When 20-somethings Andrew Taylor Phan and his wife, Jessica Dugan-Phan, were installed as youth pastors of New Perspective Church (Irving Foursquare Church) in Irving, Texas, in March 2021, the congregation did what it often does: celebrated.
“We made a big deal out of it,” says Co-Pastor Alexandra Tataje. “We threw a party and had them talk about what they had done. It’s a joy to see young people get ahold of God and who He has made them to be. They rise to the challenge when they are empowered.”
Although the church had been around for years, before the Tatajes took over in 2018, the congregation had dwindled to about a dozen after its longtime pastor experienced a health crisis.
Relaunched with just a handful of people, New Perspective is edging near 50 in Sunday attendance. The increase stems from a pair of emphases: discipleship and raising up young leaders. Alexandra and her longtime husband, Martin, are developing them through “Connect” home groups and personal discipleship sessions.
“I think the key is genuine interest in people, and love and acceptance of them. When people feel loved and welcomed, it breaks down barriers and builds trust. People are looking for authentic relationships more than a perfect place.” —Alexandra Tataje, co-pastor of New Perspective Church
Alexandra guided the Phans—Andrew is half-Chinese and Jessica is half-Filipino—through their licensing process, something she says is rewarding. The Canadian native is presently mentoring two youth leaders, ages 18 and 19. Martin is discipling two Hispanics and one Anglo member on the basics of a teaching the pastors developed around the word, “worship.” The letters stand for such elements as worship, offerings, instructing others (discipleship), and “hurling the net,” which means fishing for souls daily.
“We don’t use the term, ‘Great Commission,’” states Martin, a native of Peru who immigrated to the U.S. at age 12. “We call it the ‘Daily Commission.’ We don’t use the word ‘evangelize’; we use ‘fishing for souls’—not because it’s cute; we use it because it works.”
Among newcomers lately at the suburban Dallas church are a server at a banquet their youth pastors attended, some Nigerians Martin met on an airplane, and a woman who received a flyer for the Tatajes’ real estate business. People have also come because of monthly parties hosted at different members’ homes, cookouts at apartment buildings, or free doughnuts and video games, popular with the teens at the school across the street from New Perspective.
Others receive exposure at English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, which meet twice a week at the church. A sign in front about the free classes generates calls daily from a variety of immigrants. The Tatajes started the classes as a community outreach prior to relaunching the church, which is how they wound up teaching people from Muslim, Hindu and other backgrounds.
“I think the key is genuine interest in people, and love and acceptance of them,” Alexandra explains. “When people feel loved and welcomed, it breaks down barriers and builds trust. People are looking for authentic relationships more than a perfect place.”
Martin says New Perspective reflects the area’s mixed racial and ethnic flavor. The pastors emphasize that members should reach out to whomever is in front of them, whether that person is Chinese, Japanese, African or Middle Eastern.
“We teach people to pray, ‘God, put people in my path who are ready to receive You,’” he says. “We train people to lead home groups. We tell them, ‘You’re the shepherd,’ and to invite others. It’s part of our culture.”
Sometimes it’s challenging. At a recent ESL class, a Muslim mother from Afghanistan and a woman from Mexico got into a heated argument about whose church it was, even though only their daughters attend New Perspective.
“Even if the parents don’t go, they trust us with their kids,” Alexandra says. “Through them we have access to their parents. That’s a long-term investment to go through because of all the cultural issues.”
In recent months, their openness to young people’s participation has meant a 12-year-old boy leading opening prayer, a 17-year-old man leading worship, and a sermon from a 22-year-old female originally from Nigeria.
“A lot of people say young people don’t want to go to church, but they walk to our church without their parents because they feel loved,” Alexandra notes. “They’re interested in reaching the world. The youth are catching on. They’re multiplying.”