It’s a good thing Nate Larson likes meeting new people, because he’s going to do a lot of it in the weeks and months ahead.

Larson started work this month at as a qualified lay-person at Rosemount United Methodist Church for the church’s outreach to the Farmington and Empire area. It will be his job to build a new congregation in the area as Farmington’s Faith United Methodist Church gets ready to close its doors.

Bishop Bruce Ough made the decision earlier this year to close Faith United Methodist after years of declining membership. Attendance at the church has dropped 60 percent over the last 20 years.

Members of Faith United will have a year to say their good-byes before the church closes for good.

In the meantime, it’s Larson’s job to build something new: a church Ough and others in the church’s annual conference hope will attract the young families moving to the area.

It’s not a job Larson would have expected to have when he enrolled at Sioux Falls University. He’d grown up in the church, but never felt invested. It wasn’t until some of his teammates on the school’s tennis team started inviting him to attend services that he really connected. He got involved, and started working in the youth ministry. He saw how a church community could make a difference for young people who in some cases didn’t have much other support from family or friends.

“I saw what church could be like,” he said. “It could be community for people, family for people.”

Larson had been planning to go to law school, but instead he got a master of divinity from Sioux Falls Seminary. He has worked in youth ministry and as a chaplain in a VA hospital as well as serving as an associate pastor in a Sioux Falls church plant.

Now it’s his job to take the energy and activity he has found at Rosemount UMC and transfer it to a new community.

The exact form of that outreach is not yet clear. The first step for Larson has been to meet Rosemount UMC members who are interested in being part of what he calls the launch team for the new congregation. He’s also starting to spend more time in Farmington, getting to know residents and what they’re looking for in a church. He wants to get involved in community events and find places to volunteer.

“To just start something without getting to know the community is pretty arrogant,” he said.

Larson hopes to hold preview services in the area within the next year. He wants to build a church that provides the kind of community he discovered when he was a college student.

“We’re just trying to create a place for people to belong,” Larson said. “I’d love to be something that people in the community know exists even if they never participate.”