People looking for garden plants will sometimes email the Greenhouse for information. “What do you guys grow over there?” they ask.
“Hopefully disciples,” Pastor Jason Quiring responds.
Nurturing tender shoots of faith in people who have been misguided or hurt by past church experiences is what the Greenhouse in Saratoga Springs, Utah, is all about. Begun in 2013 by Jason and Nicole Quiring, Greenhouse is a small congregation with an organic approach to church planting.
The Quirings had their introduction to the Utah context serving two and a half years in youth ministry at South Mountain Community Church in Draper, Utah. They loved the suburban community of Lehi, 15 minutes south of Draper, where they lived during that time and four years later felt themselves drawn back to that same area.
The experience of ministering and living in a community that was in such need of a Christian witness had invigorated them. Saratoga Springs, near Lehi, was a rapidly growing city of 25,000 that had no non-Mormon churches. They were excited to plant a church in a place where 99 out of 100 people they encountered didn’t know Jesus yet.
“We meet a lot of people who have been burnt by the church and people who have fallen through the gaps,” Jason says. “They don’t want another big church. They want a family.”
Bryan and Susanne Schmutz are a Greenhouse couple who needed time to heal from past church experiences. Both had been raised as Mormons but had left the church and wandered spiritually for about 10 years.
“It was 10 years of recalibrating from Mormonism to Christianity,” Jason says.
A church that feels more like a family than a big organization is the ideal place for that “recalibration” to take place, according to the Quirings. A typical Sunday morning will see some 40 people gathered for worship and teaching at a local dance studio they rent for their weekly services.
Those who come are not “attenders,” they’re “participants,” Jason points out. “The joy of small church family is that everybody gets to play—helping in the nursery or picking up chairs afterwards.”
Community members’ level of participation in Greenhouse varies widely, from the small core who regularly attend Sunday morning worship and biweekly home meetings (called missional communities) to many others who just feel connected because of relationships with people in the church. There is a place for all of them at Greenhouse and patience to allow people time to process what it means to become disciples of Jesus.
Among the people Greenhouse connects with are former Mormons who are currently atheists. One such man is a friend of the Quirings who, with his family, regularly participates in church activities. His experience with the Mormons, including a time as a missionary and on church staff, makes him leery of someone trying to convert him. He warned Jason: “Don’t try to sell me a car, because I used to be a car salesman.”
“We think more like missionaries than church planters,” says Nicole, who grew up in a church planting family. “You go in and build trust and you’re in for the long haul. Growth is small and slow, but there is nothing slow about what we are doing in inviting people into our lives.”
As a fourth grade teacher at a local elementary school, Nicole sees her role as a teacher as part of that trust-building process.
“It would be easier to just invite them to come on Sunday, but instead we are having that conversation at school, at the bank, around the pool and at the ballpark.”
Slow numerical growth requires a unique set of metrics to measure progress, Nicole explains. “We count the number of baptisms, but we also measure how much we are invited into other people’s lives. It’s easy for us to invite them, but do [people in the community] invite Greenhouse people into their lives? That’s where we can engage on a new level.”