Two Dubuque churches pool pastor, resources - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Two Dubuque churches pool pastor, resources

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -- Two churches entered into a shared ministry, as attendance has diminished in past years.

St. Matthew Lutheran Church (ELCA) and its neighbor across the alley Immanuel Congregational United Church of Christ are jointly looking for one pastor to lead both congregations.

The plan is to have the pastor lead a separate service in each of the two buildings, one in the style of the respective denomination.

"I think it's part of the future of churches to work together, to share ministry together, officially and unofficially," intern at both churches Mark Doidge said.

Lifelong St. Matthew Lutheran Church member Bob Miller said he's seen the number of young people at his church shrink.

"It is difficult as the population ages to maintain relevancy so that young people choose to get involved," Miller said.

That mirrors a national trend. According to both the General Social Survey and a 2007 survey by the Pew Forum, there are fewer Millennials (people born 1981 or later) than any other generation who say they regularly attend a religious service.

"The landscape is changing, and we have to be more mission-oriented for young people to be excited about church," Doidge said, who added young people these days want to see faith in action.

St. Matthew sits on White Street, back-to-back with Immanuel Congregational, which is on Jackson Street. 18th Street flanks them both, and Miller said he's seen the neighborhood change over the years, including the closing of Saint Mary's Catholic Church in May.

"It's so easy to say, 'Woe is us, this part of town isn't a beehive of activity, many people are moving to the outskirts,'" Miller said, "but let's realize there are a lot of exciting things happening here."

St. Matthew's interim pastor Kathy Wicks said shared ministry is not new to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. She said five ELCA churches in Iowa are in partnerships with a United Church of Christ, and more are partnering with churches of other denominations.

On a national level, a December 2009 Pew Forum study found Iowa ranked 21st for worship service attendance.

You can find a link to that study HERE, or for that and links to the other studies mentioned in this story, check out the links on the left of this page.

Online Reporter Becca Habegger

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