Church draws youth, young families in their droves to bigger venue
MAKING the church relevant and contemporary so it attends to people’s needs, is what has seen Father’s House Family Church in Port Elizabeth experience unprecedented growth.
Evidence of this growth is the fact it has expanded from a congregation of just a few hundred – to thousands, attracting to it a big contingent of young people.
Two weeks ago, the church introduced its third service at its massive 2 500-seater warehouse venue in Paterson Road, where it relocated to last year.
Father’s House has a congregation of predominantly young adults and new families, drawn to it by a rock-concert like atmosphere and a pastoral team that look more like hipsters than pastors.
The church grew from a congregation of just 300 people at its home in Glen Street five years ago to 550 at its second location in Stanley Street – where the church had several run-ins with the Richmond Hill suburb’s residents, who became upset by what they called the church’s “gross invasion of peace and quiet”.
It was while at Stanley Street – where the church had a record five services every Sunday – that the idea for a bigger venue as a long term solution was birthed.
Father’s House founder and lead pastor George Georgiou – who first conducted services at His People church at NMMU 19 years ago – said the move to the current venue, a disused old Federated Timbers building was the best of several options.
“The first building accommodated 300 people, the Stanley street building held 550 people and our current location accommodates 1 800 people, with enough space to seat 2 500 people,” he said.
“We opted to add another service to alleviate pressure on additional facilities like kid’s church classrooms and to meet regulations relating to such gatherings.”
The church introduced a second morning service on Sunday, with the service times now 8.30am, 10.30am and 6pm.
The 10.30am service recently saw the auditorium, which has about 1 800 chairs, filled to nearcapacity following the 8.30am service, that was slightly fuller and also near capacity.
Father’s House has become extremely popular, especially among young adults and couples. “We recognise that people have a wide range of personal needs, some are practical, others are emotional or even motivational. Although we know that the answer is spiritual, we hope to meet all those needs,” Georgiou said.
He said they were putting the church “dead centre of our lives” as opposed to the old way of “living Monday to Saturday and checking in at church on Sunday. ”We have found that by putting church at the dead centre of our lives, using the language we speak that is contemporary and the situations we try to address, are common day situations that you will face on Monday or Tuesday,” Georgiou said. “That seems to have made a big difference.
“We are very grateful that there is tradition, which I feel needs to be maintained in a lot of ways, but the fact is people need support, guidance and wisdom for each day of the week.
“The more we address that, the more I notice that young people find value in it and something to draw from and walk away with.” Georgiou added.
Georgiou said migration of youngsters from traditional backgrounds was part of a very strong and healthy conversation.
“You can be very wise and conservative or very wise and charismatic and the style will appeal to many different personalities. The issue is: are you meeting the needs that people have when they walk through the door?” he said. “We often have been teaching theology and forgetting to meet people’s needs. Those two things must somehow be equally taken care of. ”
Anglican Bishop Bethlehem Nopece noted the move by the youth from traditional churches, saying it was due to number of reasons, that include unwillingness to be disciplined or to give financially.
“Another reason is that mainline churches were, in the past, not so emphatic on the commitment to Christ, so there was little to attract and nourish the young ones spiritually,” he said.