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Changes in store for Farmington church

The sign will come off of the window soon, and the door will stay closed on Sunday mornings, but The River Church isn't disappearing. It's just taking some time to figure out what comes next.

The 10-year-old church, which for the past several years has made its home in a former department store space in downtown Farmington, is considering its next step in the face of dwindling membership numbers. Pastor Mike Lee, who took over leadership of the church last September, said the congregation has lost about half of its 80 members in recent months.

"I think any time you transition to a new leader, that's pretty typical," Lee said. "Anytime a church gets a new leader, people have to decide if they want to follow that leader or go somewhere else."

Lee said the core group of members that remains is dedicated to the church.

The church's lease in its Third Street space is up in April, but Lee has already led his last traditional Sunday service, at least for the time being. In place of those weekend gatherings church members plan to continue meeting in small groups. Existing Bible studies and other groups will continue to meet, and Lee plans to form what he calls a man church. The group is meant to bring more men into the church and build relationships among them.

"We're kind of like a guy's time to come together and do guy things," Lee said.

Another church member has talked about forming a small group focused on horses, and Lee expects more such groups to form as members find needs to meet.

Lee wants the church to focus its efforts outward into the community rather than inward. Last fall church members provided chili carts for teachers during school conference times. Lee also expects to host a community fun night sometime in the near future.

"It is exciting to evaluate what's being effective and look for new opportunities," he said. "We have a good group of core people who really want to reach Farmington."

Lee said the church might eventually return to having regular Sunday services if membership increases.

For now, though, he's just interested in seeing what comes next.

"I love an adventure," he said. "I love doing something new and exciting. To me, it's all about reaching people outside of the regular church and building relationships in the community.

"I'm definitely excited about meeting new people."

Another church affected

The River isn't the only church occupying the downtown space it once called home. Middle Creek Vineyard Church has shared the space for several months.

Middle Creek pastor John Guist said his church still plans to meet in the space for the immediate future. Whether they stay might depend on whether they can afford the rent on their own. It also might depend on what the landlord wants to do with the space. Guist said another church has already looked at the building, though he didn't know if that church would be open to sharing space like The River was.

"We're already working on contingency plans, just in case," Guist said.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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