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Planting a Multi-ethnic Church in Central City Milwaukee

Pastors Kurt and Dee-Dee Owens (right) and Co-Pastors Ronaldo and Kelli Ghenov

UFlourish Church

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

“We were able to purchase a 20,000 square-foot facility for UFlourish Church prior to launch day! We are grateful for the Matching Funds provided by AGTrust, in cooperation with The Church Planting Network, in addition to help from our parent church in Milwaukee, Parklawn Assembly of God, and other funds that were raised.“

Pastor Kurt Owens was born and raised in central city Milwaukee. He is a pastor’s kid and has been in ministry for 22 years. Prior to planting UFlourish Church, he had planted two other churches.

“I felt compelled to plant a multi-ethnic church this time around in one of the most segregated cities in the country,” Kurt says.

This building was purchased for UFlourish Church prior to launch day, thanks to AGTrust Matching Funds and the support of parent church Parklawn Assembly and other funds raised.

Milwaukee, with a population of 577,222, is the largest city in Wisconsin and the fifth-largest in the Midwestern United States. It has the highest segregation rate of any U.S. city.

At one point, Kurt and his family had planned to move to the suburbs from their home in central city Milwaukee. After living in the same neighborhood for 23 years, their block had taken a nosedive. People loitered on their property, throwing trash in front of their house daily. Some homeowners had already moved away. 

The multi-ethnic UFlourish Church launched on September 26, 2021, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Pastor Kurt thought he could commute from the suburbs to his church plant. But during information sessions with residents, someone from the block accused him of making empty promises and leaving the city like others had. That evening was a wake-up call.

“At that moment my heart was opened to seek transformation on my block instead of chasing after a different life in the suburbs,” Kurt says.

Prior to launching UFlourish Church, Pastor Kurt and co-pastor Ronaldo conducted a year of pre-launch Zoom services due to the pandemic. But on September 26, 2021, UFlourish Church launched in person with 240 people attending, and the same number came the next Sunday.

The goal that Pastor Kurt and co-pastor Ronaldo Ghenov have for UFlourish is for it to be a gospel-centered, multi-ethnic, church planting church with a vision to help people flourish. They hope to promote integration within the church and beyond. 

Worship service at UFlourish Church

“I can’t find another church in the history of Wisconsin where a black pastor and a white pastor have come together to start a church,” Pastor Kurt says. “Currently, our congregation is roughly 50 percent black and 50 percent white.”

One member of the congregation, a Milwaukee transplant, said she was shocked to see how segregated the city and churches were when she moved here,  and the fact that Pastors Kurt and Ronaldo have come together to unite the body is a good thing for the city of Milwaukee.

Prior to planting UFlourish Church, Pastor Kurt started an organization called Bridge Builders. “Rather than start a church that does outreach, we created an outreach organization that started a church,” Kurt says.

Church volunteer directs parking at UFlourish Church on launch day.

Bridge Builders’ executive board is made up of men and women called to fulfill its mission: to inspire inner-city innovation that transforms neighborhoods and communities one block at a time. They have a target area of 140 city blocks where they hope to see physical, economic, cultural and spiritual flourishing.

Pastor Kurt has a B.A. in business, an M.A. in Christian ministry, and a Doctor of Education in organizational leadership. A resident of Milwaukee’s central city his entire life, he  has seen it thrive and hopes to see the city and its people impacted and changed through the gospel-centered ministry of UFlourish Church and Bridge Builders.

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