"We just struggle to get people into church. They'd rather spend a beautiful Sunday morning out on their bikes."
Northwest Parish Nurse Ministries, Portland, OR
This is a challenge that is perhaps more unique to Portland, OR than many other cities. After all, Portland is the bike capital of the America. Bruce and I talked about what an interesting problem this is for a city and its churches to have. It seems that there should be a way to harness all this positive energy being expended outside in God's creation.
The solution? Find some clergy who enjoy biking to lead a bike ride (maybe different rides for different abilities?) up to a scenic point, have a 15 minute sermon, then return. Along the way, conversations about God and spirituality could be encouraged, fellowship shared, and new insights gained.
The more we talked, the more we saw how this ministry could be shaped by the needs of the communities. You could have serious, highly trained riders with a challenging course (if the clergy are up to it!), leisurely family rides, or anything in between. You could do it during the week or on the weekend, incorporate a meal, or have several 'mini-sermons' at rest stops along the way. You could even have a bike ministry for motorcycles, although that is a much less healthy model!
What if your community doesn't have a bike culture?
Of course, Portland is unique in the United States, as most of the country has yet to develop a similar love for biking. However, I think there are still some lessons to be learned here. If there is a population in your community that is unable (or unwilling) to modify their schedules to meet the normal worship times, how can you reach out to them? Maybe you simply need to offer a service at an unusual time of day or change the location to one near public transportation.
We may not be able to completely rearrange services for the benefit of a few (nor would I suggest that's a good idea if you could) but it's also worthwhile to periodically take a fresh look at your community as you think about ministry development.
Now, about that name...
One area Bruce and I struggled with once we became excited about this idea was the name. Holy Rollers? Heaven on Wheels? We never really settled on a good one. So...
- What are your suggestions?
- Would this ministry work in your community?
- What other ideas does this inspire for you?
Let us know in the comments!
**As with any good idea, someone else has already thought of it. Here are a few bike ministries I found in an online search:
- Mountain Bike Ministry: Maranatha Chapel, San Diego, CA
- rock mtb: The Rock Church, San Diego, CA
- GracePointe Bike Ministry: Denton, TX
Matthew Ellis serves as executive director of National Episcopal Health Ministries.