How a traditional church in Bettendorf is staying afloat in a society of mega-churches

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BETTENDORF-- It's tradition for these faith followers to come to this Presbyterian service on Sundays. There are some younger families but the majority are older. About 200 people attend every Sunday.

"We're aging. A lot of gray hairs on Sunday mornings," says Bettendorf Presbyterian Pastor Troy Winder.

Older in age, and fewer in numbers.

"We're seeing this across the board. The main line churches are shrinking," says Winder.

Bettendorf Presbyterian Church

Studies show Americans are now less likely to go to church on Sunday's than they were in the past.

"I helped shut three Presbyterian churches down and help them close and mourn their loss and move forward. Yeah, it's tough," says Winder.

Winder says it's a national trend happening right here in the Quad Cities.

"You have to be willing to evolve, to change," says Winder.

A few towns over in Muscatine, Iowa, Calvary church has always been based on change.

What started as a small church in downtown Muscatine has now transformed into a 150,000 square foot building with about 1,200 to 1,400 people attending every Sunday.

An overhead look at Calvary Church in Muscatine, former strip mall

"People look at our church and say we're really radical. You just bought a strip mall? But really, we're that desperate to reach the culture where it's at," says Calvary Pastor Ty Thomas.

"We're very conservative with the message, but our methods are not conservative at all," says Thomas.

Two different churches with pastors who have a common belief: if you want people to come through your doors, you have to give them what they want.

"Society is constantly changing. The church needs to change the way it does it, not the message, but the way it does it to communicate with society," says Winder.

"We want it to be much more than just a church service. Those are still important, but we want it to be much more than that for people," says Thomas.

On any given Wednesday night at Calvary, more than 600 people fill the church for different programs.

"We have a lot of creative programming that allows the gospel to penetrate people's lives," says Thomas.

Kids can be found leaning the gospel through art and building relationships through games.

Calvary also offers programs for adults, bible study, marriage counseling, and AA meetings. They are always adding new things.

An inside look at Cavalry Church in Muscatine

Bettendorf Presbyterian is making changes too by adding a new Sunday service along with the traditional one to attract younger followers.

"The message is the same, but the music is a little more informal," says Winder.

And after 15 years of doing so, the new age service is catching on.

"Our contemporary worship is growing, and our traditional service is shrinking as people transition out as they get older and they die," says Winder.

The church also offers small group sessions, music programs, and kids programs throughout the week.

"We're lucky we aren't shrinking per say. We're kind of maintaining. And as a main line denomination, a church that's maintaining is winning," says Winder.

They are two different places with the same goal; keep people worshiping for years to come.

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