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Local churches see uptick in youth attendance

BY CARTER CRANBERG | FEBRUARY 19, 2014 5:00 AM

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Numbers aren’t few in the pew.

While surrounding cities, such as Cedar Rapids, have seen a decline in the number of young churchgoers, Iowa City and Coralville have experienced a steady increase.

Veritas Church, which meets in Coralville and oversees the campus ministry the Salt Company, has also noticed the importance of being active with the youth. Veritas’ number of student attendees for its Thursday service has increased from 200 to 300 just over this past year.

Church coordinator Randuyl LaMack said Veritas has tried a more proactive approach on young adults, which she believes, has contributed to its surge in new members.

“Every Monday, we have a prayer time at the IMU, and every Thursday, we have our college service,” she said. “Then we have events throughout the year, such as cookouts, retreats, Bible studies, and musical events.”

Campus Christian club Cru staff member Kevin Krohn said it may be harder for people in their 20s to attend church and Christian clubs than those of older generations. He believes this is mostly because of the wide variety of jobs, sports, and other pursuits occupying younger people’s time.

“Members have booked schedules and are involved with so much else that they have a hard time committing to everything, which means they might not always attend our events or church,” he said.

Cru staff member of eight years Charlie Schaller believes that while older generations willingly attended church on their own, young adults today need to be reached out to and shown what church has to offer.

“I think the reality is with this generation of young people; we can’t sit back and wait for them to come,” he said. “This is a very spiritually interested generation, but most people aren’t just going to walk into a church. So, the churches and us are tying to reach out and engage students and foster relationships.”

Schaller believes Iowa City’s churches and Christian clubs should be very hands on, which lends to the growth in young attendees.

As of this fall, Cru is up to around 300 members, a significant growth from its 12 members during the first year of its operation nearly a decade ago.

Ed Fitzpatrick, the priest at the Newman Catholic Student Center, echoed Schaller’s opinion in regards to establishing a place that is more active with the younger generation.

“We offer free food, a place for students to study; it’s a supportive and nurturing environment for young people to come in,” he said. “I think this has helped maintain our numbers at service because I haven’t noticed a decrease at our services since I started here in 1982.”

Krohn said the key to maintaining the interest of young adults lies in versatility.

“We’re constantly meeting with students and seeing what events engaged people and which ones didn’t,” he said. “So, we’re adapting and trying to find what works and help establish lasting relationships.”


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