This story was produced in partnership with Columbia FAVS.
The band of LifeBridge Lutheran Church practices in the community room of an apartment complex each Sunday morning before service begins. Furniture is piled in the corner to their left, and gym equipment in the corner to the right. Though they don’t have their own building to worship in, it’s progress for LifeBridge – a year ago, the church didn’t even exist.
Now, Pastor Nathan Schuetze is happy to speak to a congregation of 40 to 60 people each Sunday. Though his service is open to anyone, there’s a certain group he’s trying to reach.
“The problem is with these 20- and 30-somethings, they’re what we refer to as the ‘lost generation,’” Schuetze said. “From the time you graduate from high school to the time you’re married with children, the church really doesn’t know what to do with you.”
It’s this “lost generation” that populates much of northeast Columbia. The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod saw a need to reach out to this group after looking at the last census. Philip Sarff was on the committee to form the church.
“There’s a lot of young professionals and myself, I know I kind of stopped going to church when I was in college, so I can identify with them,” Sarff said. “So trying to help. Hey there is a place to have fellowship and worship Christ.”
The church spent several years planning before officially choosing a pastor. Schuetze, who preaches in a collared shirt, unbuttoned at the top, feels he’s a good fit for the community because many people feel more comfortable with his casual style.
“I come from a tradition that wears those big long white robes with the stoles, and I’ve still got them,” Schuetze said. “I can high church it up with anybody. But that’s not our identity.”
LifeBridge’s identity seems to be working. Northeast Columbia resident Gerald Burns visited the church with his neighbor shortly after its first Sunday service. He’s been attending regularly ever since.
“The great thing about this place is there’s already a built-in need,” Burns said. “It’s like God’s bringing the church to the people that need it, right here in this neighborhood.”
Schuetze said it’s not the church band or the free coffee that keeps this group coming back to LifeBridge.
“There are a lot of different ways to grow a church, but essentially all of them all come back to the same thing: What kind of relationships do you have?” Schuetze said.
For Schuetze, those relationships can mean discussing the latest video games or cracking jokes with members of his congregation. But that’s all part of his mission of sharing the gospel.
“I’ve had people say I’m not reverent enough,” Schuetze said. “I’m like ‘No, no, no. I take God very seriously. I don’t take myself seriously.'”
LifeBridge meets at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays at Hanover Estates.