Church Makes the Most of Its Little Stature

Article excerpt

Byline: Janet Hallman Daily Herald Staff Writer

South Church in Mount Prospect has learned it pays to be cute.

The little white church on Emerson Street has been facing a declining membership in recent years, but it still catches the eye of engaged couples who see it as a picture-perfect place for a wedding.

Which gave the Rev. Jack Skiles an idea.

"People have always just driven by and said, 'Oh, it's just the cute little white church on the corner,' " Skiles said. "And so we decided if that's what people see, that's what we have to capitalize on."

South Church decided to take out an ad in Chicago Wedding magazine, soliciting some wedding business by billing itself as "that cute little white church with something very special happening inside."

"I did have people who came and wanted to get married here because it's a cute church," Skiles said. "Our philosophy here is if you believe in yourself and you want to get married, we'll marry you. No questions asked."

The ads, which the church places twice a year in Chicago Wedding, have paid off. Skiles said he now performs between 30 and 40 weddings a year for outsiders. His wife, an ordained minister, also performs some of the ceremonies.

The size of the congregation has grown as a result, from the 79 members Skiles started shepherding in 1990 to roughly 200 today. "It's been an interesting way for us to find people," he said.

Times definitely have changed at South Church, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year.

It is the second-oldest church in Mount Prospect, built in 1937 by the American Baptists as a community church.

Beginning with a congregation of only 13 people, it grew to a congregation of 1,200 by 1963 and was the spiritual home for some of the village's early mayors and trustees, Skiles said. …