The city of Austin has been a top growth city in America for many years running, and has continued to grow, even during the recent economic downturn. In response to their ongoing explosive growth, Austinites began a campaign to maintain the distinctiveness of local neighborhoods under the slogan, “Keep Austin Weird”. Since then, this has become more generally the motto for the city at large. Austin is religiously diverse—among other things, it is home to the largest Hindu temple in North America. Culturally, Austin prides itself in being cosmopolitan, free-thinking, and tolerant of multiple viewpoints. It would be a mistake to think of a church plant in Austin as a church plant in Texas. What most people think of as Texan culture is a mostly suburban/rural phenomenon in the Austin area. Austin has as many tattoos and piercings as it has cowboy hats and shiny belt buckles.

Austin is also a young city. The average age for New Way Church’s initial target area (a four mile radius centered on the Gateway mall), for instance, is 36. The most significant demographic age group in this area are the “survivor” generation of 28- to 48-year-olds, which makes up 39% of the population here; the U.S. average for this group overall is only 29%. Austin overall is culturally very young. The presence of the University of Texas in the center of the city, with its 50,000 students, has a significant cultural impact, as do the multiple annual music festivals that draw international crowds.

The U.S. Lifestyle group (from a system of 6 demographic groups and 50 subgroups used by church psychographic research company, Percept) most significantly present in the area is the “Young and Coming” group. Young and Coming households represent 52% of this area’s population, 16% of which are of the Rising Potential Professionals subgroup; for comparison, the U.S. average for the Young and Coming group is only 15%. This area is also a highly educated one, with twice as many college graduates per capita than in the general U.S. population.

Given the large amount of transplant growth, the overrepresentation of people on the cusp of starting families, and the overall atmosphere of intellectual and philosophical experimentation, Austin represents fertile ground for church planting. In particular, this place has what has sometimes been termed “New Church Friendly Demographics”; it has been on the unofficial church planting “to watch” lists of a number of church growth thinkers in the General Church for years.

An additional reason for planting in Austin is that it is a good match not only for the New Church, but for this particular New Church planter, the Rev. Mac Frazier. When doing outreach work, it is important to find a good match between the target culture and the background of the founding pastor. In this case, Mac is coming from a background in high-tech entrepreneurship, and is intimately familiar with the culture, worldview and lifestyle of tech workers and managers that make up a significant percentage of the target demographic in Austin. Austin is a high-tech town; Dell is headquartered there and IBM has a major presence there, among other high-tech employers in the area. During the height of the tech boom there were regular commuter flights between Austin and the Silicon Valley—dubbed the “nerd bird”—because the growing cadre of web workers and growing Internet millionaires preferred the more laid back and progressive lifestyle of Austin.

[This is excerpted from the Launch Plan for New Way Church in Austin, TX. Go to yesterday’s except for an explanation of why we need More Societies (i.e. New Church congregations). Tomorrow: why Mac Frazier would make a good church planter for this plan.]