By Marielle Mohs

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Twin Cities church says it welcomes worshipers of all ages.

It found itself at the center of a controversy over whether it favored younger members over an older congregation.

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It’s been a challenging week for Pastor Dan Wetterstrom and The Grove United Methodist Church community.

“Our whole church is hurting right now,” Wetterstrom said.

Headlines spread Tuesday, saying the church is trying to phase out older members and bring in younger ones.

“It’s not accurate. We’re an intergenerational church. Anyone who would visit this church would see that we have every generation, perhaps except for 20-something-year-olds,” he said.

(credit: CBS)

That is the exact demographic they hope to draw in. Right now, about 400 worshipers regularly attend the Woodbury campus of The Grove United Methodist Church. However, their second site in Cottage Grove only sees about 30 regulars.

“Which requires us to try to reach new people. We haven’t been able to do that. It’s been a real struggle in Cottage Grove,” he said.

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So Pastor Wetterstrom and UMC leadership made the decision to temporary close the Cottage Grove site.

“To do church planting work, which is called a ‘relaunch,’” he said.

Over the phone, Ben Ingrebretson, who oversees congregational development for the United Methodist Church, says they have seen success from relaunches in the past.

Pastor Dan Wetterstrom (credit: CBS)

The purpose is to redesign the inside of the church, update it and make it more modern. They would also use the time they are closed to focus on community outreach, with the goal of finding new members — specifically young adults who will be the next generation of the church.

But Pastor Wetterstrom wants to be clear that this is not a move to get rid of the older members they already have.

“Our senior generation is revered and honored, and are some of most trusted and committed leaders,” he said. “We do not want to lose anyone.”

The Cottage Grove campus plans to close down in June, and parishioners there are asked to move to the Woodbury campus.

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The goal is to relaunch the church with a much larger and diverse community by the end of the year.

Marielle Mohs