We all have heard of a church praying for revival, but have you ever heard of a church praying for “survival?” That’s what the members of the Grove United Methodist Church in Cottage Grove, Minnesota are praying for. The church has been around for about 30 years but has not seen a lot of growth recently. It is located in an area that is growing but continues to be a church of 60 year olds. Struggling with finances and membership a few years ago, Methodist officials could no longer afford to pay for a minister so they cut off funding. No problem, the members held lay led services and stabilized the finances and run around 25 each week. That still was not good enough for the Methodist leadership so a few weeks ago they showed up with a new plan. The plan is to close the church in June and reopen in November. The only problem is that when it reopens in November the present membership will not be welcome.
Methodist officials sent in a church planting expert and the conclusion is to give the church building and leadership structure a $250,000 facelift. Jeremy Peters, the 30 year old planting expert, has moved to Cottage Grove with his wife and two children and says he has been working with community groups, laying the groundwork for the relaunch in November. “It’s a new thing with a new mission for a new target,” said Peters. The older members will not be physically barred from attending, but the expectation is that they will not return.
The church wants to attract more young families. The present members, most of them over 60 years old, will be invited to worship somewhere else. A memo recommends that they stay away for two years and then consult the pastor about reapplying. Officials say the church needs a reset, and reopening the church is the best way to appeal to younger people. https://www.grandforksherald.com/lifestyle/faith/4871798-Best-path-to-a-younger-flock-Church-asks-older-members-to-worship-elsewhere?fbclid=IwAR1WQoPxjqmaJkVQYZ4w0FlCRVxa_e_o5vLa8FHQXDbgSjWzqOj16AAFSk4
To add insult to injury, those who have kept the church alive for this long are asked to maintain the building and grounds until the “relaunch” can take place. Uh, no thanks! Is this how you grow a church? I don’t know, but it’s a great example of how to kill one. How do you present this to a potential attendee? “Oh yes, that’s the church where they kicked all the old people out, let’s try that one this Sunday!” I’m all for change, and without it organizations die but the Church is not an organization it is an organism. Yes, organisms die too without change but you cannot treat the members of a church body like a cancer. What’s to stop the leadership from coming in and doing the same thing in a few years? Jesus called us to love all of the lambs and sheep. There was no evidence in the article that the membership was not open to change so why the drastic measure? Maybe it is a sign of the present condition of our culture. We are training our young people to view older folks as disconnected and a hindrance not a source of wisdom. If anything gets in the way of what you want eliminate at it as soon as possible. We make it too easy to get out of obligations. Jobs, marriages, bank loans, verbal commitments are just suggestions to some people today because there are few immediate ramifications that come. But give it a few months or a year and the tidal waves of regret and anger surge. Maybe the problem is not the “old people,” maybe it’s the way we have conditioned the younger folks think? In an attempt to appease the emotions of the moment we sacrifice the stability of the future. If we don’t learn to work with and learn from those who have come before us we will soon take their place in a similar predicament.
Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5
Serving the Savior
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