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Finally a question I can relate to in our setting in a small Midwestern town. We are a Vineyard church plant from Ann Arbor, Michigan to Monroe, Michigan. You can’t get much different in cultural contrast. You probably have heard of Ann Arbor but Monroe is a blue collar town, mostly UAW workers in the Big Three and first and second tier automotive suppliers. Over 80% of our population is high school education or less. Our church has about a half dozen college educated folks out of 100 people. Most are factory works (top of our pay scale), service workers, unemployed, or on disability. We are mostly white with a couple of Hispanic families. Church attendance as I have calculated it (and we do attendance), averages approximately 48%. This means that to get 50 people as an average attendance we have to gather 100. Many attend only once a month. About 60% of our folks are new or pre-Christians. We have 3 four generation families which is an interesting characteristic. Most of them are Stage 1 or Stage 3 with an occasional Stage 2 person coming along. We are a strongly centered set church, allowing most anyone to participate. If you are good at singing or playing an instrument you can be on the worship team. Our current team has one challenged by alcohol and one person living unmarried with their significant other. Our leadership team is completely made up of Stage 4 Christians, most are either college educated or educated in the trades. Now that you have a picture of our church the question at hand is why such shabby attendance, a question I have truly struggled with for most of our 6½ years as a church. Here is what I see every week. The number one issue is work schedules. Our blue collar folks work all kinds of shifts especially second and third shifts. They also work high levels of overtime. Often they have to work 6 and 7 days per week. As an example, our drummer, who is highly dedicated, has frequently been the first to band practice on Saturday morning because he just got off work and came straight to practice at the expense of his sleep. Most couples are both working to make ends meet. They struggle for the energy to make it to church let alone to weekday services. Small groups are almost impossible to get folks to attend. The second reason for missing church is transportation. Often our people don’t have the gas money to come. We can we try to provide money or rides but are limited in our ability to do this. Our church income is very low. The Stage 4 Christians, (about 1/3 of our congregation) supply 90% of our tithes. This leaves little money for getting a church bus let alone its upkeep. We have a food bank but it is mostly used by our own folks. The Salvation Army provides us with weekly baked goods such as bread and buns. One Stage 2 Christian who attended our services for about 6 month threw up her hands and stated, “You don’t have a church here, you have a mission!” to which I responded with two thumbs up. Spiritually, our folks are a mixture of Stage 1 and 3. We don’t do as well with Stage 2 Christian most of whom when they visit I can’t move fast enough to catch them at the door. Alpha is a big part of our initiations as is inner healing counseling. The Worship Team is our biggest success due in no little part to my talented wife. We also offered the “Action Bible”, a Bible in wonderfully illustrated cartoon form but in a large hard bound book and sold 20 the first day. Reading books for most of our folks is difficult. We sometimes get audio books and teaching for them to listen. They really soak up the teachings we have and try to apply them to their lives. Poverty, alcohol and drugs, and time demands are their great challenges. On a moral level, it is interesting to hear about the homosexual debate. It does not fall along the age lines in our town as Dave Schmelzer describes. It is more of whether someone has any experience with friends or family, otherwise it is pretty much looked at in a Stage 2 manner. The idea of committed relationships as being the hallmark of a valid relationship more applies to us where folks are living together outside of marriage. I have already described one of our worship team members in this state but we have many couples that fall into this category, some of whom have lived together for as much as 9 or 10 years. This has become one of our greatest challenges to pastor. Usually they don’t see a need to get married. In the younger couples they believe they need such a big expensive wedding that they will never be able to afford a wedding. Others have been burnt by divorce and find it hard to recommit. I am not sure how this falls into your mix but discussion. We are a centered set church trying to glean some knowledge and experience from this blog but often find it difficult. I would love to hear from anyone else with similar experiences.
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Vicholtz is now following Dave Schmelzer
Mar 26, 2011
Titi's thoughtful and provocative comment to Vince's Wednesday post made me think we really do need a comment of the week post. I can imagine it would be a highly-coveted honor... via It is interesting to me that Titi sites the Psalms. I have always seen the Psalms as... Continue reading
Reblogged Mar 26, 2011 at Vicholtz's blog
Vicholtz is now following The Typepad Team
Mar 26, 2011