Workshop shares strategies for reaching new generations

5/3/2017

 

Foam fingers, a study group with Applebee’s appetizers and “mugging” first-time visitors.

Those were some of the ideas that sprouted from a new satellite church in Wichita, shared in a workshop with two districts and throughout the Great Plains Conference via livestream on April 29, aimed at helping churches reach new generations of people.

The Aldersgate ReNew campus had its first services in September. The Rev. Jordan McFall, pastor of the ReNew campus, said the church now averages 120 people for its Sunday morning service, and had 330 worship on Easter, including a sunrise service at the elephant veranda at the Sedgwick County Zoo.

“God is doing some really cool stuff in the past seven months,” McFall said at a workshop for churches trying to attract younger people. “God is truly renewing lives.”

McFall said the basis of ReNew, a satellite of the established Aldersgate UMC in northwest Wichita, came from the book “The New Adapters: Shaping Ideas to Fit Your Congregation” by the Rev. Jacob Armstrong – pastor of Providence UMC in Mount Juliet, Tennessee – which included contributions from the Rev. Mike Slaughter, lead pastor of Ginghamsburg Church in Dayton, Ohio, and the Rev. Adam Hamilton, founding pastor of Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas.

“We have to adapt or die,” McFall told about 80 gathered in the church, as well as others watching on the Great Plains Conference website. “It isn’t going to be easy.”

There is a “gaping hole” in young people between ages 18 and 35 not attending church, McFall said. According to studies, 65 million people have not gone to church in the past six months. Add children to the count, and it numbers more than 100 million.

“Where are the people at?” ReNew leaders asked themselves last year, and set out to high-attendance events, including football games at nearby Goddard High School – where they distributed foam “No. 1” fingers with the church’s logo and website on the back – and fall festivals, where they distributed water bottles with the same information on the label.

“There’s no pressure-selling,” said Mike Janzen, one of the ReNew team members. “It’s just a matter of keeping that in front of them.”

Janzen, who runs a sign company, had a “no Sharpies” rule for the signs, and every image of the church projects was high quality.

“You want it to look professional,” he said. “You want to make it look like you know what you’re doing.”
 
 
 

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One of the families brought in by ReNew’s mailers for its inaugural block party and worship service was Jeremy and Jessica Steele and their three children.

“I never felt I had a home in a church until I came to ReNew,” Jeremy Steele said. “I’m one with my faith. It’s everything.”

McFall said ReNew has constantly worked to balance traditional and contemporary elements in its services.

The authenticity shown in those services attracted Tad Hatfield of Wichita.

“You meet genuine people,” he said. “They’re just there to love one another and to love Jesus.”

Once visitors get in the door for a service, a committee has 48 hours to visit them at their homes – insisting they don’t want to come in – to give them a ReNew coffee mug and answer any questions they might have about the church.

The people who do the “mugging” are “making a connection beyond at the front door when they come in,” said Jaime Lopez, one of the committee members.

Of the ReNew congregation, 62 of them are involved in some sort of small group, McFall said. Those groups meet anywhere from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., the latter of which regularly meets at a local Applebee’s “for the half-price appetizers,” he said.

Twenty-two churches were represented at the nearly three-hour workshop, a venture of the Wichita East/West District's Laity Connection.

Contact David Burke, communications coordinator, at dburke@greatplainsumc.org.


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