Colin Noonan, Creative Arts Producer/Editor
Church just isn’t what it used to be at City Square Church, and according to Pastor Brian Kemp-Schlemmer, that’s intentional.
“We’ve always been challenged by the question, ‘What does it mean to be a movement?’ It’s clear that people these days are skeptical of church, so we’re always looking for new ways to reinvent and reimagine the ways people connect with Christ,” said Brian.
City Square Church has a little different approach to building a new faith community. From the bluesy, southern music that has adorned their worship style on Sunday mornings, to the monthly Theology Pub gatherings for exploring faith, this model is not only intentional, but also “indigenous” of the people and community around them.
City Square developed out of a love for downtown Phoenix. As the downtown area grew and began to form an identity around the arts, community, and small businesses, Brian, and Co-Pastor, Rob Rynders began to see a need, not just for another church, but a place that values and partners with the surrounding community. Brian shares, “We’ve felt from the beginning that God was already at work here in Phoenix. We just wanted to partner with the people in what was already happening.”
In order to begin building a new faith community, Brian and Rob both knew they needed to start with the people. City Square’s efforts to reach people and share the never-changing love of God began with a desire to connect, listen, and learn from the neighborhood they were planted in. Their method is not only an extended invitation for people to come to them, but an effort to meet others where they live, work, and play in order to listen to their needs. Brian explains, “We want to learn from the people around us and connect with people we’re not already connected with. It’s important for us to always have one foot in the teachings of Jesus, and the other foot in the world around us.”
City Square has established itself as a meaningful part of the downtown Phoenix area. The church speaks to the questions and doubts in the lives of the community. Their monthly Theology Pub is an open-door invitation for people to gather for food, drink, and meaningful conversations centered on faith. In a relaxed, familiar environment, people of all walks of life and faiths have joined them at Angel’s Trumpet Ale House to explore the simple and complex questions of faith.
Their “community first” approach has opened up several doors to build relationships with local businesses, successful entrepreneurs, and other influential leaders who, like City Square, have a heart to see the city of Phoenix transformed.
City Square’s approach may not reflect the type of church people are used to, but they’re more than OK with that. In the end, they understand that it’s not about them-but about helping others get plugged-in to a meaningful faith community, even if it’s not City Square. “We’re not trying to sell anyone on anything,” said Brian. “We just want to help people find the right place for them.”
Beyond their innovative style and monthly pub gatherings, City Square Church has reimagined the ways that new faith communities are built and sustained through their “community first” approach. By always being aware of the area they’ve been planted in, they’re confident that as long as they remain connected to the Spirit and the community, God will always be leading others through their doors.