The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Bring the church to them

Most churches experience a drop in summer attendance and giving. It’s no different at St. John Lutheran Church in Otoe, Neb. The drop is especially steep on the second Sunday in August. I had served as a parish ministry associate at St. John for two years before I realized why attendance was so low—“Fair Sunday.”

I’ve never attended the Otoe County Fair in Syracuse, Neb., because I live in a different county. But for many parishioners, fair attendance isn’t an option. It wasn’t that they didn’t want to come to church. Otoe is a rural community, so many adults and youth are involved with 4-H Club and other livestock projects.

A worship service wasn’t offered at the fair. With the approval of the St. John church council, I went to the Otoe County Fair Board. I proposed that St. John sponsor a service at the fair. Then I sent an invitation to all the churches in the county, asking them to announce the service in their bulletins and pray for the endeavor.

Members of St. John made posters and hung them around town and at the fairgrounds, especially in the livestock barns. Many people spend Sunday morning grooming their animals and preparing the pens.

Our altar parament for the Sunday school was a perfect fit for an 8-foot table and the lectern parament fit perfectly on a podium at the fair. We borrowed the cross and candles the Sunday school uses.

Instead of a dress show, we had a worship service. We sang loudly to drown out the noise of the hogs nearby. Eighty people attended. Summer attendance in our rural setting is usually 30, so we felt blessed. Many members of a nearby congregation also attended since they had no minister over the summer.

Last year we held the service again. The fair program book carried a notice about the service on the first page. A local newspaper ran a front-page story. Rainy weather and illness kept many away. The nearby congregation from which many attended the previous year had hired a new minister. But we didn’t let last year’s lower attendance deter us from planning this year’s service. Many members of St. John volunteered to help continue this innovative worship.

This week's front page features:

More than maintenance: Church's subterranean workshop calls men to ministry. (Photo at right.)

Making pals in the parish: Sunday school children team up with seniors.

The way we were: 1970. Soldiers take time to pray in Vietnam.

Testing, testing ... and caring in Honduras. Volunteers provide exams.

Also: A productive community.

Also: LWF celebrates 60 years of 'making a difference.'

Also: Praying.

Read these articles at our front page > > >

Discuss the Lutheran World Federation:

Discuss 60 years of the Lutheran World Federation with Kathy Magnus (right), regional officer for the LWF in North America.

The conversation begins Aug. 21, but readers are welcome to leave their comments and questions for Magnus (and each other) at any time.

Consider reading "LWF celebrates 60 years of 'making a difference'" before joining in.

Join the conversation > > >

This week on our blog:

Andrea Pohlmann (right) writes about the connection between religion and happiness.

Julie Sevig blogs about a new Anglican hymnbook.

Sonia Solomonson writes about the high points of Churchwide Assembly.

Check out our blog > > >

Take our 2008 topics survey:

Every year The Lutheran gives our readers the opportunity to choose the major issues we'll cover the following year.

Now it's time for you to help us choose our 2008 cover stories. The Lutheran staff has collected your comments and suggestions throughout the year and has used them to create a list of 25 potential cover stories. Choose 10 from our list, or suggest your own.

The deadline to complete the survey is Oct. 31. Results will appear in the January issue of The Lutheran.

Take the survey > > >

Subscribe to The Little Lutheran:

We at The Lutheran think it’s important to nurture the faith of the little ones in our midst. We developed The Little Lutheran for children 6 and younger to help them learn about God’s love for them and the world in which they live. We want them to know Jesus as friend and savior too.

Subscribe now > > >

Reveal your technology sins:

A recent survey by AOL reveals that people are so addicted to e-mail that they even check it during worship.

'Fess up, Lutheran readers. What are your “technology sins” during worship? And pastors, what have you seen folks do? If people appear to be taking sermon notes, think again. They may be “texting” home to have someone turn up the temperature on the pot roast.

And be brave—confession is good for the soul: Send your name, age, congregation and city to Julie Sevig by Aug. 30.

Members: Respond online > > >

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