An Elderly Woman Reads the Bible at Church
Most of Grove United's congregation are aged 60 and over. They've been asked to worship at another location so the church can focus on attracting young people.

A St. Paul-area church has a novel idea to attract sorely-wanted young parishioners: kick out all the older people.

In a desperate bid to attract younger families, officials of a Cottage Grove, Minnesota church are closing the doors in June for a months-long re-brand designed to attract young people. Grove United Methodist Church allegedly asked that all current members over 60 years of age go worship at a sister church for two years, then, as the Twin Cities Pioneer Press put it, “consult the pastor about reapplying.”

Church leaders are calling it a reset. Congregant Cheryl Gackstetter has a different name for it: ageism.

“They are discriminating against us because of our age." When the so-called plan was explained to her back in early January, “I called him a hypocrite. I said, ‘You are kicking us out of our church.’”

Chasing After Millennials

Pastor Jim Baker founded the Peaceful Grove Church in an elementary school some thirty years ago. Though it would eventually merge with a larger church in Woodbury in 2008, Baker's parish continued to struggle with membership and finances and seven years ago, Methodist officials insisted they could no longer pay for a church minister. A lay minister was adopted, with weekly sermons delivered by members of the church, creating a fiercely loyal following. Attendance has stabilized at some 25 worshipers per week.

Still, Rev. Dan Wetterstrom believes the church hasn't kept pace with the growth of Cottage Grove, a town of 37,000 that remains religiously underserved as far as regular benchmarks are concerned. “Jesus said we are called to reach new people. Unless something changes, we are nearing the end.”

In a Dec. 12 meeting, the Methodists’ regional Annual Conference agreed to pony up $250,000 to restart the church. It even hired 30-year-old 'specialist' Jeremy Peters, who has since moved to Cottage Grove with his wife and two children and is already working with community groups, to lay the groundwork for the November re-launch.

Peters has made it clear that while older members will not be physically barred from attending, he expects those who aren't down with the new youthful church brand will get the message. “If they are on board, they are welcome to attend and engage.”

But not all of the original 25 have been made to feel welcome, even as they've been asked to continue maintaining the church - and donating - until it reopens without them. “They want us to mow the lawn and shovel the snow,” said William Gackstetter. “As if anyone would do that. This whole plan makes me sick. I believe it’s evil.”

And even though she isn't a target of the church's ageism, 34-year-old mother Stella Knapp doesn't see how this so-called Methodist miracle will draw in more people like her and her husband. “If it happened, I wouldn’t come here any more.”

An Uphill Climb

We all understand what the Grove United Methodist Church is trying to do, the uphill battle they are facing. A recent report by Christian organizations Pinetops Foundation and Veritas Forum estimated some 35 million Christian youth could leave the faith by 2050. And about 1% of established churches close every year in America. This is clearly a fate Grove hopes to avoid.

And yet there remains the open question of whether alienating and discriminating against your most ardent supporters simply based on their age is any kind of a coherent strategy, and whether simply rebranding a church to be younger and more exciting will actually attract younger people. Today's younger generations probably understand when they are being pandered to better than most, and pushing out those who've been attending the church for decades probably also won't go down well with Millennials.

Founding pastor Jim Baker probably says it best: same church, same difference. “I am all for renewal, but why not do it with everyone? It doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

What do you think? Smart idea to rebrand in the hopes of capturing the ever-elusive Millennials and Gen-Z? Or is this a move likely to please no one?

61 comments

  1. Minister Carlos Ricardo Walls's Avatar Minister Carlos Ricardo Walls

    That's discriminatory and ageism.Inclusion not exclusion.These elderly citizens supported your congregation.That's the thanks they get.Shame on you.

  1. Brien's Avatar Brien

    I think that church should close permanently. Younger people simply do not wish to be brainwashed by a 2000 year old close minded doctrine made to keep people obedient and docile. I make no apologies for that statement as there simply is no defense for the behavior of these mass organized religions. And by the way, just for arguments sake, since when do you have to APPLY to a freaking church ? I thought that your god was for everyone.

  1. Robert Walters's Avatar Robert Walters

    Small churches with falling attendance numbers, is not a new story. Small churches with just a few older but loyal members remaining, is not a new story. Trying to attract younger folk to attend church, is not a new story. What may be new is this particular church's plan for a solution. Have the older folk worship elsewhere and focus on the younger element. Hoping, of course, that the older folk will buy into the program and keep up their financial support, while not remaining as a distraction to the cause Thus, the introduction of the GO AWAY BUT CONTINUE TO PAY PLAN.

    If that produces a positive outcome, then anything is possible.

    RVW

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      The solution is simple. Color their hair, and get face lifts. In my youth most of my friend were much older than me. I never went to church seeking the association of people in my age group, or younger, but felt good and proud when older congregants smiled, or spoke highly of me. Unless people are going to church to find physically attractive people to date, which has nothing to do with what going to church is supposed to be about. I think those church officials are barking up the wrong tree. I'm sure many churches are having the same problem, for less millennials are christians, and far more people are losing interest in Christianity, simply because christianity totally sucks.

  1. Robert Edward Szekely's Avatar Robert Edward Szekely

    That church deserves to fail. It's not serving the purpose of getting congregants to join together in worship.

  1. Angel's Avatar Angel

    lmao!!! 25 members???And your worried about the 8 old people??? Has it ever occurred to you that maybe your pathetic church is failing because you don't know how to run one??? And then you have the gull to tell them to worship somewhere else but still give you the money to reboot your church???lmao!!!! Oh man, I'm dying over here!!!! "Even though you have been loyal, we want broke milinials in our church but please give us money as we know they don't have any!!!""" No wonder satire is out, this country has gone so crazy, there is literally nothing left to write about!!!

  1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

    And you now wonder why the Methodist Church is breaking apart.

  1. Minister Mike's Avatar Minister Mike

    As a Senior I'm discovering age discrimination is a real thing. Gyms don't want us for fear, because of our age, we won't fit in with younger and better looking members. Gaming groups (RPG's, etc.) shun us because we might interrupt the flow of an evening's play with a story about playing D&D 40 or more years ago. Even professionals such as medical administration staff automatically assume we are senile when we pull out our Medicare card - and treat us as such. The examples abound on a daily basis.

    So, why is it news that a church blatantly practices age discrimination? The majority of people in the US still profess belief in a Deity and attend a church - the people who discriminate in daily life. That church only matches society in their view of older folk.

    OK, rant over.

    Better way to attract more and younger parishioners: Hold up the old folks as experience that can help new/younger members find a comfortable place in the church and answer many of the questions their younger peers can't.

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      When my ship comes in I'll open nationwide clubs for seniors only. I'll call them senior citizen centers. We'll engage in fun activities in them like arts and crafts, and play bingo. And we'll have our own bus, so we can go on field trips.

    2. Michael Henry Grace's Avatar Michael Henry Grace

      If I was local to you I would be glad to have you play D&D, sadly I no longer really play it anymore.

  1. Minister Mike's Avatar Minister Mike

    On hearing this news, Jesus wept.

    1. Steven Eugene Mandella's Avatar Steven Eugene Mandella

      Jesus cried out, father why have you forsaken me, as he took on the sins of all devil worshipers and racial Supremists of his time. Also jesus cried out, forgive them father, for they know not what they do. Today some children of this universe worship satan, white power, black power, and money. Like trump. They claim to be christian because it buys them votes in the christian community. Who but 👁will enlighten those that still know not what they do or who they GRIEVE. you'd have been better off saying that the spirit has been grieved upon hearing this. And you have not only grieved the spirit with your judgement, you have grieved the believers of this monestary, a refuge for the deserters to the propaganda of RELIGION, which Christ also PREACHED against. It's not like we excuded those who worship Jesus who wept before he gave this earthbound job as a translator and counselor for God to the holy spirit. We cant hang a ghost on a cross and kill that spirit, all we can do is cause the spirit PAIN. and your reply hurt me enough to reply with this message of repentance. Go to school and study the merits of all spiritualities and FAITH before you spout your blasphemy against my lord and savior. Jesus wept for you also, DUDE. Remember that Jesus was crucified for Blasphamy and he knew what he was talking about.

      Agape is unconditional love, STEVEN MANDELLA

      1. Johnnie Roberte Lambert's Avatar Johnnie Roberte Lambert

        Steven Mandella: What's your point?

      2. Minister Mike's Avatar Minister Mike

        What's your problem, DUDE? You need, and should seek, professional help. Perhaps a licensed therapist. Or a doctor willing to prescribe some really strong painkillers. But you REALLY need to chill, DUDE.

  1. Darrell J Batchelor's Avatar Darrell J Batchelor

    I'm a Sun Worshiper like the late George Carlin. You can see the Sun and it never ask for FUNDING.

  1. Wen's Avatar Wen

    I’m just stunned, I envision Jesus shaking his head and uttering in disgust “let those old codgers come unto me. Keep them not away,” Is there no end to hypocracy?

  1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

    Hilarious post! When the old folks get to those mythical pearly gates they might also be turned away due to their age. Perhaps St. Peter will only let young ones in 😇.

    Religion at its best!

    🦁❤️

    1. Brien's Avatar Brien

      I thought that St Peter was a bouncer, and the Pearly Gates is a biker bar in southern California. I am pretty sure seniors get in, and there is a good selection of micro meads 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

    2. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

      @Lady Brien and Chief Mike: Thank you for the information. All hail to the ale? The gods Bacchus and Dionysus (gods of ale and wine) would be proud. 🍺🍷

      🦁❤️

    3. Minister Mike's Avatar Minister Mike

      Any evidence the Pearly Gates are mythical?

      Evidence they are real: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g35101-d2400986-Reviews-Pearly_Gates_Cafe-McCaysville_Georgia.html

      1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

        Sir Mike, I believe, I believe. Do they serve up good quality ale with their meals?

        🦁❤️

        1. Minister Mike's Avatar Minister Mike

          I'm not a Sir. I put my trousers on just like you - two legs at a time. 😜 However, if you are inclined towards honorifics, "Chief" would be most suitable.

          Regretfully, the Pearly Gates stand guard over an emptiness. Although the Gates still stand, the establishment is closed so no mead. 😢

  1. Paul J. Fumero's Avatar Paul J. Fumero

    Hell if filled with evagelical TV preachers and

    Hell is filled with Evangelical TV preachers and the leadership of Mega Churches that are nothing but a business peddling Jesus name. Jesus needed ZERO money to do what he did and they should follow his example. No one is rejected that comes to the Lord and Religious Branding is one sure fire way to a ticket to christian hell.

    m

    1. Philip Joseph Ryan's Avatar Philip Joseph Ryan

      Quite right; there is no need for churches, which are costly to maintain. Nor is there a need for hierarchical power structures that serve only the very few. It's fine., if building a place of worship gives its parishioners a sense of unity, but wrong for this to make parishioners feel obliged to give to the conmunion, especially the poor. No church should place these expectations upon those seeking communion, nor should it ever seek to exclude people upon any other pretext. Any church doing so ought to be made to replace the word Church with shop, for that is what it has become.

  1. Amber Fry's Avatar Amber Fry

    Wow... the people who would want and need the word most are being asked to leave? This is what makes me think there are way too many preachers and pastors that are losing their way.

    1. Minister Mike's Avatar Minister Mike

      Why do old farts need need the word more than young. Any evidence the old farts want it more than anyone else? That statement is solid age discrimination. 😡

    2. Minister Mike's Avatar Minister Mike

      Why do old farts need need the word more than young. Any evidence the old farts want it more than anyone else? That statement is solid age discrimination. 😡

  1. Roy C. Wilson's Avatar Roy C. Wilson

    Their "rebrand" should not be exclusionary but inclusionary. They need to make their church relevant and helpful to all. Millenials are abandoning churches because they do not attempt to deal with their needs and issues. Even in these comments I see attempts to brand a whole generation as useless freeloaders. This is neither Christian or correct behavior in any religion or philosophy.

    There has always been a problem of reactionary conservatism in organized religion. As one commentator suggests perhaps going online might be one solution to declining membership as it would guarantee more imput from and relevance to the younger while having no exclusionary reason other than trolls?

  1. Vern Dee Wall's Avatar Vern Dee Wall

    Jesus commanded his followers to love one another. It's obvious why that church is dwindling: they're not following the Christian guidelines!

    God's word always causes division: it divides believers from unbelievers.

  1. Patrick Steven Ratliff's Avatar Patrick Steven Ratliff
  1. Bob's Avatar Bob

    Jesus was a young man, Tried to save the world, His Papa said no, to the Cross he would go, Never made it to an age very old.

    Why the hurry?

  1. Mark Stricklett's Avatar Mark Stricklett

    Ha..ha... that church just cut off it;s main source of funds! They won't be around in 2 years if they depend on the younger crowd! LOL

  1. Brenten Stevens's Avatar Brenten Stevens

    🙈🙉🙊. Ahhhhhhh look the religious was continues or should we say the Money worshipers war ....🤷🏽

  1. rev.heidianne's Avatar rev.heidianne

    My suggestions are to have one service geared for the younger community . Also have groups that will interest both. Such as Bible classes and dinners. I'm sure there could be some groups for younger and older groups separately

  1. Dan Anderson's Avatar Dan Anderson

    Their loss. Senior citizens are usually quite a valuable asset to any organization which requires some form of wisdom. Theology is one of those areas.

    If you only have knowledge and no wisdom, one will never question that knowledge. Therefore, one will never learn other possibilities of what any holy books say.

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    All they have to do is color their hair, and get face lifts. I'll be fifty seven next month, and if I could afford a face lift I'd get one, too. Otherwise, as long as I leave my clothes on I won't scare away anyone. No more nude beaches for me. At least I can say "Thanks for the memories." I think I'll watch a Bob Hope movie now, and reminisce about my glory days.

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    Do you mean that Jesus was laughing so hard that tears came from his eyes, Mike?

    1. Minister Mike's Avatar Minister Mike

      Nope.

  1. Rod Gesner's Avatar Rod Gesner

    The Churches of this Nature are just Social VAMPYRES!! like the Modern corps.that entice then force early retirement.cause Younger workers are less expensive: Wages seniority Healthcare Etc. .ALL These National/international Churches should be accountable for Providing Care and comfort for their senior members; after all They Supported the Church throughout their Productive years.. if they can't raise the money locally?? Sell some Limo's or Diamond Crusted Crosses; golden Scepters ETC. .The Catholic Churches are one of the worst they will Bleed a Poor Town and Give back pennies on the Dollar in support..and They have the Gall to turn away Mobsters Now; Like They are any Better.Just the value of All the Stolen Books and Knowledge of Herbs and Healing's They hide in their Catacombs could Provide medical miracles.... to say nothing for Easing the Suffering of millions..But without Suffering; People will just enjoy life and Forget to Tithe...These Churches should be subjected to Class action Lawsuits for Fraud, Extortion by After Life Terrorism; and Discrimination!!!

  1. Bob's Avatar Bob

    What would Moses say? Right!... he wasn’t Christian. Young whippersnappers should just do church on their iPhones and Peloton bikes! A great sermon while setting a PR? It’s a win-win! Performance based Salvation, dude...!

  1. James Mounts's Avatar James Mounts

    Churches have a right to limit their membership. Churches also have a duty to lose tax-free status.

    1. Tom's Avatar Tom

      James...a very good point...churches should not be tax-free to start with..but this goes further...if they avail themselves of rights and privileges granted by their towns, counties States, United States, they should be precluded from this discrimination...Peace...Tom B

  1. Asa William Sprague, II's Avatar Asa William Sprague, II

    The church would probably be better off if they started a Bible and Brew study group. Both Millenials and Gen-Z'erd seem to enjoy IPAs and micro-brews.

    1. Asa William Sprague, II's Avatar Asa William Sprague, II

      Oops. That should be "Gen-Z'ers".

    2. Wen's Avatar Wen

      Add a wine bar and this z’er is in!! Oh wait.....they’re trying to get rid of us. Bad idea!

  1. Mindy Lea Elliott's Avatar Mindy Lea Elliott

    Shame on anyone that does this crap! Churches are nothing more than a money racket. Given money to false prophets that are falsely praised in a book that has no general meaning for a sky daddy. But, if people have been going to this church for a long time because they actually believe in all this and it’s what they need in their life then they actually have the right to form a committee and kick out ones starting all of this!! My advise is to pull your money now, and walk away. See how long the church lasts with Millennials running the show where their generation is in general thinking: everything is disposable, free, all about them and boring! They’ll move on, FAST! After all, it a generation of Kardashians!

  1. Richard Lee Cornell's Avatar Richard Lee Cornell

    Afterlife2. org

  1. Jim's Avatar Jim

    Was at a church in Tampa Florida that had plenty of young folks as well as us over 60 crowd. Played modern music lights etc. Part of the sermon was like a concert. The sermon was Part 8 of a series about sex, the sermon while a little uncomfortable for the us older folks was informative. Young children were off in other sections of the church having more age appropriate contents, also with live music and lights etc. My 6 and 10 year old granddaughters enjoyed the service in their groups. I received a thank you for attending card a week or so later at my home in another state and inviting me back. Yes Church should be open for everyone. For the folks on this site who keep attacking Christianity Brien, All I can say is I will look DOWN on you at the end. But considering this is a universal church site I would think that no matter what your faith you would at the very least respect that of others.

  1. Colleen Chapple's Avatar Colleen Chapple

    It's true that the more we grasp, the worse things get. When we trust God to fill our needs, open our hearts and use our heads wisely, great things happen. When we act out of desperation, God is no longer a part of the equation. An attempt to solicit to the needs of the young by eliminating the presence of elders is foolish and desperate. The leader of that church is incapable of true leadership using God's messages. Period. God has left the building there. Colleen

  1. Samuel Dxhlarg Ubani's Avatar Samuel Dxhlarg Ubani

    Exorcism is still inclusivity just like there is no Ship on the Internet. Ghosting is a natural phenomenon, each continents, have season for Ghosting, therefore inclusivity for older people should be joyous, amicable and in good standing.

    Ti he he

  1. William Cureton Fox's Avatar William Cureton Fox

    You are in good company if you are rejected. Jesus and the disciples were rejected.

  1. Joseph Richard Clemente's Avatar Joseph Richard Clemente

    Have we forgot that the CHURCH is not a building. It is the people!!

  1. Dorothy E. Cogswell's Avatar Dorothy E. Cogswell

    All are able to worship there God anywhere anyplace anytime. Why do we need a building and a group that rejects?

  1. Karen M Butler's Avatar Karen M Butler

    When I was a young child, my grandmother told me that I should watch what older people do, how they live, and how they behave to learn what is important in life. At the age of 57, I still observation them to this day and I ask for their opinions. Older people have taught me lessons from how to cook to how to cope. They have the best advice because they've already been there. Technology may change our world but basic human instinct, values, and morals remain the same. Older folks are our leaders by example. To just dismiss them like garbage floating in the rainwater heading for the sewer is just despicable. They are not your doormats laying there with their tongues hanging out for you to wipe your feet on when ever you choose. They are not your maids, free daycare, or free handymen. They are your elders and deserve your respect and inclusion. When and if our world goes to pieces, they're the ones who'll know how to survive. Among other events, they've survived the depression of the 30's and the Holocaust of the 40's. You'd be wise to pay attention to what they can contribute. When the bombs were falling, who's hand do you think the children were holding on to? - Pastor Karen Butler

  1. Dr. Bob Thomas's Avatar Dr. Bob Thomas

    We are very luck that God does not see as man sees. It is said somewhere that God's ways are not our way's. God sees what is in the heart.
    Why is there such a great deal of scripture based upon the sins of the flesh? Jesue died on the cross to break down the wall of emnity that was between the Jew and the Gentile. His blood made one man, a new man, free of that strife and bitterness. But still there was great effort by the unlearned to bring back that division into the new body. Knowledge and Wisdom are too different things. They are gained two different ways. Wisdom only comes with time. Excluding those with that hard won wisdom leaves only a building filled with knowledge at best. There is no one left that can show the way to the benefits of Wisdom. And perhaps that is the trouble here. A group of people are being lead by one that has no wisdom and would not know it if it fell on his head and knocked him to his knees. Which is where he should be in the first place.

    Christ was not foolish about money. He understood the suffering of the poor and commanded us to care for them. He told us that they would always be with us. He counted the gifts of the poor greater than the gifts of the wealthy and pointed this out in the scriptures. When wealth was called for, He noted that the face of the coin spoke to us about the ownership of it. "Give unto Ceaser the things that are Ceaser's. Give unto God the things that are God's."

    Our heart determines what it is that we do. If our heart is evil, then the things that we will do will be evil. If our heart is of the Spirit, then the things that we do will be of the Spirit. A bad tree cannot bring forth good fruit.

    Let this "church" be. The Wise will go off to a real Church and they will benefit from their memership. Both in this world and in the next. This church has lost its first love. It's members will pay the cost of that loss when called to judgement. As for the "preacher" there, he too will have to pay that cost as well. And then some, as the false teacher carries a double burden. As for the Mega-churches, a look at their membership reads like a revolving door. People coming in looking to be made whole, and leaving because the only thing that they learned was that they were empty in the first place and are still empty when they leave. The wealth is from its sponsors, and not its members. And that tells the tail as well.

    Let us focus our efforts on pleasing Him who died for us. Let us always remember the price that He paid for all of us. Let that humble us and our hearts. And let us pray for these souls as they are just as deserving and as valuable as our own.

    Now, stop reading this and go read your Bible. Gain some of that Knowledge and earn some of that Wisdom. Leave this bickering to the dogs and the liars.

  1. Jadwiga Spiewak's Avatar Jadwiga Spiewak

    I grew up Catholic but in my 20s I stopped going to church because I felt all they did was passing judgement on everyone else while themselves living lavishly, hardly ever following what they preached.
    Respect your elders is a staple no matter which religion you pick. If you can’t follow that simple rule, you shouldn’t be calling your institution a church. And respect is what the young generation needs to be taught by example, not by preaching about it.

  1. David M Beazor's Avatar David M Beazor

    Had a similar experience in an Efree church. My wife volunteered in the nursery. she was 55 at the time with a knee replacement coming up. The elder board said that there had been a complaint to the board that she could not get down and interact with the toddlers on the floor. This happened five moths before the church moved to the new building. After we got the LETTER informing us of the complaint, not a phone call or a personal visit, my wife refused to go back into the church again. The pastor invited us to come discuss the situation.

  1. Patricia Proctor Bee's Avatar Patricia Proctor Bee

    My brother is a Minister at a small Baptist Church. There are about 18 elderly members. They do not want change and run off new younger members. Solution is obvious: 2 services. One for older and established faithful. And a second to attract the younger.

    It's just sad when churches kick members out. Didn't think that was what a church was. Always thought they were places for sinners.

    Blessings

  1. James Walter Riggs's Avatar James Walter Riggs

    Any place of worship that has to "rebrand" like some new flavor of soda has no message worth listening to in the first place.

  1. Wen's Avatar Wen

    Sign me up !!!

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