Church services at The Orchard this summer have been good. Usually when summer comes our numbers drop a little because of the college students that attend are home for the summer. Or off working somewhere. Or just traveling and seeing cool stuff. But usually, most of them are not in Oxford.
But this summer our numbers didn’t drop significantly because many of our college students stuck around Oxford taking summer school or getting jobs. So summer was a nice time to get to know them better, and we also saw a few new families start to attend during the summer. Plus often times we had many counselors from Camp Lake Stephens attend too.
But when fall gets near we know to expect an uptick in attendance. But no way to really gage it though. We averaged about 115 from the Sunday after Ole Miss’ exams were done through the last weekend before classes started. I preached on August 15th to about 135 people. The next weekend, the 22nd was “Move In” weekend. Classes for Ole Miss started the next day.
On that morning we saw familiar faces showing up. Then some we’d not seen around the Orchard in a few months. And then new faces. And more new faces. And more and more! We started finding folding chairs in the storage room. We took all the chairs out of the Kids’ Ministry rooms. And we ran out of chairs! We had people sitting on the floor, standing in corners, out in the hallways… There were over 250 people there! I was quite surprised. We practically doubled from the week before.
I joked with myself that my awesome message the week before brought everyone in. But really, I don’t know what the catalyst was. And we start wondering how to prepare for the next week. Pat is preaching a series on Biblical Friendship and I think it hit home with many people. But so many of the new faces were college students.
This morning I woke up to get ready for church. It was grey and raining outside. I thought, “hmm.” I figured the rain would keep people in bed or just in their homes. So we wouldn’t have to move as many chairs around.
We still set up a few chairs in the overflow room, but didn’t know what to expect. The service at The Orchard starts at 10:30. It stops raining about 10ish. There are a few people there. But then it happens again. A steady trickle becomes a stream. And soon we’re scrambling for chairs again. Taking the chairs from the kids again. And having people sit/stand everywhere. It didn’t seem quite as crazy this time, but there were actually more people there today than last week. The parking lot was an insurance adjuster’s nightmare with all those cars parked so tightly and all those college girls trying to maneuver around!
Now people are suggesting knocking out walls and other major remodeling projects. I’m interested to see how many people coming on Sunday mornings shift to the evening service that will begin on September 12th. But running out of space is a good problem to (temporarily) have.
It’s been an exciting two weekends. Seeing your church attendance double. But we’ve got to continue to seek God in how to connect everyone that’s coming to God and to each other. Provide community both big and small for them. And to create space, whether that means extra services or expanded rooms. So if you’ve read this far (and I’ll admit that I left out a lot of details I wanted to put in. I’m trying to get better at that) I ask that you pray that we, The Orchard, seek God and His wisdom for what our next steps should be.
Next weekend is a holiday weekend. No one has school on Monday and many people are off of work. Will people be traveling? BUT…it’s Ole Miss’ first home game of the season! Will more people be in town and come to church? We’ll see.