Pastor Daniel Kerlin’s Pennsylvania congregation wanted to reach people who wouldn’t normally come to church. They came up with a novel idea — a motorcyclist worship service followed by a “blessing of the bikes” in the church parking lot. “It was a pretty cool sight,” says Kerlin, “to see 80-year-old church ladies across the table from tattooed motorcycle enthusiasts clad in leather.”
The rural Pennsylvania community surrounding our historic church has changed drastically in the past several decades. Following a flood in the 1970s, many people moved away from town, and now the community is beset with problems we used to consider “big city” issues, like gangs and drugs. Trinity United Methodist Church has been looking for new ways to reach people in our community — people whose culture is different in many ways from our own, who might not normally feel welcome at church.
We’ve discovered that connecting with a niche group or a special interest is a powerful way of reaching out to people without them feeling that we’re dragging them in to the church.
Our mission team came up with a novel idea. They reached out to the local chapter of the Christian Motorcycle Association (CMA), and together we brainstormed how we could reach out to bikers. And in June, we held our first Motorcyclist Worship Service. The event was held on a Sunday morning. It began with a special service that took the place of our normal worship. The service featured a presentation by the “4 Given Riders.” Afterwards, everyone was invited to the church parking lot for a “blessing of the bikes.”
Our goal was to reach people who wouldn’t normally come to us and “meet them in the middle.” The event was advertised in the local bars, at the post office, and in the newspaper. CMA members talked to their neighbors who were also bikers, and they shared the invitation with their friends.
After the service, we hosted a fellowship meal where 80-year-old church ladies sat across the table from tattooed motorcycle enthusiasts clad in leather. It was a pretty cool sight! The original plan was that a 30-mile ride would follow the meal, but it had to be cancelled due to weather. But the rain didn’t dampen the enthusiasm for this outreach.
We’re looking forward to another blessing of the bikes in the future. And we’ve also planned a service for first responders in September. We’ve discovered that connecting with a niche group or a special interest is a powerful way of reaching out to people without them feeling that we’re dragging them in to the church. Instead, we are meeting them in the middle.
- Taking Church to the Community by Ann A. Michel
- Putting Ourselves in the Places Where Life Happens by Keith Anderson
- 50 Ways to Take Church to the Community, a free resource from the Lewis Center