Event to Help Growing Churches Keep Family Feel

Article excerpt

Byline: Laura Zahn Pohl Daily Herald Correspondent

As subdivisions of new homes replace cornfields and open prairie, new homeowners can quickly boost the membership of suburban churches. It's a familiar experience for DuPage County area churches, where a steady stream of new churchgoers need assimilation and fellowship with established membership.

"It's my job to keep the church personable," said Christie King, the assimilation pastor for Ginger Creek Church in Aurora. "We work hard to make sure we don't lose that personal touch."

How churches handle fast-paced growth will be the subject of a symposium scheduled from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. today at Knox Presbyterian Church, 1105 Catalpa Lane, Naperville.

Nancy Eiesland, a sociology professor at Emory University in Atlanta, will address the topic, "The Urban in the Ex-Urban: the Dynamics of Congregational Life in Growing Edge Cities." The symposium is open to the public, with a $10 charge for lunch.

"It (an influx of new members) can be a wonderful opportunity for growth," said Deborah Kapp of the McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, sponsor of the symposium and Eiesland's visit. "Yet it can strain a church's resources and put pressure on the congregation."

At Zion Lutheran Church on the far south side of Naperville, the 146-year-old rural congregation has gained 100 members to reach a total of 650, and has grown by 20 percent the past two years.

"We're considering expanding our worship services from two per weekend to three," said Brian Steward, director of Christian education. "And we try to emphasize that this is a family of faith, to make it personable and welcoming."

At the end of Sunday services, visitors are invited to stand and introduce themselves so members can make them feel welcome. The staff also holds monthly social gatherings for newcomers and members.

Another church experiencing rapid growth is St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Naperville that now numbers 3,800 families since its founding in 1984. …