“Teaching the truth has helped us reach young people.”
By Justin Horey
Brian Kruckenberg, lead pastor of New City Church, compares Phoenix, Arizona, to a doughnut. Until five years ago, he says, the population was almost entirely concentrated in a circle of suburbs surrounding the region, with a “hole” in the center—the downtown area—where virtually no one lived.
Now Arizona’s capital city is making up for lost time, building apartments and condominiums on formerly vacant lots and creating brand-new residential neighborhoods in the heart of the city. Kruckenberg said people are moving to downtown Phoenix because they want to experience an urban lifestyle—including the city’s thriving art scene.
Some new residents have come from the suburbs and others have come from other parts of the country. No matter where they come from, with each passing year more and more of the new urbanites in Phoenix’s city center are finding their way to New City Church.
Kruckenberg planted New City Church in 2011. The congregation launched with around 200 people on day one—due in part to a “mini-merger” with a nearby church that had lost its pastor—and has only grown since then. Early on, New City grew by as much as 100 percent in a single year. Attendance recently has been increasing by about 20 percent each year, and today the church draws more than 2,000 people to worship each weekend.
“We’ve kind of become known as the church in the city,” Kruckenberg said.
Downtown Phoenix and New City Church have grown together, and the church reflects the demographic makeup of its surrounding community. Because few of the new downtown residents are families with children, a majority of the congregation at New City is made up of young adults—the average age of attendees is just 25. About 350 college students attend worship most weeks, and the church offers 11 small groups for them.
“I really do think young people want to learn,” Kruckenberg said. “They’re being taught a lot of false things in the world, but teaching the truth has helped us reach young people.”
New City is looking for ways to attract more families, but Kruckenberg is primarily interested in “trying to make it easy for pre-believers to come,” regardless of their age. To do that, the church is addressing practical concerns like seating—and parking. In 2017, New City Church expanded its auditorium, adding 200 seats and increasing the total capacity to 750.
Being landlocked in a relatively small facility has done little to curb the growth of New City Church. The congregation baptized almost 100 people in 2017, and has immersed more than 500 people in all since 2011.
Justin Horey is a writer, musician, and the founder of Livingstone Marketing. He lives in Southern California.