Lincoln (pop. 270,000), Nebraska’s capitol city, is experiencing rapid growth and change. It has grown by over 16% since 2000 and by 36,000 people in the last six years. This growth is largely due to new people moving to the city, while the natural growth rate is declining compared to past years.
According to the city’s slogan, “Life is right in Lincoln.” If the awards and recognition that have come Lincoln’s way in recent years are any indication, many seem to agree. Lincoln was named the #1 Best City to find a job in 2015 (Forbes), a Top Ten Best College Town (Livability), and #4 Best City for Families (Wallethub), to name a few.
Despite its many recent awards, recognitions, and rankings, Lincoln isn’t without problems. The population of those in poverty has, for example, increased 48% since 2005 and homelessness has grown 41% since 2007.
Lincoln is not only growing, but it is also becoming more diverse. Since 2005, Lincoln’s non-white population has increased 55% while the white-only population has dropped from 87% to 83% of the city’s overall population. Designated as a “refugee- friendly” city by the U.S. government in the 1970s, a large refugee population from countless different countries call Lincoln home.
Finally, Lincoln is a college town. It is home to a number of colleges and universities, including the University of Nebraska–Lincoln (25,000 students), Southeast Community College (9,000 students), Nebraska Wesleyan (2,000 students), and Union College (900 students). Southeast Community College, Nebraska Wesleyan, and the Universi- ty of Nebraska–Lincoln all have campuses located in or near Northeast Lincoln.
We’ve been praying about the possibility of planting a church in Northeast Lincoln, specifically the Havelock, University Place, and Bethany neighborhoods, for more than four years now. These three neighborhoods, all originally independent towns annexed by the city of Lincoln nearly one hundred years ago, have a strong, tight-knit sense of community and history-rich identities that are not common in most other Lincoln neighborhoods.
Depending upon how one draws lines, more than 50,000 call Northeast Lincoln home, with approximately 20,000 living in Havelock and University Place.
Though there is a relatively strong evangelical church presence in Lincoln, a large portion of churchgoers commute to the outskirts of town to their church of choice on Sunday mornings. It is rare to see gospel-centered, missionally-focused churches embedded in neighborhoods. This is certainly true for Havelock, University Place, and Bethany.
We desire to assume a sense of “spiritual ownership and responsibility” over Northeast Lincoln, to cultivate a faithful presence, and to become invested members of the Northeast Lincoln community. We want to increase the “gospel density” in this corner of our city by loving, serving, and sharing the hope of the gospel with the last, the least, and the lost that we encounter as we live our normal lives as God’s sent, missionary people.