Church's $10 offer increases flock

April 11, 1994|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Western Maryland Bureau of The Sun

FREDERICK -- Some came for money. Some came looking for a new place to worship. Others ventured to Frederick Christian nTC Fellowship out of curiosity -- wondering what kind of church doles out $10 to visitors.

Hoping to attract new members, the nondenominational church yesterday offered a $10 bill to the first 200 adult visitors. About 125 people more than usual -- adults and children -- showed up for Sunday services, and 32 adults took the $10 offer. But many put the money into the collection plate during the service.

"I gave the money back," said Gaye Inman, a retired accountant from Frederick. "The money is not what I came for. I really just wanted to see what it was all about. I think I'll be back."

And that was what the Rev. Randy Goldenberg and his 175-member congregation were hoping for: to attract nonchurchgoers and those like Mrs. Inman who do not attend a church regularly.

"I think [the money] brought some people who in all likelihood are not going to church," said Mr. Goldenberg, the 43-year-old pastor who preaches in jeans and a denim shirt. "We want them to know that church can be culturally relevant. Some today will find significance with Christ and will tell their friends about it."

This method of converting souls may be unusual -- and costly -- but the congregation backed the well-publicized mission of Mr. Goldenberg, whom they describe as "more of a Jerry Seinfeld than a Jerry Falwell." The event has drawn the attention of Baltimore, Washington and local news media.

"At first I had my doubts," said Bruce Bryant, a 34-year-old church member from Middletown. "But I did a lot of praying about it and think it's a great way to get people into church. I think we have something here that is relevant to their lives."

The church, which meets every Sunday at Ballenger Creek Elementary School in Frederick, has spent thousands of dollars in mailings and phone calls to attract new members the past two years. The church spent a couple of thousand dollars to advertise yesterday's event.

"We're not trying to steal members of other churches, we're trying to reach out to those who are not going to church," said Kim Kesecker, assistant director of ministries. "Many people complain they don't go to church because churches always want money. We thought why not be bold and give them money."

Wes Haupt, a 32-year-old lay minister who was among members handing out $10 bills to visitors, was surprised by the response.

"A lot of people are saying no, they don't want the money. They've told us to keep it and put it in the offering," he said.

Yesterday's 75-minute service opened with contemporary Christian songs sung by church members backed by a rock band that had visitors on their feet, swaying, clapping hands and bouncing babies.

A short, humorous skit about getting people to go to church followed. Mr. Goldenberg's message -- not a sermon here -- was about "the keys to gaining and maintaining the sense of significance, security and satisfaction we're all looking for."

First-time visitors Jim and Joanne Fields of Monrovia made it a point to tell the pastor afterward how much they enjoyed the service.

"We loved the music and the skit," Mr. Fields said. "It was different, but the church was very much alive. We're going to recommend it to our son and his wife who live in Frederick."

Like many others, the couple returned the money.

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