THEField

The Northwest offers diverse church planting opportunities. From rugged islands with hippie communes to bustling urban centers to quiet surrounding enclaves and nearby universities, the field is ripe for harvest.

Seattle Metro Area

Seattle. Seattle is surrounded by the Cascade Mountains to the east and the Olympic Range to the west, and rests on seven hills overlooking Lake Washington, Lake Union and Puget Sound. Each of the seven hills – Beacon, Capitol, Denny, First, Queen Anne, Second and Yesler Hills – has a number of neighborhoods with distinct personalities, with their own association and grass roots volunteer base. To varying degrees, these neighborhoods have significant influence on the political, social and cultural mix of their streets and cities. Seattleites are edgy, artsy, gritty and often pierced.

The Eastside. The Eastside of Lake Washington defines one of the biggest social divisions in the Puget Sound region. The affluent “Eastside”, complete with well-groomed suburbs filled with SUV’s and upscale malls, consists of several large communities: Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond, Issaquah, and Renton (to the south), and Bothell and Woodinville (to the north). Economically, the Eastside is a leader in producing and attracting high-tech firms and is particularly colored by Microsoft as the single largest employer. It is also the premier location of many movers and shakers who wish to raise their families in the comfort of the suburbs and send their children to some of the finest schools in the state. Currently, there are only two PCA churches on the Eastside.

The Islands. These communities located across the water from Seattle on the west side of Puget Sound — Bainbridge and Vashon Islands — and in the northern Sound — Whidbey, Camano and the San Juan Islands — are also a vital part of the Puget Sound region. Ferryboats are loaded to capacity every morning and evening with commuters traveling between Seattle and the western islands. These folks prefer a rural or semi-rural lifestyle with access to city amenities. The more self-contained northern islands are filling up with young families who don’t mind a long commute to work for the beauty and peace of island living. The island lifestyle has a flavor distinct from the cultures of suburbanites and city dwellers.

Midway. Midway refers to five growing cities — Renton, Tukwila, Kent, Auburn and Federal Way — located along the I-5 corridor between Seattle and Tacoma. Renton, to the north, is located along beautiful Lake Washington where world leaders in aerospace, technology, manufacturing, and entertainment technology industries are located (Boeing, PACCAR, Farwest Steel, and Wizards of the Coast, the makers of Pokémon. Federal Way is located in the southwestern corner on a plateau between Puget Sound and the Green River Valley. When Federal Way was incorporated as a city in 1990, it became Washington’s sixth largest city.

Tacoma. Tacoma is near the southern end of the Puget Sound Metropolis. Home to a large military installation — Joint Base Lewis and McChord — its economy is intimately related to the economy of the Puget Sound area with forestry, computers and Boeing as its largest employers. Tacoma is the gateway to the rapidly expanding population in the Kitsap Peninsula, reached by the famous Tacoma Narrows Bridge. It is home to two small universities: University of Puget Sound (UPS) and Pacific Lutheran University (PLU), as well as a branch campus of the University of Washington. The church, as elsewhere in the Puget Sound area, is characteristically weak and the Reformed Church, weaker still. There are 2 congregation in the entire Pierce County, Faith Presbyterian Church in Tacoma and Resurrection Presbyterian Church in Puyallup.

Washington, Outside Seattle Metro

Snohomish and Whatcom Counties Region. The Snohomish and Whatcom Counties Region runs north of the Seattle suburbs along the I-5 corridor (from Vancouver in the south of Washington State to Bellingham in the north). It includes middle-sized cities such as Everett and Bellingham, as well as smaller towns like Marysville, Mount Vernon, Stanwood and Anacortes. These smaller towns lean towards more conservative values than Seattle, and each boasts a dynamic and growing community and cultural life. With churches that are either liberal with no gospel, or pietistic-conservative with little or no gospel, these communities are also ripe for planting gospel-centered churches.

Spokane. At over 200,000 people in the immediate environs, Spokane is the 2nd largest city in Washington. An up and coming city, it has a favorable climate, more conservative family values (typically votes Republican), and a cost of living index that is attractive to many people wanting to buy a home and raise a family. It is a town that boasts world class medical facilities, a reputation as “the runners’ city” with the world’s largest timed road race (Bloomsday), and is home to the perennially and nationally competitive Gonzaga University Bulldogs. As the largest city east of the Cascades, Spokane is the cultural and economic counter-balance in a state divided socially and culturally by mountains. Consequently, it is a vital strategic center.

Oregon

Portland Metro. Near the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers in the northernmost part of Oregon, Portland has an estimated population of just over one-half million people, with approximately two million in the metro area including Beaverton, Gresham, Hillsboro and Vancouver, Washington. Portland has been internationally recognized as the “greenest city in America” and boasts a vital creative community as well as a long history of political and social tolerance. Although home to larger international businesses like Nike, Portland also has a prominent anti-capitalism ethos that drives a local-first bias that has made Portland a hub for American DIY (Do It Yourself) culture. Portlanders identify with their specific neighborhood and seek to live integrated lives of meaning in a very tight geographical area. The Portland suburbs are roughly 10% Christian, while the urban core hovers somewhere under 2% Christian. This demographic has been identified as an evangelical donut, which demonstrates a clear void of Gospel-centered churches in the urban core.

Gresham. This bedroom community sits directly east of Portland, close to the Washington border and roughly twenty minutes from the beautiful Columbia Gorge. With an estimated population of just over one hundred thousand, this makes Gresham one of the largest suburbs of the Portland metropolitan. While sharing in some of Portland’s green ethos, Gresham is far more family-centered and typically where most evangelicals gather to live and worship. Still, only a relatively small percentage of Gresham attends weekly service and the need to reach the area remains important.

Hillsboro. This community located in the Tualatin Valley, just west of Portland. With a population just under one hundred thousand, Hillsboro is home to many high-tech companies such as Intel giving the area its nickname, the Silicon Forest. The city is home to Pacific University Health Professions campus, which draws many medical students from the greater Portland area. Like other suburbs of Portland, many families make their home in this area.

Economic and Educational Influence

The Northwest is at the heart of the 21st Century American economic engine.

Some of the major employers in the NW include: (* denotes Fortune 500 company)

  • The Boeing Company*
  • Microsoft*
  • Amazon.com
  • Starbucks
  • Safeway
  • Airborne Express*
  • Alaska Airlines
  • AT&T Wireless
  • Immunex
  • Price Costco*
  • Nintendo
  • Nordstrom
  • Paccar*
  • REI
  • Safeco
  • Weyerhauser*
  • Nike
  • Bancorp
  • Adidas America
  • Advanced Navigation & Positioning Corporation
  • AVI BioPharma

The Northwest also boasts a host of large and influential educational institutions:

  • University of Washington (42,400 students, RUF ministry)  Seattle
  • Western Washington University (14,900 students)  Bellingham
  • Seattle University (4,500 students)  Seattle
  • Seattle Pacific University (4,100 students)  Seattle
  • Pacific Lutheran University (3,500 students)  Tacoma

And a significant number outside Seattle Metro area:

  • Portland State University (29,700 students)  Portland, Oregon
  • Washington State University (26,300 students)  Pullman, Washington
  • Oregon State University (23,700 students)  Corvallis, Oregon
  • University of Oregon (23,300 students)  Eugene, Oregon
  • Bellevue College (14,600 students)  Bellevue, Washington
  • Central Washington State (11,600 students)  Ellensburg, Washington
  • University of Alaska (9,600 students)  Anchorage, Alaska
  • Gonzaga University (7,700 students)  Spokane, Washington

And a large number of heavily attended community colleges:

  • Portland Community College (32,000 students)  Portland, Oregon
  • Lane Community College (12,100 students)  Eugene, Oregon
  • Mt. Hood Community College (8,300 students)  Gresham, Oregon
  • Seattle Central Community College (7,600 students)  Seattle, Washington
  • Linn-Benton Community College (6,800 students)  Albany, Oregon
  • North Seattle Community College (6,600 students)  Seattle, Washington
  • Shoreline Community College (6,300 students)  Shoreline, Washington