it difficult to find leaders tends to cause a “deer in headlights” effect among even our greatest leaders. This causes a slow drift into “if it happens, it happens.” Or the more churchy way to say it … “If the Lord leads.” 

It is my desire to see every movement see the fruit in committing to do the long, hard, heavy lifting. But to do this, we must intentionally commit for the long haul, assign leadership who will create comprehensive strategies, and come up with a creative fund development plan. 

Learning Opportunity

There is an abundant opportunity to learn from urban churches. From the fight against racism, fight for women’s rights, fight for fair housing, soul-gripping preaching, and eliminating food deserts to Black gospel music that influences all genres of music today, the urban church has something to teach the world. When we plant urban churches, we are not planting liabilities, we are launching cultural epicenters that invade the darkness. 

Meeting the Changing Demographics

Urban areas in the United States are known for their diverse populations, with people from various cultural, ethnic, and socio-economic backgrounds. Planting churches in these urban settings allows for the creation of communities that reflect and cater to the specific needs of the local residents. These urban churches can provide a safe and welcoming space for individuals and families to worship, connect, and grow in their faith within their own communities. 

Reaching the Unchurched

According to recent studies, a significant percentage of the U.S. population remains unchurched or disconnected from a faith community. Planting urban churches presents an opportunity to reach out to those who have disengaged from the church. By intentionally focusing on urban areas, church planters can connect with community members who may have never considered attending a church before, thus expanding the reach of the gospel. 

Addressing Social Issues

As I previously mentioned, we have a lot of amazing fruit that has grown from our urban communities. But at the same time, urban areas often face challenges such as poverty, homelessness, addiction, and crime. Planting churches in these communities allows for a proactive approach in addressing these issues. Urban churches can serve as catalysts for positive change, offering practical assistance, support networks, and spiritual guidance to individuals in need. By actively engaging with their community, urban churches have the potential to make a substantial impact on social justice and community development. 

Community Transformation

Through the Holy Spirit, urban churches have the power to transform not only individual lives but entire communities. By fostering a sense of belonging, encouraging civic engagement, and promoting unity among diverse populations, these churches can contribute to the overall well-being and development of urban areas. They can become hubs for community events, educational programs, and initiatives aimed at improving the quality of life for all residents. 

Planting urban churches in the United States is not only a response to changing demographics and social dynamics, but also a strategic approach to expanding the reach of the gospel and addressing the needs of diverse communities. By investing in urban church planting initiatives, we can create spaces of spiritual nourishment, community development, and social transformation, bringing hope and positive change to the urban core across the nation.

Troy Evans

Troy Evans

Troy Evans started his professional career as an IT Engineer working for GM, Red Cross & The Bing Group. He later launched an IT staffing company in the metro Detroit area. After moving to Grand Rapids to plant his second church, he started a marketing company, providing services for churches, international recording artists, and other organizations. In the past 27 years, Troy has planted and served as pastor of four urban churches. He has been featured on 700 Club, TEDx, Focus On the Family, Failure Lab, NPR and Exponential. Troy served as the Urban Church Planting Catalyst for the Wesleyan Church in the US. Then established an urban church planting network in the UK. Troy currently serves as President of Nitrogen Urban Network where they are committed to equipping pastors, leaders and churches to do the work of urban ministry for the purpose of multiplying disciple-making churches.
View Author

Related Articles