When Doug Krengel got the call to pastor the Family of Faith Lutheran Church and Preschool in Houston, changes and challenges were about to come. The surrounding area was growing by leaps and bounds, and with it came community needs that called out for Christian attention.
“After six years of planning and praying and discussing, the Lord made it clear that our small congregation was called to boldly reach out to our community with the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” said Krengel. “More specifically, we needed to reach out through our early childhood education program. During the 2018-2020 school years, our preschool offered early childhood education, before-school care, after-school care, and summer camp to well over 100 children at both of our locations. While being a multi-site church was new to the members at The Family of Faith, it was familiar to me since I had recently served in a multi-site church with three locations.”
Good thing, too, because Krengel was able to step in and shepherd the necessary changes. Having served at a Michigan church with ministries at three locations – urban, suburban, and rural – Krengel was well-equipped for the growth that would come to his community. The challenges, though, extended beyond the church. At the time, Krengel was pursuing his PhD in Organizational Leadership. His daughter was continuing her college education in Michigan, where they had lived, and his son had opened a business in Munich. In addition, the church is one of a network that provides care for 1,000 children through early education centers.
“The LCMS sponsors the largest protestant school system in America,” explained Krengel. “There are well over 1,000 LCMS preschools, elementary schools, high schools, colleges, seminaries, and a law school in the Concordia University System.” Krengel himself attended Pilgrim Lutheran School near Bellaire and Meyerland back in the 1970s, so it is a ministry close to his heart.
Krengel mentioned one area of childhood education, though, that continues to challenge him. “During my seminary education, I was required to study biblical Hebrew and Greek. However, the language we are trying to learn now is ‘modern mom.’ There is a culture that goes with the spoken and written word. This culture includes decisions about building or buying a home, choosing a career, and certainly includes dreams, prayers, and aspirations for the children’s future. I never received any classes in how to speak ‘modern mom.’ However, with the help of the mothers of young children that serve on our staff and who send their children to our preschool, our church is beginning to learn this important language. We work to partner with mom and dad as they seek to nurture and educate their children toward their educational, vocational, and personal goals.”
The church follows the principle of “multiple multiples to multiply,” meaning that in order to be effective in reaching out with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the church needs to be multi-generational, multi-cultural, and multi-site. All of these “multiples” are needed to bring the Good News of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus to as many people as possible. They do this in a “multiple smalls” setting, with small worship groups of 100-125 who can get to know each other and pray for one another as their church name suggests – a Family of Faith.
And despite the ups and downs of Covid, the church is thriving. Their preschool has remained open at one location, the congregation was able to worship outside during spring, and due to flexible seating arrangements and extra precautionary measures, they’ve been able to resume regular worship services. Of course, online services are provided, allowing the church to touch over 1,000 people each month. The biggest change has been the modification in the way the Lord’s Supper is distributed, through a pre-packaged communion kit, something quite different for the Lutheran Church, which holds the Lord’s Supper in high regard and follows vessel traditions when sharing the sacrament.
Krengel has had to get creative in order to honor the Lord’s Supper. “I do my best to visit people in their homes – people who just cannot get out to attend our worship service. I wear a mask and gloves before entering their homes or I put the pre-packaged communion elements in a small basket and leave the basket at the front door. I call the family, who retrieves the basket, and I celebrate an abbreviated communion service with them over the phone.”
When asked how we can get through the trials and tribulations of 2020, Krengel’s response is clear. “We cannot. God can. We need supernatural intervention. The resurrected Christ is not dead. Christ rose from the dead and lives and reigns and comes to us through His Means of Grace, His Word, His Baptism, His Supper. Through these interventions, God forgives us when we turn to ourselves as our ultimate solution – when we look to ourselves as saviors. The message of the Gospel will work a miracle in our hearts. We will be given the confidence that we can address the numerous issues in front of us. Some call this ‘self-efficacy.’ I would suggest to you the efficacy is not from the self. Rather, we need God-efficacy, the faith that the risen Christ is with us and is intervening and will empower us to respond with acts of hope, instead of acts of despair.”