Urban Church Planting that Thrives with Scott Ancarrow

Welcome to this episode of the unSeminary podcast. This week we have Scott Ancarrow joining us. He is a church planter and leader from The Foundry, which launched in 2013 in downtown Baltimore, Maryland.

Scott is with us today to talk about church planting in a city and the importance of viewing things through the lens of an urban context.

  • The challenge of urban planting. // The conventional wisdom of some church planters is to find a fast growing population center with a conviction of stewardship. This is most often seen in suburban areas. Urban church planting is difficult for a number of reasons including the expense and the hyper-transient nature of the area. Both of these issues make it challenging to develop a sustainable ministry.
  • Support, financial help, and coaching. // When Scott first began exploring urban church planting in Maryland, he saw that there were some great, healthy churches at the periphery of the city, but few in the city’s center. These churches had a heart for the city and ultimately the connections that Scott had with them and his network positioned him and his team to have appropriate amounts of support, financial help, and coaching as they launched out. All of these areas were key to their success in planting an urban church.
  • “How do we care for a community that didn’t really invite us here?” // Scott recognizes that the idea of a new church to the average person seems strange when they already have a few church buildings in the city. People ask, “Why do we need another church?” The Foundry leads out of the idea of impact as a way of allowing people to see the visible church—active and engaging and faithful to the things they say they care about. Over time this approach has become The Foundry’s biggest front door.
  • Outside of Sunday gatherings. // The Foundry cancels their Sunday gatherings twice a year. One of these times they go to an elementary school and partner with a local organization called Generosity Feeds to package meals for the hungry in their city. Not only does this outreach educate people about food insecurity, it brings people of different classes and socioeconomic backgrounds together. Another event The Foundry does in place of their Sunday gathering is scattering throughout the city to make micro-impacts. Where are situations in which a small group of maybe five people would solve more need and have more impact than a crowd of 50 people?
  • VBS alternative. // Often kids don’t get the opportunity help out in many outreaches within the city, so The Foundry started a program called Kids for the City which creates opportunities for kids to live on mission and serve others. Kids for the City takes the place of a traditional vacation bible school at The Foundry.
  • Examine growth in your context. // One of the tensions in urban planting is finding what success and sustainability would look like. It may be that the area that God has called you to has a median income that’s under the poverty line and so sustainability needs to be examined within your context. In terms of church growth, Scott and his team try to think more about the number of guests engaged in the church in a year, hours served, and how many new guests they can get into the room. Every year they have about a 25% turnover because of the transient area where they are positioned, and so those factors need to be taken into consideration.

You can find out more about The Foundry at foundrybaltimore.com and on Facebook at Foundry Church Baltimore.

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.