Riverchase United Methodist Church in the Birmingham-East District is quickly approaching the 5% growth mark in worship attendance during the last year and other areas of ministry in the church have surpassed the 5% growth mark.
Senior Pastor Jim Savage reports that the average worship attendance as of March 2006 was 1321 worshippers. This means worship attendance has grown 4.9% since the beginning of 2005. During this same time period church membership has grown 6.2%
The church has seen its largest growth in Sunday School attendance. It has increased 11% during the last year.
Rev. Savage says, "This has been our largest area of growth over the last two years. We have placed much more emphasis on small groups and Sunday School. Many young couples enter and join because of the worship but we find we retain them better if we get them involved in some type of small group level."
He explains this has also presented a challenge because some of these busy families choose to only attend church for one hour on Sunday and they are choosing Sunday School. Rev. Savage says, "This has hurt our worship growth, but has helped our overall growth for the church."
Some of that overall growth includes an increase in the attendance for the Wednesday night programs for children by more than 100%. Rev. Savage says, "We've grown on Wednesdays to the point that sometimes we have almost as many children on Wednesday night as we have on Sunday morning. We now provide studies and activities for children over a two hour period so that more young couples can take DISCIPLE classes."
There has also been a 70% increase in participation in the "Upward" Basketball program. This outreach program has brought in two new families who recently joined the church and several more families who attend on a regular basis.
The church is also seeing growth in areas that have historically had up and down attendance patterns. These include Singles' Ministry activities and the SonDay Live Contemporary Worship Service.
Another area of ministry that has continued a pattern of tremendous growth during the past few years is the new Hispanic Congregation. Rev. Savage notes that the absence of the Hispanic Congregation pastor Rev. Fernando Del Castillo due to recent visa problems "has caused the 'mother' church to work harder here in Riverchase and they have grown another 10% this year in the Hispanic service." Now this Riverchase congregation is reaching out and has partnered with Huffman United Methodist Church and helped start a new Saturday night Hispanic worship service in Huffman.
The Birmingham-East District also wants to celebrate other congregations that have met the 5% challenge. The following percentages are taken from the six month period of October 2005 to March 2006.