A Minnesota Church Tells Older Members of the Congregation to Leave and Not Come Back

Cottage Grove

The Grove United Methodist Church (Cottage Grove campus)

I recently talking to a 60-something friend of mine who attends an evangelical megachurch that recently hired three new pastors.  I asked him if he liked these new congregational leaders.  He said, “Yes, I like them, but they don’t seem particularly interested in me.  I don’t think I represent the right demographic.”

I thought about this conversation as I read about a United Methodist congregation in Cottage Grove, Minnesota.  The congregation is not attracting new members and the leadership has decided to close the church in June 2020.

But the story doesn’t end there.

The Grove United Methodist Church will reopen in November 2020 and the present members, most of whom are over sixty years of age, will be asked to worship elsewhere.

Wow!

Here is Bob Shaw’s reporting in the Duluth News Tribune:

A prayer for survival rose from the back of the church last Sunday.

“I pray for this church, getting through this age-discrimination thing,” said William Gackstetter, as the gray-haired heads around him nodded in agreement.

Gackstetter and other members of the Grove United Methodist Church in Cottage Grove are upset enough that their church is closing in June. What makes it worse is that their church is reopening in November — pretty much without them.

The church wants to attract more young families. The present members, most of them over 60 years old, will be invited to worship somewhere else. A memo recommends that they stay away for two years, then consult the pastor about reapplying.

Officials say the church needs a reset, and reopening the church is the best way to appeal to younger people.

But the older church members say they see that as an insult.

“This is totally wrong,” said Gackstetter’s wife, Cheryl. “They are discriminating against us because of our age.”

After the plan was explained by a visiting pastor on Jan. 5, she said, “I called him a hypocrite. I said, ‘You are kicking us out of our church.’ ”

Read the rest here.

The Grove United Methodist Church has two campuses.  The Woodbury campus seems to have a large number of younger families and holds two service each Sunday.  The Cottage Grove campus has one service on Sunday mornings and is part of a 2008 merger with the Woodbury congregation.

I imagine that some evangelical megachurch pastors will get upset about this story.  But then they will think about it some more…

Thanks to John Haas for bringing this story to my attention.

ADDENDUM (9:07pm)

Jeremy Peters is the 30-year-old minister who will be planting the new church (November 2020) at Cottage Grove.  He is a graduate of Bethel University and Bethel Theological Seminary.  Peters contacted me via Twitter: