Thursday Night Church Works for Millennials: Weekends are too Full
By Lindsay Peyton - En Español
Churches across the nation are competing with soccer, baseball and sometimes just “sleeping in.” So one worship community in College Station, Texas decided to try something different to reach millennials. And it’s working!
Rev. Daniel Lumpee has always marched to his own beat.
His call to ministry came at a young age, at 13 years old, when most other kids had not even begun to think about their careers.
“God made it really clear that this is what I was meant to do,” he called. “And I had people around me who believed me. They were so encouraging. So, I threw myself into the life of the church. I went all in.”
One evening, in his hometown of Crowley, he was watching a worship band tune up and the bassist did not show up. “The lead singer asked, ‘Do you want to learn this?’” Lumpee recalled.
Before long, he taught himself bass and guitar, played in the band and found other leadership opportunities. In the meantime, he enrolled in speech and debate classes in high school to prepare for spreading his message to large crowds.
Lumpee then moved to College Station to earn his bachelor’s degree in communications with a minor in religious studies at Texas A&M University.
He also met his wife Alex – at their church Christ UMC. Returning to the area after being ordained at Duke Divinity School was a no brainer.
But when Lumpee came back, he faced a new challenge. He became the young adult and family pastor at Christ UMC, a new position.
He was also given a difficult task. “There are a lot of young people and families living in the shadow of our steeple, and we’re not reaching them,” he remembers being told. “It was a mighty charge.”
Lumpee made a list of 40 young adults in the area and invited them for coffee or a meal.
“I just listened to them to hear what they needed,” he said.
The refrain was almost always the same. Sunday mornings were not the best time slot. Either young professionals used the day to get ahead at work – or young families were tired from traveling all weekend to take their children to sports events and other extracurricular activities.
“As a pastor, I hated to hear that,” Lumpee said. “But I thought, I can either scream into the wind, or we could set our sails up and let the wind take us somewhere different.”
Rev. Lumpee decided to turn an obstacle into an opportunity – and Lakeway Church was born.
The worship group is a subset of Christ United that meets on Thursday evenings.
“Lakeway is a story of leftovers,” Lumpee said. “Thursday was a leftover night of the week. It took a leftover budget. Even when we needed an altar, I found an old, dusty desk in the closet and asked if anyone needed it.”
Lakeway began in February 2018.
“We started off, and within a couple of months, came to form an identity,” Lumpee said. “It took off from there.”
He also offers a weekly communion at his church. “More and more millennials are attracted to modern worship, but still want ancient liturgical practices,” Lumpee said.
Since the group is only a year old, the pastor said there’s still a lot of room to grow. For now, Lakeway enjoys the benefits of being part of a larger church while offering members the camaraderie of a smaller congregation.
“You can walk in and know everyone’s name,” Lumpee said.
There are a lot of community meals and an extra focus on children’s programs, he added. Lakeway also appeals to retired people, who are looking for something different or who travel a bit and find Thursdays work better for their schedule.
Lumpee believes a lot of churches can find value in doing something similar to build up their congregations.
“Every church has to evaluate its culture,” he said. “How do we stay true to ourselves and invest in new ways? You can’t be afraid to fail. I’m grateful that Christ UMC allowed me to take a risk. You’ve got to trust God and give it a shot.”