A lot of churches are trying new and different ways to get people in the pews, from contemporary praise music to a variety of outreach ministries.
Covenant Bible Church is trying something that may be the first of its kind in the area: a Saturday night service called Elevate.
Pastor Mike Devine was trying to think of a way to alleviate the problem of overcrowding on Sunday mornings when he came up with the idea. While that may have been his original intention, the alternative service has taken on a whole new meaning.
â€œThis may not be the answer to solving overcrowding on Sunday morning, but it may be a way to reach new people,â€ Devine said.
Devine knows that many people either canâ€™t or wonâ€™t come to church on Sunday morning, whether due to work schedules or the fact they are looking for something different.
â€œThere are people who wonâ€™t attend a traditional service,â€ Devine said.
For those people, Elevate just might be the answer.
Described as â€œan alternative worship experience pursuing the same God,â€ Elevate features a message of salvation in a more laid-back atmosphere.
â€œEven I wear blue jeans,â€ said Devine.
While he acknowledges that some may feel the casual dress is not reverent enough for a church service, Devine says heâ€™s not worried. Itâ€™s more about the message than what the messenger is wearing.
According to Devine, the point is to reach as many people as possible with the word of God. And plenty of Covenantâ€™s members are up for the task.
A number of people on the churchâ€™s planning committee have volunteered to serve as ushers, hospitality people or on the worship team on Saturday nights. Devine called on Grayson Berkowitz, the churchâ€™s former youth praise team leader, to play a very special role in Elevateâ€™s services. The guitarist serves as worship leader and heads up a group of 12 to 15 people in providing music.
Some of the music consists of traditional hymns with a contemporary twist; some is strictly contemporary.
The goal is to appeal to a wide range of people while keeping the Christian message intact.
â€œWeâ€™d like to see some people who have never been in church in their lives,â€ said Devine. â€œThe night weâ€™re coming together is more different than the message weâ€™re bringing.â€
Devine also wants people to know that Elevate isnâ€™t about taking people away from their own churches. In fact, Devine likes to work with other preachers and meets with a group of seven ministers each Thursday for prayer.
For Devine, the goal is to break down denominational and racial barriers that often separate churches. He believes thereâ€™s plenty of common ground to build on.
â€œThis service is not about making Covenant Bible Church a big church,â€ he said. â€œItâ€™s about making the kingdom of God.â€
Covenant is already a large church, with 500 to 550 people attending on Sunday mornings, and Devine sees one of the benefits of Elevate as the chance to have services that are a bit smaller and more intimate.
In an attempt to build fellowship opportunities, Devine is hoping to create a number of small groups at the church. There are already a variety of groups in place, everything from fellowship and prayer to single moms and kids, from a Hebrew roots study group to a fly fishing group.
Itâ€™s all about bringing people together, says Devine.
â€œFellowship is what weâ€™re after,â€ he said. â€œItâ€™s about connecting to people, not just about going to church. Itâ€™s about building relationships.â€
Want to go? Elevate begins with fellowship in the church lobby, including coffee and refreshments, at 5:30 p.m. Saturdays at Covenant Bible Church, 2168 Gastonia Hwy., Lincolnton. Services begin at 6 p.m. Everyone is welcome to attend. Please call (704) 735-1559 or visit www.elevatecbc.org for more information.
by Allyson Levine