Where To Find Christian Hipsters: 10 U.S. Cities

As an entirely unscientific but perhaps accurate summary of the geographic loci of Christian hipster, here is a list of what I suggest are the ten most important cities for Christian hipsterdom. These may not be the cities with the most or the highest concentrations of Christian hipsters; They are simply the most important—for a number of reasons.

10) Orlando: This seems like an unlikely spot for a high hipster population, and indeed it is. But Orlando is the home of Relevant magazine, which immediately puts it on the Christian hipster map. It is also home of the ridiculously unhip Holy Land Experience, and hip churches with names like H20, Status and Summit.

9) Denver/Boulder/Colorado Springs: Let’s just call this the greater Denver / Rocky Mountain region. It’s teeming with Christian hipsters. Colorado Springs is sort of the epicenter for evangelical ridiculousness, which means there are a lot of post-fundamentalist / post-Focus on the Family hipsters running around. Denver is home to Denver Seminary and Colorado Christian University, as well as hipster churches like Scum of the Earth Church and Pathways. Boulder—“Berkley East”—is a whole other story.

8) Minneapolis/St. Paul: The Twin Cities, like Chicago, are sufficiently Midwestern and yet urbane enough to be highly attractive to Christian hipsters. It’s also the home of John Piper’s church, Bethlehem Baptist, Doug Pagitt’s Solomon’s Porch, Greg Boyd’s Woodland Hills Church and several other hipster churches with names like Spirit Garage and Bluer. It’s also a Christian college-heavy town, with Bethel University, North Central University, and Northwestern College all within the Twin Cities metro area.

7) Seattle: This uber hip birthplace of Starbucks and grunge is also a bastion of Christian hip. The presence of Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill church is a huge factor, but there is also Seattle Pacific and Northwest Universities, Image journal, the headquarters of World Vision, Tooth and Nail Records, and a whole lot of design and tech companies. And there are other hip churches there too, such as Church of the Apostles or Mosaic Community Church—which at one point met at a bar in Capitol Hill, Seattle’s hipster/gay neighborhood.

6) Los Angeles: Southern California as a region is, and always has been, a hotbed of Christian hip. From Santa Barbara all the way down the coast to San Diego, the greater L.A. area (particularly beach cities, L.A. metro, and Orange County) is full of Christian hipsters. There are countless Christian colleges, industries (film, music, media) that naturally attract Christian hipsters, and oodles of hipster churches, including Mosaic, Rock Harbor, Bel Air Presbyterian, Sandals, Reality, and countless others.

5) Grand Rapids: Grand Rapids is the home of Calvin College, so it automatically makes the list. But it’s also a center of Christian book publishing, and the home of some really hip churches—none moreso than Mars Hill Bible Church, pastored by Rob “Evangelical Steve Jobs” Bell.

4) Kansas City: I might be biased, because I’m from Kansas City, but having traveled all over I can honestly say that, against all odds, Kansas City is one of the most influential cities for Christian hip in America. It’s the place where the International House of Prayer (24/7 prayer) originated, where bands like Waterdeep got their start playing at hip Christian coffeehouses like the New Earth. It’s the home of hipster churches like Jacob’s Well, Beggars Table, Vox Dei, Redeemer Fellowship, and The Gathering. And some of the most high-end and fashionable clothing stores in the city (The Standard Style Boutique, Habitat) are owned and operated by Christian hipsters.

3) Washington D.C.: This city has a remarkably large number of young, just-out-of-college inhabitants. They go there to make a difference in the world, interning in government and nonprofit jobs for little or no money. Christian hipsters—highly idealistic, activist-leaning people that they are—migrate to D.C. in large numbers. Hip churches are not hard to come by in D.C. either, including such congregations as Capitol Hill Baptist, Falls Church, Covenant Life Church (pastored by Joshua “I kissed dating goodbye” Harris), and National Community Church, which features a totally hip coffeehouse, Ebenezers.

2) New York: As it is for any other hipster, New York is the dream destination for many Christian hipsters. Whether they go there to be actors, artists, designers, or factory workers, hipsters love living in New York. Currently, it’s the city where many Christian hipster icons (such as Sufjan Stevens, Welcome Wagon, and Jay Bakker) reside. It’s also the site of dozens of very hip, urbane, trend-setting churches like Redeemer Presbyterian, All Angels Episcopal, and Journey, as well as ministries such as the International Arts Movement.

1) Chicago: There are oodles of Christian colleges in the Chicago area–Wheaton, North Park, Moody, Trinity, Olivet Nazarene, and more. But beyond all that, Chicago is just a super hip place to live. Hipsters of all kinds—Christians included—flock there. It’s the home of Pitchfork magazine, for goodness sake. It also has a hip heritage: the Jesus People USA are located in Uptown; the iconic 1968 DNC riots took place in Grant Park; Wilco is from there… It’s also in the Midwest—a convenient urban enclave in the middle of the Bible Belt. For many Christian hipsters, Chicago is the best option for thousands of miles.

Honorable Mention: Portland, San Diego, St. Louis, Dallas, Las Vegas.

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50 responses to “Where To Find Christian Hipsters: 10 U.S. Cities

  1. Great post Brett, maybe you’ll do one for Europe one of these days. Just want to correct you on a little point – the 24/7 movement started in England, not Kansas City.

    • Thanks for the correction- I was thinking of the International House of Prayer, which started in KC in 1999, around the same time 24/7 was starting in the UK. I’ll make the change.

  2. I agree. Yet, don’t those locations seem rather… well.. expected?

    What about underdog hotspots like Lancaster, PA? You’d be amazed…

  3. I couldn’t help but notice that Chicago was the only city for which you didn’t list at least one example of a congregation attractive to hipsters.

  4. hooray, kansas city made the list.

    if you were doing a top christian hipster places in the midwest, i would bring up that columbia, missouri has a pretty substantial christian hipster population. with 4 coffee shops at one intersection in the heart of downtown. not to mention the indie flick rental store & cinema + coffee shop + hipster dive bar + at night known as RagTag, it’s not hard to run into an HYC (hip, young christian).

    & the various campus ministries plus the continuous cycle of residents from the kansas city & st. louis area being shuffled into the area, then dispersed back out into larger cities or to their roots.

    not to mention the rapidly growing True/False film festival each year where local churches and university students get involved to make it happen.

    i could go on. columbia is pretty hip for being in mid-mo.

  5. How could you leave off Grace Presbyterian and Church of the Resurrection (“Rez”) in DC? They are far more hipster than NCC or CapBap (the only two I recognized in your DC list). I’ve attended Grace three years. Frankly we consider CapBap rather zealous and somewhat closed, the opposite of hipster.

    • word, from someone who attends church of the advent. hippest of all in columbia heights slash adams morgan.

    • It’s true. The Falls Church is pretty establishment too. Plenty of hipsters there, but they tend to leave after awhile to either go to hipper places like Rez and Grace or (the more hipster move?) to “higher” Anglican churches (ie. “candles are nice and all, but it’s not really traditional unless the priest covers you in a cloud of incense and douses you with the oil until you drip. And you know hymns are just the CCM of the past – Bach or Tallis, maybe Arvo Part if you want to get edgy”)

  6. Ebenezers at NCC also is a pretty terrible coffeehouse. They have a reputation as having coffee barely more tolerable than Starbucks. You’re more likely to find hipster Christians at Peregrine Espresso and Chinatown Coffee. Sorry, I’ll stop badmouthing them. But your list has some noticeable gaps and I would hate for someone to visit Ebenezers with high expectations.

    • The mix of earth tones, silent flat screen tvs, XM radio, and subtly available Christian lit makes Ebs a hipster standard, whether the coffee is any good or not. With church being held in the basement, I’d say the inclusion of Ebs is spot on.

  7. I would also suggest Pittsburgh, PA. There is a particular church–Bellevue Presbyterian–that sits right next to a university campus. The church is basically a giant hipster magnet.

  8. I’ve lived in Chicago, Kansas City, LA, Denver, and DC in the last 5 years. DC is too high on your list. Christians here are too busy researching public policy to be hip. Although, we do drink quite a bit…

  9. hooray, kansas city made the list.

    if you were doing a top christian hipster places in the midwest, i would bring up that columbia, missouri has a pretty substantial christian hipster population. with 4 coffee shops at one intersection in the heart of downtown. not to mention the indie flick rental store & cinema + coffee shop + hipster dive bar + at night known as RagTag, it’s not hard to run into an HYC (hip, young christian).

    & the various campus ministries plus the continuous cycle of residents from the kansas city & st. louis area being shuffled into the area, then dispersed back out into larger cities or to their roots.

    not to mention the rapidly growing True/False film festival each year where local churches and university students get involved to make it happen.

    i could go on. columbia is pretty hip for being in mid-mo.

  10. Yeah, Scum of the Earth in Denver has a few hipsters … but don’t forget the geeks, the punks, the goths, and the drunk homeless people. Oh – and remember the few fifty-somethings (like me, the senior pastor) who are either too old, too fat or too clueless to be anywhere close to hip. I was never even a hippie.

  11. I must confirm your comments about #6. I’m from the Santa Barbara/Ventura end of Los Angeles Land, and the Christian hipster culture is very active here, and is also joined at the hip to the surf culture – i.e. with Britt Merrick /Channel Islands and his Reality church. The most popular local Hawaiian food joint is managed by a Christian, and draws the surfing Christian hipsters like a magnet. It’s interesting how Christian hipster-dom often pairs itself with other cultural niches like surfing or skating or crafts and homemaking (what my Midwestern wife is really into…she has plugged herself into this massive world of Christian women who love crafting and blogging about Christian books and movies and sharing recipes).

    -Kevin Ott
    http://www.kevinott.net

  12. Hey, Great List… some great churches in Washington DC… did you mean Falls Hill Church? or The Falls Church? The latter is a great church for young folks… I’ve never heard of the former.

  13. So I’ve been reading your blog for quite awhile, and tonight, i think this is the first time you got it wrong, Brett. Although Portland, OR may be the least churched city in America, coming in at a whopping 2% of regular adult church attenders per Sunday, we hold some mighty weight in American Hipster Christendom. Not only are we home to one of your favorite directors Gus Van Sant; we also have Stumptown Coffee, which made your Hipster Christmas Gift List this year; Skin & Ink Magazine: PDX is a tattoo haven with some pretty big names with large waiting lists (including Alice Kendall at Infinity Tattoos); Imago Dei, home to Rick McKinley & Donald Miller with his best selling, make crazy Californians move to Oregon books; an Indy music scene with great lounges to listen in; but on top of it all: we are the Microbrewery Capital of the America and desire to rival Munich for the title of the World’s Microbrewery Capital (you should check out the Oregon Brewers Festival- I am sure you would enjoy it). Thus Portland, OR as only a honorable mention is a travesty. Portland Oregon the Greatest City on Earth.

    PS I do very much enjoy reading your blog.

    • Thanks Ellen- haha. Portland certainly carries a TON of hipster weight- I’d probably put it in the top 3 of “general hipster” cities. And the Oregon Brewers Festival sounds like a dream. Who knows—maybe Portland will make it higher than honorable mention on the Christian Hipster Cities list in the book version…

  14. Yeah…hmm.

    There’s a lot to be said for being set apart. I’m just wondering if we get consumed with being set apart from other Christians in an attempt to seem more relevant to the world.

    • Couldn’t agree more. I’m definitely not holding up “hipster Christianity” as a good thing to be emulated… it’s just a phenomenon worth discussing. So lists like these are not in any way meant to hold “hip churches” in some sort of esteem as much as they are to get us thinking about what the whole idea of “cool Christianity” actually means.

  15. I want to push two cities that seem oddly left out of the mix. First off would be Philadelphia. Home of mewithoutYou, Denison Witmer, Saxon Shore and Burnt Toast Vinyl records, it is also (in)famously home of The Simple Way (Shane Claiborne), Circle of Hope, and not too far from the Christian colleges Eastern University, Villanova, Philadelphia Biblical University, and others. Fishtown is a quite the hipster area as well.

    Also, I want to mention Boston. Reunion Christian Church, CityLife Presby, and International Community Church are all filled with the educated and hip (and usually emaciated). Its also home of Berklee school of music (the hipsters jazz-o-philes would all line up outside of the performing arts center like clockwork and chainsmoke cloves) and tons of other schools Christian (BC, Gordon, ENU, HDS) and otherwise.

    That said, I take it that any city could be eligible given enough observation.

    • Thanks for the suggestions John! Philadelphia and Boston are definitely worthy contenders for top Christian hipster cities… for the reasons you mention. But yeah, I think it’s true that any city could be eligible given enough observation.

  16. Wow. This is a great list, but I am shocked–literally, shocked–that you overlooked Atlanta. In fact, I would actually make the case that Atlanta should be #1. To wit,

    1. This is mega-church central and the pinnacle of our mega-church culture is North Point Community Church, led by (arguably) one of the Christian hipster popes, Andy Stanley. (You’d also have to mention the hipster 12 stone Church, the largest Weslyan church…in the world.)

    2. Passion is headquartered here and the Giglio crew also runs Six Steps records. Both are hipster huge and both are in Atlanta. If you are a little more business saavy, John Maxwell is also based here.

    3. Jensen Franklin, the Pentecostal hipster extraordinaire, and his Free Chapel are here.

    4. What undoubtedly tips the scale is Catalyst. The largest Christian hipster gathering on the planet is based and hosted here. (In a totally different category, but worth mentioning, is Gabe Lyons and Q Conference, also based in Atlanta.)

    5. Known as “America’s Non-Profit Mecca,” Atlanta is home to some of the biggest hip social orgs are here: Plywood People, Gift Card Giver, Mission Year, Flourish, etc.

    So, basically, you have Andy Stanley and Louie Giglio presiding over a mega-church gaggle with the largest gathering of Christian hipsters in America in the midst of a huge Christian record label, Passion, Q, and a plethora of influential Christian social orgs. Not even an honorable mention? Shocked.

    Love your work. Keep it up.

    Jm

    • Thanks man- you may have successfully convinced me to add Atlanta to the book version of this list. And you’re right- Nashville should definitely get an HM.

  17. Side note: I might also throw Nashville into the honorable mention category. Biggest Christian record labels, tons of Christian authors, LifeWay, etc.

  18. Funny, I live in Dallas, and wouldn’t imagine Dallas making the list of Where to find Christian hipsters, even in an honorable mention sort of way. What made you put that on the list, maybe I’m just missing the hipsterdom around me?

  19. Pingback: The Missing Links « Thinking Out Loud

  20. This was a relatively accurate list, although I’d have to say Richmond is teaming with Christian hipsters. Williamsburg Brooklyn is where we go to cohabitate, Richmond is where we go to die. I’m surprised Philly didn’t make the list?

  21. I agree with Ellen, that it’s crazy that Portland is not on that list. I actually thought it might be #1 what with Mr.Blue Like Jazz and Imago “we’re sorta catholic” dei. (and the guy that wrote The Shack)

    Not too mention all the hipster beer and coffee drinking – bang or beard wearing – leggings sporting – post apocalyptic 80’s clothes wearing – indie rock band epicenter living (i.e Spoon, The Shins, Menomena, 1/2 of Death Cab for Cutie, Decemberists, Modest Mouse. etc and etc) – trader joe shopping – farmers marketing addicted – Voo doo bacon doughnut eating – indie film watching in beer theater – free trade protesters – that make up that town. I think 99% of Portlanders, and the Christians within that 99% hold the title of a hipster. (unlike the somewhat hipster but mostly yuppies to the north).

    Although they (I?) would never admit it.

    As a life long resident (until recently), and a world traveler (having major time in all the cities listed), I think that I can categorically state that you had it wrong. :-)

  22. Oh, and as a point of contention, Portland has the most Micro Breweries per capita than anywhere in the nation. Ellen, you might be interested to know it has more breweries than Munich as well.

    So there’s that.

  23. So post-hipster.

    Um…actually. Christian Hipsters HATE Relevant magazine. Any magazine that uses a word like “Relevant” as its title immediately ceases to be relevant. It’s advertisers are predominantly CCM bands and Colorado Springs publication companies, two more reasons why a “Christian Hipster” would avoid this magazine.

    Sorry. But Orlando is boring and has no culture and Relevant magazine, while it might try to pander to the ‘Christian Hipster’ is unfortunately the new CCM magazine.

  24. A big shout out to all our christian brothers and sisters across the USA from us here in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. We’re a non-profit start-up, but expecting tremendous blessings.
    Love from all at;
    http://www.gracemovies.org.

  25. How can a list of Christian hipster cities not include Nashville? It should be number 1 by a long shot, and I think Austin should be at least in the honorable mentions category.

  26. Dallas/Ft Worth/Denton TX should be in the top 5.

  27. Seriously. Philadelphia did not make the top 5? With Shane Claiborne’s Simple Way, to Circle of Hope, to Christian Hipsters biking around this city.. that is crazy.

  28. it seems to me that you’re describing the still yet insular world of evangelicals.

  29. I loved the machiatto shot @ Ebenezzer’s which is pretty cool but is Mark Batterson the only author they promote??? Had to hear the Word at Capitol Hill Baptist Church though which is pretty cool- Mark Dever was humble, lowkey,generous with his time, visitors like myself & new books( got a copy of the trellis & the vine) & was pretty open & honest to questions from the audience on wednesday service-plus there is Greg Gilbert in his summer outfit answering a ? he addressed in his book:)…

    But Redeemer’s praise & worship in their 6pm got me, now i wish i live in nyc :)

  30. I just visited the Austin Stone in Austin Texas – the whole community is Hippie Hipsters (Great band name) and this church seems to be at the epi-center. I loved it by the way.

  31. Not sure if you’re still reading responses to this post, but can you recommend any churches or places of gathering in Chicago or the general metro area?

  32. How could you leave Austin, TX off this list? Seriously, have you just not made it down here? It’s the self-proclaimed live music capital of the world and it’s smack dab in the middle of the Bible belt. You better believe there are some Christian hipsters here. Start with Mosaic.

  33. Dear fellow Portlanders- Please clue me in. Where are these elusive hipster churches in Portland that I keep hearing exist, but cannot seem to find anywhere?? Help a sista out. Thanks!

  34. Pdx Hipster church:
    Imago Dei (biggest in number)
    And the winner for the MOST hipster, albeit smaller, church: The Bridge – hipster’s dream come true

  35. Thank you Teresa! I will be checking out both of those.

  36. Nashville, TN and Columbus, OH

  37. In response to #10 being Orlando, another church with an abundance of hipsters is Discovery Church.

  38. Grand Rapids is spot on.

  39. lived in KC. Definitely a hipster culture. Thanks for the article!

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  41. Pingback: Unofficial guide to hipsterhoods of Texas and Great Plains | Panethos

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