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Ashton Hundley

REL 311
Professor Rathje
November 22, 2016

Mission Immersion- St.Paul

Throughout the history of the church there has been a mission and a set goal that every
church wants to fulfill. In each church, the goal and mission is to proclaim the Word of God
along with His wondrous works and teachings, and to bring and invite all of Gods people to be a
part of His kingdom. Although all churches seek this one goal and declare it as their mission for
God, many churches fulfill this in a different manner. Some seek to fulfill it in a traditional
manner, and some have derived unique ways that have fulfilled this goal as well. In our society,
we have the opportunity to partake in both of these two ways to seek God and see the mission
immersed with the church. For me, and along with a few of my other classmates, we went to
visit St. Paul Church in Ann Arbor to find out more about his church and his mission for the
church in a unique way.
We spoke to the Senior Pastor of St. Paul, Rev. Don Neuendorf, for an opportunity he
provided us through his Church. He wanted us to be secret shoppers within his church to further
figure out the morale of the church and provide feedback about his church in order to make it a
great experience for newcomers. Specifically, the goal of this was to figure what he can do to
invite more Millennials and newcomers in general to his church and what could possibly be
changed within his church. This seemed to be a different way to be immersed within a mission
of a church, and honestly I was pretty excited for this opportunity.

So last Sunday Claire, Baylon, Tom, and I attended two services at St. Paul, one at 8:15
and another at 10:30. As we entered into the church, we were a bit optimistic as to how we would
be treated due to our lack of proper attire compared to the rest of the congregation. However, the
greeters did not hesitate to welcome us in a nice manner while giving us our programs. Once we
entered into the sanctuary, we dispersed ourselves within the church so it was not obvious that
we were all together. Claire and I sat on the left side of the church, whereas Tom and Bay were
on the opposite side. At this service, we could see that not many people attended this service and
the age group of the congregation at this time was between the 40 and up age group. As Claire
and I sat down in the pew, we immediately received a scowling look from one of the members of
the church. We believed it was due to our attire because she gave the same look to Bay and Tom
as well, but honestly we do not know what her intention was through her look. But, the first
service went well. It was a very traditional lutheran service that consisted of singing traditional
hymns, playing the organ, responses between the pastor and the congregation, and not a lot of
connection between the members. At the end of the service, Claire and I received a warming
gesture from an elder lady acknowledging us for coming and appreciated that we came and
joined the service. She wish that we come again as she shook our hands with a gleaming smile
on her face. I Although one else seemed to acknowledge us in any other way, we were glad at
least one person took time to make us feel welcomed.
The second service was a bit different in regards to acknowledgement of the members. At
this service Claire and I received more welcoming gestures from a few other members and spoke
to us after the service as well. Also, there were more families and younger people at this service
other than the last service. But, not a lot of Millennials showed up to any of the services and if
they did its because they were with their parents. Although Claire and I had a better experience

the second service Bay and Tom received more negative looks than we did. The overall
itinerary of the service was the exact same of the previous service.
After the service Pastor Neuendorf asked us to meet with him after the last service to
further discuss our experience and provide beneficial feedback for his church. As we were
waiting for the pastor, maybe 1 to 2 people spoke to us out of approximately 15 people who were
in the back of the sanctuary with us. Nevertheless, we met with the pastor to briefly address our
experience. We all told him about the odd looks we saw between both of the service, and a lack
of belonging within the congregation. He was instantly shocked to hear about this because he
believed most of his congregation were heartfelt and loving people. He also responded to us by
saying that most of his congregation are life-long Lutheran believers and are deep within their
faith, so they believe in more of the traditional ways to conducting a service and the traditional
attire to have when attending church. Personally, I do understand their understanding, but this
makes me revert back to the generational interview I partook with my grandmother. What I
learned from that is that it is indeed hard to transition to certain fads or perspectives no matter
how traditional they are. However, when you have to adapt to gain more productivity such as
what Rev. Neuendorf is doing, youre not neglecting or straying away from tradition but rather
intertwining the old with the new.
Some things we insisted on him possibly changing within his church program is more
interaction with the congregation. This would include taking maybe a minute or two break, at the
appropriate time during church, to go around the church to speak to one another and spread the
love of Christ around. This will uplift the morale of the Church, because someone in the
congregation may need that love and it will provide a sense a belonging especially if theyre
new. In addition to this, during the announcements or the welcoming period he can take time to

acknowledge guest by having them stand where theyre seated so the congregation can affiliate
themselves. Some of these suggestions could possibly create a better experience for newcomers
and potentially invite more people to the congregation.
After being a part of this opportunity, I have learned beneficial factors pertaining to the
church in mission. Throughout this opportunity, I learned that peoples perspectives are
important yet can also blind them from what they need to see. AS we attended the services at St.
Pauls, those certain members who gave us odd looks due to our attire and other possible factors
may have had a perspective an outlook on us. We do not know how their perspective was
comprised, but as Christians I believe our perspective should should be seeking to find the good
in one another no matter who we are or what we look like. Jesus was a man who loved everyone,
no matter what theyve done or what they looked like. As Christians, we must seek to find
newcomers and further welcome them to the body of Christ. Once we seek that we can
understand new perspectives, and accept the different perspectives and each other. Also, Ive
learned that tradition within a church will always be sacred, but its also okay to adapt and
possibly intertwined new factors to benefit the growth and experience of a church as well. This
opportunity opened my eyes to see these factors and also has been a helping tool to Rev.
Neuendorf and St.Paul.