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Planting a Tree for Future Generations

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January 30, 2017

by Stan Cosby, Senior Pastor, St. Stephen UMC, Amarillo

Planting a Tree for Future Generations

I am very proud to say that Saint Stephen United Methodist Church and TMF have shared a long and productive relationship that extends beyond my soon to be 10 years here as senior pastor. TMF has been a good partner that has enabled us to keep our sanctuary and other church buildings repaired and renovated since our doors first opened in 1962.

But it is our most recent experience with TMF that I am especially thankful for and excited to share with others.

In 2010, our clergy and lay leadership recognized that we needed a new Children’s Center to truly serve the needs of our community. We also realized that in order to keep our congregation thriving, it was vital to provide our community’s young families with the programs and facilities our church could provide.

The project involved not just building a new Children’s Center, but also making important renovations to other campus buildings. The cost of completing the entire project was an intimidating $6.5 million. We were blessed, however, with a successful capital campaign which, when combined with other donations, covered almost 50% of the required funds.

That’s when we contacted David McCaskill at TMF. From the day we first met with David and his team at TMF in 2012, they were extremely knowledgeable and helpful in assisting us to find a loan that provided a financially smart and accountable solution for funding the rest of this vital project.  

Our new Children’s Center opened in March 2014, and to date the results have been transformative for Saint Stephen UMC.

Jennifer Pohlmeier, director of children’s ministry, was instrumental in designing the Children’s Center, emphasizing functionality without compromising the aesthetics of space, color and light. From the day the facility was completed, our pre-school and Mother’s Day Out (MDO) programs, under the direction of Stefani Cook, have been at capacity, with a significant waiting list. The size of the Children’s Church has doubled under the leadership of Jennifer and her staff, and we’ve also seen a significant growth in our Sunday School program. We’ve been blessed to provide an amazing environment for childcare that offers both incredible facilities and a highly trained and deeply committed staff.

I’m not the only one who’s been impressed. In 2016, Amarillo Magazine named Saint Stephen pre-school and MDO program as the best in the city. Our Vacation Bible School summer program earned the same honor.

We’ve also developed a dynamic children’s music program comprised of four different choirs. Each choir performs once a month during our main worship service. And we’ve added a modern worship service in our fellowship hall that welcomes more than 100 worshipers each week.

The Children’s Center has been a tremendous point of entry for young families looking for a church to call home. Since the center opened, our congregation has grown by 378 members, the majority of whom discovered us through our children’s programs. The median age of our congregation has also dropped dramatically in the last two years.

This growth has been a blessing to our church, and we’re very excited about the future. But the most incredible and inspiring part of this entire project is that it was conceived, led and sustained by some of the most senior members of our congregation. They were the true force in bringing transformation to our church in the form of new members and younger families.

Many of these folks have been part of this congregation since the 1960s and 1970s, when they joined Saint Stephen with their own young families. They shared a profound gratitude for what Saint Stephen had meant to their families through the years and wanted to provide that sense of inclusion and spiritual kinship to new generations of families in Amarillo.

They also realized that a church must reach out to the community in order to grow and thrive. And they understood that offering a warm, welcoming environment to young families is key to this effort.

Our senior members led the way on the capital funds campaign, as well as other fund-raising efforts. We had a remarkable 96% approval rating from our congregation on this project. I’ve never seen that kind of support for any church project since I’ve been a pastor.

Above all, I was most impressed by their philosophy from the start, which was, “We want to plant this tree. We may not be around to see it fully grown, but we know that future generations will gather and play under its’ shade.”

I am very pleased to share that in only two years, that newly planted “tree” is growing big and strong more quickly than any of us imagined. Thanks to TMF, Saint Stephen will continue to be an important gathering place for our congregation and community for many generations to come.

To begin your conversation about planting a tree for future generations, reach out to David here.

Editor’s note:  Our TMF blog shares stories and essays inspired by our purpose: to help individuals, families, congregations and like-minded organizations achieve their God-inspired potential. In this post, Senior Pastor Stan Cosby discusses how a loan from TMF helped Saint Stephen UMC in Amarillo grow and transform its congregation to meet the needs of a growing community.


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