Gulf Coast Conference

Coastal Bend parish:

A New Multipoint Parish for Corpus Christi

On Texas’ sunny Gulf Coast, two Lutheran churches just formed a two-point parish, a partnership that will allow them to call a shared pastor while retaining their distinct communities, buildings, and worship services. It’s an increasingly common arrangement as mainline church attendance starts to look more like the Apostles gathering than the feeding of the 5,000, but there’s plenty of benefits. 

St. John Lutheran Church in Robstown, TX and St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Corpus Christi, about 25 miles from each other, named their partnership Coastal Bend parish, a neutral name that could allow for more churches to join the collaboration later.  

“Ministry is going to look different in the future, and I think a multi-point parish takes advantage of some of the changes going on in ministry,” said Jerry Kramer, Council President of St. Mark’s. By partnering up, “both churches can do more ministry with fewer resources and better outcomes.”

St. Mark’s sanctuary in the center of Corpus Christi, TX.

Jerry noted how much ministry changed, and how much his church learned during the pandemic, when ways of worshiping previously unknown suddenly became common. He thinks the flexibility provided by this new partnership can allow the churches to focus on their community work.

“We want to flourish in all we do,” Jerry said. “In order to do that we have to recognize we have to change some things. That’s easy to say, tough to do. But we have to be flexible and willing to change just as ministry is changing.” 

Neither church wanted to close or consolidate, because they would lose not only their distinct community, but also the neighborhood services they provide. 

“St. Mark’s hosts Kids Against Hunger, and we have a food pantry with 60 families,” said Florine Haug, President of St. John’s. “We don’t want any of that to go away, we want to keep reaching out to others and supporting our communities.” 

Florine’s grandparents were charter members of St. John’s, and she embodies the love congregants feel for the church that will help each retain their individuality, but also work hard at the partnership.

“Since we’re going to be a parish we want to not just split a pastor but work together on ministry,” Florine said. “Because that’s the main thing, ministry.” 

St. John’s sanctuary in Robstown, near Corpus Christi.

As the two churches want the partnership to be self-directed, so the shared, full-time pastor they call can focus on pastoral care and preaching, not the cooperative functions of the parish. “Those skills are the jobs of our parish council, of our people. We’re the ones who have to run the partnership, not depend on the pastor to do that,” Florine said.  

A multi-point parish is not a merger, and both will retain their own constitutions. The Parish Council, with three members from each church, meets quarterly and will focus on high-level, partnership issues, while the individual churches still make more specific decisions. 

For example, St. John’s has a parsonage and will manage housing for the pastor, while St. Mark’s will manage shared financial payments like salary.  

“We listened to those who had gone through the process, and are trying to build upon that,” Jerry said, since the Synod helped Coastal Bend find example agreements from other multi-point parishes. “We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel, but to help make it better so someone in the future can use that same tool we’ve developed, and build it in a better fashion.”

“I think the key to all this is both churches have spent time listening to God and letting God lead us where we are to go,” Florine said. “Both of our churches are very excited about this. It’s been a really positive feeling of anticipation of what there is in the future. We’re just at the very beginning, and it’s a learning curve,” she added with a laugh. 

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