Emphasizing its mix of members, a Houston-area mega-church recently launched a series of TV commercials advertising itself as "A Church for All Kinds of People." People of a certain age are welcome there, according to the commercial, as are people half that age, younger people half that age again, and their young children. Age is not that group's only welcoming variable. Various minority categories also stand as no barrier. Without regard to who or what a person might be, they are welcome.
Listening to the commercial, I had two reactions. In my first reaction, I recalled churches of which I have been a part. Although the mega-church might find its non-segregated character attention-worthy, the churches of Christ I have attended have always been home to a wide cross-section of members. Their makeup has always been "blend" and not "bland."
My second reaction had to do with the Liberty Church of Christ, also a "blend" and not a "bland" congregation. As the commercial listed different categories of people, I thought of the faces and names of members in all of those categories here. As much as any suburban mega-church, we are home to all kinds of people.
Wondering if my second reaction was accurate, I began gathering some shade-tree statistics. Standing in the back of the auditorium, I have kept score on our blend of peoples. The numbers from the past few weeks are very encouraging.
- 33% of those in attendance have been under 35.
- 21% have been ethnic minorities.
These numbers compare well to the general population of Liberty and to general trends in church attendance.
- According to the 2010 Census, the Liberty area is roughly 70.3% white, 13.3% black, and 23.2% Hispanic or Latino of any race. Traditionally, the races separate on Sundays for church far more than in any other settings.
- Liberty's population is just about evenly split with 49% of the population age 35 or younger and 51% older than 35. Traditionally, the 50+ age demographic has the highest rate of church attendance.
Lacking a local TV station, we will have to do our own advertising. When you speak of the Liberty Church of Christ do you down-grade and disparage, or do you emphasize our strengths? Tell your friends that we are an age- and ethnicity-inclusive church. If your friends are comfortable among Liberty people, they will be comfortable among Liberty Church of Christ people.
Being an inclusive church for all kinds of people, we are beginning a special-needs ministry called "Best Friends in Faith." The statistics about how families with special-needs children and church attendance are not good. About 40% of Americans attend church regularly, but far less than 10% of special-needs families regularly attend church. The explanation: churches have to make reasonable adaptations to welcome folks with special needs. In the absence of these adaptations, there is no room at the inn for special-needs guests.
Adaptations required for our special-needs ministry are few.
- On Sunday's mornings we will have a special-needs Bible class. Although Janie will teach the class, she will be assisted by several others.
- During Sunday A.M. worship, we will provide a special-needs alternative not unlike Children's Bible Hour to our regular worship.
- One a month, we will have a special-needs special activity. This activity will consist of lunch and a "game day." This activity will require the help of several others, including our high-school kids.
- The virtue of patience will be required by all as we incorporate a new group of people into our regular numbers.