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Thread: Old country churches?

  1. #1
    Senior Member Ultralight's Avatar
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    Old country churches?

    When I was a kid growing up in rural Ohio our little town of about 300 people had its own church. I went to summer bible school there, took part in the youth group, attended services, etc.

    The church was also a community center -- sometimes migrants would set up cots in the basement and live there while picking veggies and fruits in the fields. There would sometimes be potlucks or bake-offs or Fourth of July celebrations there.

    We'd skateboard in the parking lot, play two-hand-tap football in the big side yard, shoot hoops there, or it would just be an informal meeting spot (Let's meet at the crabapple tree at the church at 4pm").

    I found out that over the past 15 or so years this church has been dying. The parishioners are all like 75. And there is perhaps 20 of them.

    Apparently a big Wal-Mart church in a nearby bigger town siphoned off all the members.

    And this is not only happening in my hometown, but in other little towns with country churches too throughout the entire area.

    It is sad. Anyone else see this happening?
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  2. #2
    Senior Member Sad Eyed Lady's Avatar
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    Yes, I see it happening all around. I live in a small town in a rural area where I grew up and have returned to after living elsewhere. When I was a child/young adult in this place each community had local elementary schools, local churches and local family owned grocery stores. These were places that identified each community, they were the hubs and meeting places and were vital. Most communities even had local post offices. Sadly, now all the outlying elementary schools have closed with all the kids being consolidated in town and one other new school built in another part of the county. Local post offices are closed for the most part, there may still be a couple left, the little groceries are gone except for one or two. And the churches are still there but not as thriving as they once were. Most people are again consolidated in one or two of the big "community churches" that have sprung up in town and the little country churches are hurting. I hate to see all these communities lose their identities and become a part of "the town". I agree, it is sad.
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  3. #3
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    Walmart makes churches now?
    I know where my grandmothers family is buried, that whole rural community is dying, along with its church. When my great aunt was buried there, she hadn't be around that town, since before 1975, and yet the turn out was amazing by the people that remembered the family.
    Here, I see kind of two types. Those that are or have remained religious, and those that either have no interest, no belief, or agnostic and think it is a waste of time, to belong to a group that wished to control you.
    I would think you would be happy at the lower numbers of the mass delusioned.

  4. #4
    Senior Member CathyA's Avatar
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    We still have several small churches very close by. But about 12 miles away, there are several mega-churches. Hopefully they stay at a distance.
    One of the small churches burned down, but they rebuilt with just a slightly bigger side room, where meetings and voting is held. The other church, about 1 mile from here is still its original building. The dark wood pews, altar, etc., are so beautiful. And they ring the bell every sunday.

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    There is a church that meets at our school on Sundays. They bring in an amazing amount of stuff each week. Lots of money in their set-up, and I don't know what they pay the school for the building use. It seems that is one way that churches are going, renting store fronts, multi-use of places like schools, and then overall churches are just not appealing to younger people. I heard something like 13% of millennials are involved in church, don't quote me since I didn't look it up, However it is a really low number. Some of my younger friends who are Christian have had a hard time finding a church. A lot of it is because they feel the older members don't understand what things are like for them. The 'prosperity' preaching is the biggest factor I hear. The idea if you just give then you will be blessed with prosperity, in a terrible economy for young people. There are also some churches with really out of date ideas on social issues, that isn't helping either.

    So I am sorry that the communities are impacted since churches have had a lot of social value, but not sorry that churches are closing when they do not address the spiritual needs of our young adults.

  6. #6
    Senior Member KayLR's Avatar
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    It's just evolution IMO. There are buildings, and there are churches. The little country church I went to as a kid is now a B & B. There are lots of mega churches around now that offer younger generations what they're looking for: live music, multimedia services, dynamic things for their kids to get involved in. It's just a different culture than we oldsters grew up in. Long gone are the robed choirs and after church potlucks.

    Not saying one is better than the other---churches are just changing like everything else. Or they're dying.
    My therapist told me the way to achieve true inner peace is to finish what I start. So far today, I have finished two bags of M&Ms and a chocolate cake. I feel better already!

  7. #7
    Senior Member catherine's Avatar
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    I haven't been to church in a while, at least on a regular basis. I pop in to my Catholic Church at the end of the street from time to time. But I've been more Protestant than Catholic over the past 4 decades, at least in terms of commitment to specific congregations. The last one we attended for a while was/is a wonderful old Presbyterian church in New Brunswick. It has a Hungarian heritage, but the demographics have shifted greatly, and now the 70-ish pastor is preaching to what I call a "motley crew"--a handful of misfits. It's not like the white bread, middle class churches you might think of. This church has homeless guys, Indians, a Jewish couple, a typical white couple who dresses alike every week, a Hispanic guy who wears a Superman T-shirt every single day, and a bunch of other characters. The pastor's sermons are great. He's such a nice guy. But there are probably just over a dozen of regular churchgoers every week, and there are 2 Presbyterian churches in the area, so the Presbytery is pressuring him to retire so they can close his church and sell off the property to prime real estate developers. But he'll have none of it. The day he steps down as pastor of that church is the day his life will be over, either figuratively or literally.

    OTOH, the Catholic Church I mentioned at the end of the street--hundreds of people go there for each of the 5 Sunday masses. It's not a modern "megachurch" with a lot of multi-media. It's just the same church, with the same pastor, with the Sunday and daily masses served the same way for decades. I think the Protestant mainline churches have suffered tremendously in the Northeast.
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  8. #8
    Senior Member SteveinMN's Avatar
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    In outstate Minnesota, that's happening because many of those communities literally are dying -- employment has disappeared as employers consolidate or leave outright for what they believe are greener pastures; the kids move out after college because there's little economic opportunity left; and the parents are too invested financially (house, farmland, lifestyle) to move away. In the metro Twin Cities, the influx of Millenials and immigrants (who don't attend mainstream denominations in big numbers) has led many existing small churches to disband as elderly members die before new members can replace them.

    In a sense, churches are experiencing the "over-retailing" that retail is enduring right now. When it took a couple of hours to go from your farm's village to the next town of any size to go to your church, it made sense for many smaller churches to dot the landscape. Now that membership is flagging and you can drive to the next town in less than half an hour on Sunday morning, having so many small churches is a bit redundant -- and more expensive to maintain than the remaining members can manage. The "Walmart" churches -- the megachurches that offer graduated child care and a bookshop and a coffee bar and multiple kinds of services -- attract people the same way Walmart drew people from stopping at the smaller local grocery store and hardware store and clothing store. It's our lifestyle right now.
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by SteveinMN View Post
    In outstate Minnesota, that's happening because many of those communities literally are dying -- employment has disappeared as employers consolidate or leave outright for what they believe are greener pastures; the kids move out after college because there's little economic opportunity left; and the parents are too invested financially (house, farmland, lifestyle) to move away. In the metro Twin Cities, the influx of Millenials and immigrants (who don't attend mainstream denominations in big numbers) has led many existing small churches to disband as elderly members die before new members can replace them.

    In a sense, churches are experiencing the "over-retailing" that retail is enduring right now. When it took a couple of hours to go from your farm's village to the next town of any size to go to your church, it made sense for many smaller churches to dot the landscape. Now that membership is flagging and you can drive to the next town in less than half an hour on Sunday morning, having so many small churches is a bit redundant -- and more expensive to maintain than the remaining members can manage. The "Walmart" churches -- the megachurches that offer graduated child care and a bookshop and a coffee bar and multiple kinds of services -- attract people the same way Walmart drew people from stopping at the smaller local grocery store and hardware store and clothing store. It's our lifestyle right now.
    your post explains almost exactly what is happening to my church. Young people leaving town for college, then work. Young families who are left shop for "entertainment and services."
    No commitment. Always a trip out of town or a ballgame to attend. Come in once a month instead of weekly. Older members dying off and the faithful attendance and financial contributions are missed.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Ultralight's Avatar
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    If all these folks were becoming secular humanists, then great.

    But atheist that I am, I still have a hard time totally disregarding the old country church. When I was a kid it was a place we mostly enjoyed!
    I came from a real tough neighborhood. I put my hand in some cement and felt another hand." -- Rodney Dangerfield

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