Pastors Find Waiting Flocks at RV Parks
Preparing for the rush of retiring, religious Baby Boomers — and their affinity for travel — pastors across the country are working to bring church to RV parks.
About 125 campgrounds have embraced the trend, according to estimates.
Two are in California's Coachella Valley, The Desert Sun, Palm Springs, reported.
“They love not having to leave their campground to go into town for a church service,” said Duane Careb, who created RVchurchesUSA.org in 2008. “Plus, people really enjoy learning about God in the setting of nature.”
More RVs are owned by Baby Boomers than any other group, according to a University of Michigan study commissioned by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association. The generation also makes up the fastest-growing segment of the RV market.
Robert Ruesch, who founded Christian Resort Ministries in 2002, said RVers want “the peace of mind knowing they have a church-based support system waiting for them at their destination.”
Both men started their organizations to help out Baby Boomers who take to the road and want religion to come with them. They hook up RV resorts with pastors and musicians for church services.
“We're a networking RV ministry,” said Careb.
At Sky Valley and Caliente Springs resorts in Desert Hot Springs, attendance at Sunday services can be as high as 600 during winter months. Both have chapels, which is rare, Careb said.
The Rev. Don Marienthal, 64, of Indio, is the senior chaplain of Sky Valley Ministry and oversees church services at both locations.
“My call to ministry is seniors; it's where my heart is. They could be at the bottom of a coal mine or at an RV park, I just want to minister to seniors. It just so happens, there are a lot at RV parks,” Marienthal said.
Bible studies are on Wednesdays, hymn sings are regularly scheduled and Marienthal — along with three chaplains under his leadership — plan and conduct weddings and memorials.
Both chapels are nondenominational.
“In a park, you have a whole range of denominations, a blending of different positive influences in people's lives,” said Roger Weber, who along with his wife, Wanda, lives at Sky Valley Resort six months a year.
“Having a nondenominational service every Sunday meets the needs of all the campers,” Weber said.
In 1997, the Webers bought an RV and began traveling throughout the United States.
They reserved space at the resort for one week.
They stayed for five months.
A retired accountant, Roger Weber now is treasurer of the Sky Valley Ministries board.
“The atmosphere is wonderful,” said Roger Weber, 78. “Having a church here is important to us.”