The Church at Woodforest Enjoys Spirited Attendance
THE WOODLANDS, Texas -- For all it’s accomplished, you would think The Church at Woodforest would have more candles on its birthday cake.
But the church — which The Woodlands United Methodist Church launched last year in Woodforest — has only been holding worship services for one year. And from the very beginning, it was filling the shoes of a much more established congregation.
“Our first big public event was a candlelight service the Sunday before Christmas last year,” said the Rev. Brent Parker, pastor of The Church at Woodforest. “We had a crowd of 375. We were very excited to see so many people; it wasn’t what we were expecting.”
And the crowd was even bigger for the congregation’s first regular Sunday service on Jan. 10.
“We put out 225 chairs and 440 people showed up,” Parker said. “It was quite an experience.”
Attendance did slow a bit as some of the newcomers were those just “kicking the tires,” but Parker said there has been a core group of about 350 people attending regular services, which are being held at Stewart Elementary in Woodforest until church facilities are built. Parker held two Easter services to accommodate the 700-plus crowd.
“God has been wanting to do something in that area, and the Woodforest community is excited, hopeful and anticipating a church community,” Parker said.
Several members of The Church at Woodforest were regular attendees of The Woodlands campus, but many others are new, with the church attracting Baptists, Catholics, Methodists and even those who have not attended church regularly in years.
Woodforest resident Sarah Paul and her family were among those who originally attended The Woodlands United Methodist Church, but wanted something a little closer to home.
“We joined The Woodlands church after moving to Woodforest, but were praying for a church in our community,” she said. “We wanted to go to church with people whose kids went to school with our kids. The vision for a front porch church stuck with us.”
Sarah and husband Ryan were involved with The Church at Woodforest since its inception and has seen it grow through the year. In addition to regular services, the church has programs for students, women and men — something that typically doesn’t happen during the first year.
“Normally, you double down that first year trying to create a meaningful worship experience, but our membership was ready for something more,” Parker said.
One of the most recent ministries is a neighborhood care group.
“We asked 18 people to participate in this ministry and all said yes,” Parker said. “Usually the response to requests of this nature is around 50 percent.”
The groups serve geographic areas through Woodforest, Tomball, Spring and Conroe to lend support to church members who have experienced a loss or have special needs. It’s this type of focus on community that Paul says has contributed to the success of The Church at Woodforest.
“The message of the church is about community and that mirrors the feel of Woodforest, which has a special, small-town feel,” she said.
Parker said the early success of The Church at Woodforest is causing the development team to reconsider prior timelines for construction of church facilities on a nearly 13-acre parcel The Woodlands United Methodist Church bought in Woodforest in 2015.
“Conversations are happening much sooner than we thought they would,” Parker said. “We have selected an architect to design the overall master plan and are considering fund-raising strategies.”
But for now, Parker is focused on Christmas services, which will include Christmas Eve candlelight services at 5 and 7 p.m. and an 11 a.m. service Christmas Day. And while attendance is a guess, he is planning on setting out more than chairs for each service.
Learn more about The Church at Woodforest at www.thewoodlandsumc.org.