With church attendance down, Cedar Rapids pastor suggests ‘holistic’ approach

KCRG-TV9's Mollie Swayne talked to a local pastor about what his church is doing to engage the community.
Published: Apr. 17, 2022 at 11:33 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - A Gallup poll from 2021 showed church membership below the majority for the first time ever, leading to church leaders having to adopt new strategies.

Keeyon Carter is the lead pastor at Wellington Heights Community Church in Cedar Rapids. He takes a nontraditional view of how the church fits into someone’s life.

“We have to meet people where they are and not just expect them to go to church,” Carter said.

According to a poll from Gallup, in 2020, Americans’ membership in houses of worship dropped below 50% for the first time since the group started tracking this data about 80 years ago.

Carter acknowledged people can find a sense of community outside of the church.

“The next generation that maybe are getting their spiritual edification from other communities, whether it be from the gym, from, you know, different clubs...People are starting to see, ‘Hey, I can get my—I can watch a sermon online but I can do community at my gym club,’” Carter said.

Carter says that situation is something churches can respond to by focusing on community engagement.

“We often say if our church flourishes, but the community doesn’t, then that’s a loss,” Carter said. “We have to continue to think about and rethink, ‘How can we be the hands and feet of Jesus? How can we talk about mental health? How can we talk about race, race, and reconciliation? How can we address gun violence? How can we do those things instead of just focusing on a Sunday?’”

Wellington Heights Community Church is a relatively new church. It started in March 2020. Easter Sunday was the first time the church had an in-person service indoors. Carter said, since the church started during the pandemic, the numbers at their church have been the opposite of the overall trend.

“We’ve honestly only see trends up.” But Carter emphasized attendance was not as important to him as engagement.

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