SUMMERVILLE — Minister Michael Smith is a Summerville native who understands that to reach all demographics in his denomination, he must be willing to be flexible to meet the different needs of each group.
Smith grew up in Summerville, and moved away shortly after getting married to his wife in 2001. About two years ago, he and his wife decided to come back to be around friends and family, and to be more involved in the church. The Summerville Church of Christ is the first church at which Smith has been a full time pastor.
The Summerville Church of Christ offers many different functions and types of sermons to reach as many people as possible. The church even has members who live in Ontario, Canada who listen to the Sunday sermons online. The church has times set aside for children to have their own sermon, they accommodate families with young children, and they offer free holiday meals to the community that are popular among their elderly population.
Minister Smith and his wife have a “no demographic left behind” motto when it comes to church involvement. Smith believes churches in general have aged, and feels that some of the younger generations in churches have been left behind. He said each demographic has its own needs, and he tries to accommodate that as best he can.
“No matter where you look today people are lashing out at each other demographically... I think a beautiful thing is each demographic has something positive to contribute... When you can only see the negative, it holds us back in so many ways,” Smith said.
The church has an average attendance rate in the 60s. The pastor says that is good for a town with a population of about 500. The church has two services on Sunday; a Bible study at 9:30 a.m. for all ages, and worship at 10:20 a.m. and 6 p.m. It also has small group bible study on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. for all ages.
InvolvementThe church’s annual Fall Fest will be Oct. 19. It is a community event they host for children.
“We do it as a service to the community to give the kids something wholesome to do,” Minister Smith said.
The festival includes a trunk or treat, hay rides, a bounce house, barrel train rides, and more.
The church also has an annual Thanksgiving style community dinner at the beginning of November. This year’s will be on Nov. 9. The dinner is free to the community, and a number of the community’s of the elderly take part.
There has also been talk of having another dinner in the spring to recognize community service workers like first responders, teachers, and other similar positions.
The church also has monthly activities directed toward children, but have also had elderly participants as well. The most common activity is a movie night at the church. They’ve also had game nights, which is when some of the older generation has come to join.
“It’s not just kids that come to it, we’ve had people in their 90s here playing checkers on those nights,” Minister Smith said.
The church has a room at the back of the worship hall that would be considered by most to be nursery of sorts. Smith calls this room the Worship Training Center. The room has one way glass, so children can see out to at the sermon, and there are speakers hooked up so they can also hear the sermon.
Instead of parents having to struggle with young children to get them to sit still or be quiet for the service, they can go to the Training Center and still hear the worship while playing. This also helps them with the transition into the main worship room once they’re older, the minister said.
“I think we’ve done a good job with that transition period they go through,” Smith said.
He has also recently started dedicating one sermon every other month to the children. He brings them to the front rows of pews, and makes that whole day’s sermon for them. He talks directly to them, and preaches in a way that can reach children more easily than a normal sermon might.
“You see a lot of participation from them, so you have to be on your toes... I think it makes them feel important and gives them an opportunity to hear things on their level and that are relevant to them,” Smith explained.
During the month of January, some children meet each Sunday to study to compete in the Bible Bowl at Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. Most recently, the team who competed placed third out of the 20 teams that participated. There were eight children on the team, and some were from Clearfield because they didn’t have enough for a full team there. The children called their team the “Summerfield team” on the banner they made. As a reward, the church takes the team to Sight and Sound Theatres.
Use of TechnologyThe church also tries to make sure it has a social media presence. Live streaming sermons began about eight years ago, before live streaming was as popular as it is today.
A member of their congregation, Gary Smith had gone fishing near Ontario Canada and while there he met a group of locals who could afford to bring a preacher to them, and didn’t have a church to attend. He came back and wanted to find a way to help them be part of a church. They began live streaming so the group in Canada could see their services too. Today, the Canadian group meets in a home on Sundays and watches the church service online.