By Kent E. Fillinger
Brian Kruckenberg didn’t grow up in a Christian home, but he attended church several times as a senior in high school. A teacher shared the gospel with him, and he began to understand it. But he finished high school, college, graduate school, and law school without giving faith in God much thought. After a friend invited the young attorney to church, Kruckenberg soon committed his life to Christ and started studying the Bible and serving in several ministries.
Kruckenberg’s passion for volunteering in his church continued to grow over the next four years, and in 2004 he decided to leave his job as a corporate attorney and work as a minister at Cedar Ridge Christian Church, Lenexa, Kansas. Several of his close friends moved to Phoenix in 2005, and Kruckenberg and his wife decided to follow them.
Kruckenberg became the campus pastor for a LifeChurch.tv satellite campus in Phoenix, and continued in that role for more than four years while completing a doctor of ministry degree. He believed God was calling him to church planting, he and his wife began to pray about it, and they met with others to explore that possibility. He left his position at LifeChurch at the end of 2009.
He moved to downtown Phoenix and completed a church planting assessment process offered through Orchard Group. In spring 2010, a decision was made to plant New City Church in downtown Phoenix. Through partnerships with several Christian churches and Evangelical churches in the Phoenix area, significant financial support was provided, and a management team was established. New City Church launched in 2011 in an old office building on the main downtown corridor.
The financial support enabled Kruckenberg to establish an office in an old downtown home that doubles as an art studio for the church. The first Friday of each month, new art is displayed on the first floor of the home. The church hosts several hundred people from the community for the art exhibit and live music. Many of those who attend are non-Christians, and this venue provides a great opportunity for the New City Church team to build relationships with those who wouldn’t choose to walk into a church.
Kruckenberg studied the composition of the downtown community to understand whom he was trying to reach, and he and his team have designed New City Church to be a good reflection of its community. The staff members’ authenticity and personable nature have helped them connect with others. New City Church has excellent worship and practical teaching, and the environment is very comfortable for the unchurched. It’s not unusual for New City to mix liturgical worship with modern “rock ’n’ roll style” worship music during a service.
People are responding to the church’s unique ministry. Last year the church grew from an average worship attendance of 250 to 335 (34 percent). The growth is continuing, with the church now averaging more than 440. The church is attracting young, urban professionals, college students from a nearby liberal arts school, and many Latinos—it’s a mix reflective of the community. The church is also slowly becoming more multigenerational. The ministry staff is multiethnic, and that diversity has helped the church to make connections.
Factors, such as significant initial funding, low administrative costs, and several substantial givers allowed New City Church to become self-sustaining within 18 months. The church steers 20 percent of its budget into outreach efforts. “We try to put our money where our mouth is, and we know God honors generosity, so we want to be generous,” he said.
Kruckenberg and his team intend to focus on strengthening the church’s discipleship program through one-on-one mentorships and a core believer’s class. The church will also spend more time this year developing and training leaders. Kruckenberg also wants to develop a “faith and work” program to help Christians in the marketplace.
New City Church still has some room to grow in its present location, but may soon need to pray about and discuss larger worship space options.