Breaking the 200 Barrier: Cornerstone EFCA in Casper, Wyoming
History of the Church
Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church of Casper, Wyoming, began in 1971. For the first several decades, the church was relatively small and occasionally faced significant difficulties in attendance and giving. About 15 years ago, Pastor Jack Olsen was hired, and the church has been blessed with growth under his leadership.
Several factors have contributed to our church growth. Let me share three.
Factors Which Contributed to Breaking 200
(1) Worship facilities/times. From 2003 through mid-2008, our average attendance was consistently around 130-175. In the fall of 2008, the elders began a building campaign believing that building expansion would facilitate growth.
In 2009, groundbreaking began and excitement in the church followed even before construction was completed. For the first time, attendance averages occasionally broke the 200 barrier. In 2010, with construction fully in swing, attendance averages were consistently over 200. The building was completed in 2011, and with the completion of the building expansion, attendance consistently averaged over 250. Because of the increase in worship space, growth continued steadily through 2012.
Another factor that has contributed to our growth came by adding a Saturday night service. In 2013, the church added a third worship service to our schedule. The decision was made with the goal of reaching students at the local college. Attendance began to consistently break the 300 barrier. During this time, the church began to grow toward a more “missional” perspective.
Currently, we are in the process of praying through further expansion. In addition to other ideas, because the Casper, Wyoming, culture revolves around hunting, travel, and camping, we are considering adding a Thursday night service in order to provide a worship option for people who consistently travel on the weekends.
(2) Leading well. About two years ago, our then-pastor, Jack Olsen, felt led by God to plan for a successor. His plan was to hire the new senior pastor, serve together for a year as co-senior pastors, and then for the successor to become the senior pastor and for Jack to become an associate. About one year ago, I was hired to be the successor. Jack’s overall leadership led to a succession plan that helped continue our growth.
(3) Making connections/small groups. We recently prioritized our small-group ministry to focus on sermon-based discussion. Because we are worshipping separately across three services, our goal was to unify our church under a single vision by encouraging discussions that centered on similar topics and issues.
Although this was initially received by some with hesitation, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Each week, I email my sermon and five discussion questions to our small-group leaders. Throughout the week, each of our groups are lead through the questions, which focus on applying the biblical text.
Three Key Lessons We Have Learned
We have learned several lessons throughout the history of our church growth.
- Although some of our strategies were very intentionally aimed at church growth (adding worship space and worship times), other strategies simply happened and weren't necessarily aimed at church growth (the succession plan).
- There is no “magical” plan for church growth. Each church is unique and the uniqueness of each church and culture must be considered before implementing a strategy for church growth. For example, our decision to add services has been successful because of the transient nature of people in Wyoming.
- Our growth has clearly been blessed by God’s grace and not because of our strategies and efforts. The initial building campaign occurred during an economic recession, and yet the church grew, our people gave, and the Lord blessed.
Our growth has been steady over the last six to seven years, breaking the 200, 300, and 400 barriers. The reason for this growth cannot be boiled down to one, simple reason; rather, growth has taken place through a multi-faceted approach, sometimes intentional and sometimes accidental.
Growth has been a result of the Lord’s blessing and the church’s diligence to follow His leading under the direction of our pastoral staff.