Since the pandemic, many churches have struggled to fill the pews to prior attendance levels. The challenge is more pronounced for small rural churches. I hear it said over and over by several local pastors and synod representatives. However, recently, I attended a service where a small country church received 21 new members. Wow! More are waiting in the wings to join because the new pastor makes learning fun for kids. There were 44 children involved in the Christmas program, a new high going back decades. Sunday school and the morning worship don’t have to be boring; the experience can be engaging, stimulating, and still edifying for children and adults. Pastor Adam Teske of West Union Lutheran Church does not walk on water and doesn’t suffer from any Jesus ego ailment. He’s inspired and inspiring and enjoys lots of help engaging young families in the church.

Beth Muehlenhardt, a teacher at Cologne Academy, has been instrumental in connecting and inviting families to get involved and experience the congregational enthusiasm that drives many at West Union. Pastor Adam says, “There are many great reasons to be a part of West Union (and we’ve certainly seen a good share of growth over the last few years). Reasons include a warm welcome, beautiful space, gracious invitation, and a children’s and youth ministry that connects. And while all of that is good and important, I pray that the foundation of our community belonging is in God’s Word. We are grounded, gathered, growing, giving... in Jesus’ name. In the one who gives us life.” The theological idea of being saved by grace through faith is alive and well in Pastor Adam’s messages each Sunday.

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