Minnesota Church Tells Elders to Stay Home so They Can Attract the Younger Crowd

Many churches around the country struggle with the same thing: attracting the younger generations. One small Methodist church in Minnesota is taking a unique approach that has its older parishioners feeling as though they’re being kicked out.

Grove United Methodist Church, located in Cottage Grove, has closed for the summer with plans to relaunch again in November. The church is only averaging about 29 attendees for every service. In a quest to appeal to younger members, leaders have asked older members to stay away from the church for at least the first year and a half after the church reopens its doors.

Most of the attendees that show up to every service are over the age of 60. Since there has been stagnant church growth within a growing community, leadership has taken a radical approach in order to achieve a younger membership base.

One of the first things that the church did was to hire Jeremy Peters, a church planting specialist. He will be the one leading the “reset” of the church. He plans to work with various community groups as a way of laying the foundation for the relaunch.

The specialist also believes that it’s important for older members to find somewhere else to worship for a while. According to Pioneer Press, older members were told not to return for at least 15 to 18 months on the reopening of the Methodist Church. Once that timeframe has passed, the elderly members can migrate, but only after connecting with Peters to discuss how the transition will take place.

Perhaps the worst part about it is that the church doesn’t want to lose what the older members have to offer. William Gackstetter told the press that the church leadership still expects financial contributions while also having the older members maintain the property. This led Gackstetter to call the plan “evil.” He doesn’t know why anyone would do that and that the whole plan makes him sick. His wife, Cheryl, agrees, stating that the church is discriminating against them because of their age.

The plan was explained to the congregation on January 5 by a visiting pastor. Cheryl Gackstetter called the pastor a hypocrite and that he was kicking them out of their own church.

What happens if older members decide to attend Growth United anyway? While they won’t be physically prevented from entering the church, they are strongly suggested to stay away. Rev. Dan Wetterstrom said that they are asking the older members to “let this happen.” They don’t want to have the core group of 30 individuals, which somehow, they consider would be damaging to inviting younger crowds.

The last thing that the church needs is bad press. After all, how can they possibly grow their congregation when they’re being accused of ageism? However, that doesn’t stop the Reverend from making the less-than-thrilling proposal that they can go to Woodbury, which is another Grove United Church that is located nearby.

The Reverend doesn’t seem to see anything wrong with asking a core group of older individuals to stop going to the church that they have been a part of for so long. Those individuals have volunteered at the church and financially supported it. And now, they’re being shunned as a way of making room for younger believers, though only in physical presence. The church still wants their money.

Other churches around the country have dealt with stagnant growth, too. They’ve had elderly populations consume their churches. However, they haven’t kicked the elderly out. Instead, they appeal to the community, hire a youth pastor, and invite families. They still hold onto their elderly population because they know that church is about community. Those who are 60+ often don’t like change. They don’t want to find another church to go to “temporarily” – and they shouldn’t have to.

If Grove United Methodist Church thought that appealing to the younger crowd would be easy with this new plan of theirs, they’re sadly mistaken. The older congregation didn’t follow orders as easily as expected. They’re angry and they have every right to be. They went to the press to make sure that the whole community knew what they were doing. Now, the church may be spending money on renovations for nothing. They may not be able to attract the younger crowds they’re hoping to because of the bad press and it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to lure the older ones back because of how poorly they were treated.


107 thoughts on “Minnesota Church Tells Elders to Stay Home so They Can Attract the Younger Crowd”

  1. How Truly Stupid, especially expecting the people that are told to stay away, to continue paying financial obligations, and to continue helping maintain the church!

    This is why so many people have stopped going to church!

    1. There is a huge problem with your theory. It is the younger crowd 40s on down who are paying the Bill’s doing most of the volunteering all while the old wish to maintain the status quo. = Old Hymems Permitting no Christian Rock or pop style music. If a church wants to grow the church must reach the youth. An you will not . If the church body resemble the old attitudes that children are to be seen an not heard.

    2. I wowuld be very suspicious of the motives of this Organization that is fronting this movement.
      The youth of this Country are being fed an enormous amount of LIES and MISINFORMATION and the Liberals are directly behind every word of it.
      This is actually a very sad story….and seeing where it originates also makes one wonder how much of it is MUSLIM inspired…..Sad, very sad. Christ is appalled!

    3. I would suggest that the church fast, pray, do evangelistic outreach, make sure they are teaching and preaching the Bible, helping young and old learn to apply the teaching of the Bible to their lives and circumstances, living according to biblical principles, reaching out to the needy, loving each other as Christ loves them. Those things make a church grow.

  2. An example of churchianity with a pastor considering “his” church to be the building rather than the community of believers… If he concentrated on the members, the church would grow. Since his concentration is on “his” church, it will, and deserves to, die.

    1. If a church isn’t growing then the pastor isn’t preaching the word or is doing something wrong! It’s not the pastor that grows the church it’s he’s not teaching the word! If he tells some to stay home, it’s bound to fail. The pastor is trying HIS way to grow the church, he needs God to build a church. He better stay home and let God do it! He’s trying to pull the wagon with the horses tied behind. Makes no sense! His church will never grow, and young people need the elders to learn, not a pastor that leaves God out of it!

    1. I agree! There are many “other” solutions without expelling the seniors. They deserve more respect than this and I believe we have to ask ourselves, “What Would Jesus Do?” I am positive this would not be it…on the other hand we should not stand in the way or be an obstacle to the younger generations by demanding the way we conduct church to be attractive only to the seniors. For example: we need to “Sing a New Song” to the Lord – sometimes we may not like the style of the singing, but the words need to be Scriptural. We should be able to enjoy a combination of Hymns, Psalms and Spiritual Songs, as the Bible states. A blend of the old and new is the ultimate. We need to show respect for the younger generations, but also need to respect our seniors. Perhaps 2 worship styles would be welcome…have one traditional and one contemporary worship service in case this is a problem. But there is always a better way to grow a church without excluding any one age.

    2. Actually we are in trouble because of this thing called a church,have you ever read the scriptures that came down in Hebrew,two things you will not find in the Hebrew scripture,is first, a thing called a church second you will not find the word Christianity,the reason is because Christianity was created under Constantine in the late third and early forth century,what Yeshua left was a community of believers,not a church,its was when the church of Rome started controlling its people and for bidding them to follow the scriptures that we ended up with the mess we have today called religion.

  3. This is one “church” that should be left to die… The church is the parishioners, not the building. You don’t need a building to worship or pray. The building (and the preacher) needs the parishioners to pay bills and salaries. I hope Jeremy Peters got his fees up front, as I predict that there won’t be many funds available to him, shortly.

  4. This is unbelievable that God would want to discriminate against the elderly. So those over 60 need to attend another church for a year or more and still contribute financially? During that time I believe they would all find a welcoming church and pastor. In the meantime this so called pastor can pay the bills on his own and welcome the young. Does he not know that the people are the church? It’s possible to have a couple services , one traditional and another with more up to date music ,etc. However, this pastor should look at his homilies or sermons and see how he is preaching the Word of God. We need to honor our elderly and make changes that are with the times but not exclude anyone from attending church. I would check out where this Pastor did his theology education.

  5. Yeh, those new young visitors are going to pay the bills and maintain the property. What a foolish idea. I have belonged to churches that were a lot of older members and they were asked if they would rather try to recruit younger members or have another church built nearby that would try to recruit a younger congregation. The older members were ALWAYS anxious to open their church to younger people and worked hard to do just that. As an older person, I would certainly NEVER step foot in that church again and, unfortunately, it would be hard for me to ever enter a UMC again. So many church leaders have lost their way. Many believe that if they take ALL signs of religion out of the church – no crosses, no bibles, make the sanctuary look like a theater – more people will join their new and improved “church”. Hogwash.

  6. I think we are coming to the end of the world . God must be looking down on us and wondering what is happening.
    I sure hope GOD help all of us, because we are in pile of _____.

    1. Judi,No Yahweh is not looking down and wondering what is happening,He knows what is happening,its called religion rather than a personal relationship with him,that can only happen on a one on one encounter with our creator,it can not happen through a church or pastor,we come to know him through his word and by his spirit in us,He is to be our teacher and instructor as we study the scriptures,so religion is needed here,the church has nothing you need or should want,sense most of their doctrine is man made religious tradition,such as Christmas,easter and other forbidden holidays,most of them are after your money,and an easy work free life,for you see they are professionals at what they do,they will sell you all of the salvation you need,if you allow them to,of course you may not like the out come at the end of your life.

  7. After the 15 to 18 months rejuvenation I sadly predict this Chapel will convert to a Bingo Hall or such-like. We have witnessed this many times over the years in England – old-fashioned as Common-Sense is perceived, outright stupidity becomes the rage it seems.
    Happy New Year of the Mouse ( or Rat if you prefer ).

  8. I am so sorry to hear about this situation. It is hard to believe that my Lord and Savior would approve of Telling the elderly “We want your money but not you”. Hard to believe the Methodist has wandered so far from their founding fathers teachings.


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  10. I can relate to the older generation at that church. The church I attend curtailed a beautiful song I’d heard on a Christian radio station that I wanted to sing around easter last year. Pastor said it sounded appropriate but the music director after listening to it said it didn’t fit into the program. Things like this are one reason that people get disillusioned about going to church. The old standard songs are great but I think that the introduction of more modern songs can liven up as well as bring in younger people. Most that go to my church are all over 60 years of age with some that do bring in the grandchildren when the youngsters come to visit. We are lucky to have 30 attendees every Sunday. I myself have visited another church were they have a more upbeat message and modern songs that any one can hear on a christian radio.

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