Two new churches use different approaches to draw in growing Phoenix population

Mars Hill, one of the two new churches, currently holds services at the upscale gallery Bentley Projects. (Amanda LaCasse/DD)
Mars Hill, one of the two new churches to downtown Phoenix, currently holds Sunday morning services at an upscale gallery called the Bentley Projects on Second and Grant streets. (Amanda LaCasse/DD)

There is not a lack of Protestant churches in downtown Phoenix—City of Grace, Roosevelt Community Church and New City Church are a few examples—but this fall, two new churches joined the ranks of existing ones available to Phoenix residents.

The two churches, Mars Hill and DTPHX Church, are polar opposites. The former is a branch of a Seattle-based megachurch, while the latter is the brainchild of the former music minister at North Phoenix Baptist Church.

Mars Hill has 15 locations in the Western U.S. While awaiting a permanent location, the Phoenix branch holds Sunday morning services at the Bentley Projects, an upscale gallery located at Second and Grant streets.

Pastor Ryan Welsh is currently leading the congregation through a series on Christian doctrine and theology. After Mars Hill officially launches in January, the services will feature sermons streamed online from Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll.

The Mars Hill Phoenix branch first held services on Oct. 20 and plans to officially open Jan. 12. While Mars Hill began looking at locations both in Old Town Scottsdale and downtown Phoenix, they settled on downtown because of the growing nature of the area.

“We know downtown is up-and-coming” Welsh said. “We like to be in cities.”

Welsh said the church wants to open locations in large cities across the country.

“There (are) a lot of people starting to realize that Phoenix has a large population. Church planters are realizing all those people need more churches,” Welsh said.

Journalism freshman Zac Pacleb has attended Mars Hill since the first Sunday services were offered. Pacleb said he chose to attend Mars Hill because his former pastor suggested it.

“I go to Central Christian Church in Las Vegas, and we all follow Mars Hill online and listen to their music,” Pacleb said. “My youth leader shot me an email and said ‘Hey, check it out, I know you’re looking for a church.’”

Journalism freshman Tamsyn Stonebarger enjoys Mars Hill because of the youthful feel.

“I enjoy the pastor a lot because he’s younger. It’s easier for college kids our age to connect with him,” Stonebarger said.

DTPHX Church, read “Downtown Phoenix Church,” held its first service Nov. 3 at the A.E. England building at Civic Space Park.

Church leader Jim Helman said DTPHX Church chose to begin downtown because he and his wife Colleen moved downtown a year ago and noticed how the area is growing.

“There’s a resurgence and revitalization in downtown Phoenix,” Helman said.

DTPHX Church plans on partnering with other Christian churches in the area to reach the community.

“(The pastors at City Square United Methodist Church) are doing an awesome job reaching into the community,” Helman said. “I want to be a part of that too.”

DTPHX Church is still very much a work in progress. Eleven weeks ago North Phoenix Baptist Church said goodbye to Helman, and DTPHX Church is now beginning.

“It’s like we have the edges of a puzzle set up,” said Helman. “Now we need to fill in the middle.”

DTPHX Church plans on opening in April and will meet bi-monthly until then. They will have their second meeting on Dec. 1. It will be a potluck with the goal of bringing the community together.

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