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Rudy Rasmus’ Church Growth Tips


United Methodist pastor Rudy Rasmus preaches to a packed church in jeans and boots. His Houston congregation grew from 9 to 9,000. Tradition is fine, Rasmus says, but too often it just gets in the way. Lilla Marigza shares the story of a preacher who knows what people really want out of Sunday mornings.

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(Locator: Houston, Texas)

Music: "Joy to God. Joy, joy joy."

The Rev. Rudy Rasmus, St John's Downtown United Methodist Church: "If you want people to come your way and come back again and tell others about the experience, you need an engaging experience. 'Wow, I can't wait till I can go back there again.'"

(Rasmus to congregation) "I have the audacity to believe in something completely preposterous to the rest of the thinking world."

The Reverend Rudy Rasmus knows what keeps 'em coming back. He and his wife, the Reverend Juanita Rasmus, grew this congregation at St. John's Downtown United Methodist in Houston from nine people to 9,000.

(Rasmus to congregation) "Alright, yeah!"

What's the secret behind this kind of excitement? Rasmus says it's simple ...human touch.

(Rasmus to congregation) "Good morning, family! Do me a favor, hug three people and tell them, 'I'm glad you made it to church today.' C'mon. Hug somebody. I want to feel the love in the room."

The Rev. Rudy Rasmus: "You can walk into most churches and walk out and no one will ever evenlook at you, let aloneattempt to engage you in any meaningful way. It's not a hug fest. I'm not talking about that, but you would move towards that person without apprehension."

Rose Padilla found her place here.

Rose Padilla, St John's Downtown United Methodist Church: "Pastor Rudy was up there and he said, 'We love you and there's nothing you can do about it.' And when I heard that, it kind of hit my heart. I'm a lesbian, and there's been very few churches that I have felt loved in. And I can sayin this church I do feel loved, and accepted."

There are 4,000 churches in Houston, but Trevia Cyrus drives 40 minutes every Sunday.

Trevia Cyrus, St John's Downtown United Methodist Church: "I guess I do pass a lot of other churches when I attend here, but that's ok. This is where I'm fed. This is where I enjoy coming."

St. John's touches lives in many ways - feeding the homeless by the thousands, operating a shelter and a medical clinic for anyone without insurance, and offering counseling, vocational training and transitional housing.

Trevia Cyrus, St John's Downtown United Methodist Church: "I actually see our offering actually being used in the manner in which God has intended: to give back."

The ways people seek community and social interaction have changed a lot in the 20 years Pastor Rudy has been at St. John's. Rasmus knows in a world of distractions, he is competing for people's minds and hearts.

The Rev. Rudy Rasmus: "Don't bore 'em, I'm telling you."

(Rasmus to congregation) "God has been trying to get you into position&ellipsis;"

The Rev. Rudy Rasmus: "Here, every Sunday is different. We have only 52 a year to work through. If we can't think of 52 relatively compelling experiences in 365 days a year, we are pretty sorry."


Rasmus has written an autobiography called "Touch." For more information, contact St. Johns Downtown United Methodist at 713-659-3237.

This story was produced by United Methodist Communications. Media contact is Fran Walsh, at 615-742-5458. This video was first posted on February 1, 2011.