When Gage Harmon was successfully recruited by Bethany College to pitch for its baseball team last spring, he didn’t know anyone in Lindsborg.
An active member of the church in his hometown of Mansfield, Texas – running the audio-video for church services – he Googled “Methodist church in Lindsborg” and found Trinity UMC.
“It’s brought me here to this community and this family, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it,” said Harmon, a junior business major. “I love everyone, and I feel so welcome here.”
Seated at one of the tables in Trinity’s fellowship hall during contemporary services – which alternate weekly with traditional services in the sanctuary – Harmon knows most of the parishioners by name.
“I like the worship, and I just like the community,” he said of the service that includes pre-worship baked goods, fruit, and even sausage and cheese. “I feel welcome here – and the food’s not bad, either.”
Harmon has adopted a “second mom” in the congregation, and even got to introduce her to his “first mom,” who drove from the Dallas suburb to spend the weekend with her son.
“I feel like I come here, and I get all the love I need,” he said. “Being away from home isn’t easy, and I’m able to come here and have a church family that watches you grow and wants the best for you.”
Harmon is part of a wave of new members and attendees in the McPherson County church. When the Rev. Nancy Crowl was appointed to the church two years ago, its numbers were below 50. Now, attendees number in the 70s.
“It was of a shock that first Sunday morning to see 50,” said Crowl, in her 24th year of ministry after serving churches in Salina, Newton, Holton and Minneapolis. “I think maybe I was hoping for 150.”
Since Crowl’s arrival, the church has resumed Sunday school classes for children, and she has created “God Squad,” a biweekly fellowship for youth in the fourth through sixth grades.
“I’m getting them used to being here outside Sunday morning,” she said.
A recent Sunday contemporary service – where children distributed maracas to each table to play along with the four-piece band – included an extended session of “Prayers of the People,” where members of the congregation asked not only prayers for themselves, but friends and neighbors.
“Nothing is too big or too small for God,” Crowl said during the service.
“I like to draw people together, because the more we share our lives with each other, the more community we have, the more we bond together,” Crowl said following the service, “which is what God intends.”
Since the services alternate between contemporary and traditional, the first-of-the-month communion is shared once at each of the services. A recent Sunday was also the collection of “noisy offering” – change dumped into buckets carried by children – and Crowl continued her sermon series on the book of James.
“James has some harsh words for the church,” she said, preaching from James 4:1-10, “but brothers and sisters, we need to hear these words.”
A town of 3,300, Lindsborg is a tourist haven known for its Swedish celebrations and heritage, as well as the home of Bethany College – home of the “Terrible Swedes” – and three Lutheran churches. “We’re the alternative,” Crowl said with a laugh.
But Crowl said the church members can use that alternative to their advantage.
“I tell them over and over God has put them on this corner in Lindsborg, Kansas, for a reason,” she said. “We have people walking by here all the time. We have tourists who come, and they need to know this is a safe place where they can come and here about Jesus.”
Indeed, the bottom of the bulletin encourages evangelism: “Our commission is to go fishin’!”
The building itself will celebrate its centennial with a dinner in November.
Sarah Ross Moberg has been coming to Trinity since the summer of 2015, when she and her husband got tired of driving to Salina to worship. She is now involved in the church, leading the opening prayer at the contemporary service and teaching Sunday school.
“I love music and children and being involved that way,” she said.
Her husband, Ken, agreed that the community of Trinity is what’s drawn them and kept them attending.
“There are a lot of nice people in this church, and we like having new people,” he said. “When we see people, we invite them. And they come. And once they get here, they like it.”
The couple credit Crowl’s vision for the growing numbers.
“Pastor Nancy’s been integral in bringing in new programs and hoping they would continue, regardless of the numbers,” Sarah said. “She has a good vision about it, saying ‘If you build it, they will come.’”