Guitars wail, fog billows onstage and bright lights sweep across a hip-looking crowd singing along with a dozen musicians. It’s not Saturday night at Bogart’s, but Sunday morning at Withrow High School.
“If this is your first time at Queen City Church and you’re seeing these people jumping around, you may be wondering, ‘Is this some sort of Christian karaoke?’” Lead Pastor Brian Cromer tells the congregation. “These are people who have been radically changed by God.”
Since its launch in mid-September, Queen City Church has been attracting hundreds of worshippers weekly and hosting monthly “I Love My City” events where volunteers give back to the people of Cincinnati by distributing care packages to the homeless or our overworked emergency room staffers, for example.
According to a study that Queen City Church commissioned, 52 percent of Cincinnatians under 40 don’t attend religious services, and just 9 percent of those who do are millennials (categorized as ages 18 to 32). Based on those stats, Cromer said they have an assignment to attract young people, but also to build a “multigenerational church that looks like Heaven” and provides a spiritual home for all 2.1 million people in the metro area.
“When you study the brokenness of this city, you’ll see some things that are very illuminating,” Cromer said, noting high crime and child poverty rates, and calling out areas of segregation that need to be addressed.
“One of the values of the church is to be a bridge-builder across every type of divide that there is, from building bridges relationally, socioeconomically, to generationally,” he says.
Cromer moved his family here because of the “supernatural love” he feels for the city.
One way the church plans to fulfill that mission is by launching small groups to help churchgoers meet others with mutual interests ranging from recreational sports to Bible studies to financial management.
“The whole goal is to create environments to meet people and refuse to live life alone,” Cromer says.
He thinks we all have busy lives, which is why these small groups will have expiration dates. The first “semester” starts Feb. 3 and lasts through the spring, followed by a short summer semester, and then 12 weeks in the fall.
Although it launched last fall, Queen City Church was a process four years in the making. While ministering at Gateway Church in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Cromer felt called to plant a “life-giving” church somewhere in the country. He test drove several cities by vacationing in them with his wife and kids before settling on Cincinnati due to the “supernatural love” he felt for it.
Following a year of training with the Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, Alabama, the Cromers moved to Cincinnati in early 2018. He said nearly 30 other people, many of them young graduates from Birmingham’s Highlands College, have also moved to Cincinnati to help out. Gateway Church and Church of the Highlands have continued to offer financial resources, a governance structure, and counsel as Queen City Church establishes itself in Cincinnati.