Keith Martin watched his church congregation slowly dwindle to almost nothing.
He, the other board members and the pastor at Windfall Church of the Brethren felt powerless to stop the exodus.
Sixty years ago, the small country church thrived. More than 80 people called it their spiritual home.
There were two Sunday services and even a mid-week prayer service. Women’s groups volunteered in the community.
As the years passed, children in the congregation grew up and started their own families. When they did, they often left the church in favor of a bigger one with more programs for the kids, Martin said.
As more young couples and their children left, the church was forced to offer even fewer programs, making it that much harder to retain members and attract new ones.
It was a vicious cycle, he said. It's one that some area churches are becoming all too familiar with.
Tough decisions are ahead for some of those churches, which are struggling with declining membership. While older members are dying, young adults are often either choosing big, non-denominational churches or foregoing church altogether. Area churches are looking for new ways to minister to young people, in the hopes of sharing the good word, as well as saving their endangered faith.
For Martin and the other members of his congregation, though, the fight to save their church proved futile.
For 25 years, people continued to leave Windfall Church of the Brethren. By 2010, only 13 or 14 active members remained. Four of them were from Martin’s family.
His daughter played the piano during the Sunday service. His wife often gave their granddaughter private Sunday school lessons because she was the only child left in the congregation.
But still, they trudged forward, hoping they could somehow find a way to save their dying church.