Midway Church in the Sandhill community will host its annual Fan Day 2012 this Sunday, starting at 12:30 p.m. This is the church’s big social event which brings people out in the sunny fall weather to share their friendly team rivalries and spend time together.
“Our Fan Day started about five or six years ago as a way to have fun,” said Pastor Todd Wright. “When you get to be a church of our size, about 2,000 members, it gets more difficult to get everybody together.”
Wright said the event serves the dual purpose of playing up the natural fall interest in sports and inviting people to visit Midway who might not be “normal churchgoers.”
“It’s been a huge success, for a lot of folks, it’s their first time at Midway,” he added.
This year’s event will be held on the recreational area and parking lot to accommodate everyone’s tents, RVs and grills.
“We usually have every kind of food imaginable, whatever folks are willing to cook,” Wright said.
Games will include flag football, children’s activities, and for the first time this year, hot dog eating and watermelon seed spitting contests.
“We’ll have awards for the best decorated tent, the best mascot and the biggest and smallest fans,” said Hannah Neely, who has been organizing this year’s activities. “We’ll have awards for the life groups with the most people attending.”
Life groups, Neely explained, are the church’s name for its Sunday school classes. Each class invites friends and neighbors to attend Fan Day as part of the friendly competition.
The Fan Day fits in with Wright’s philosophy to make church relevant to people’s lives and day-to-day events. When he came to the church in the late 1990s, its membership had dwindled down to about 200 and the average age of the congregation was 58 years. He took several steps to change the church environment, making it more attractive to younger people.
“There’s a major disconnect between today’s church and where people live everyday in their mindsets,” Wright said. “Events such as Fan Day are great opportunities to build a bridge between these people and the church.”
He said the average person doesn’t think of the church when he or she thinks of having a good time. He said churches often make their plans only for church people and fail to consider the large group outside church.
“Eighty-six percent of west Georgia people won’t be in church this Sunday,” he said. “This group is our primary focus and we feel Fan Day is one way to reach them.”
Wright, 48, was born and raised in Tallapoosa. He grew up working in his father’s sporting goods store and on his grandfather’s farm. He entered college with plans of becoming a mechanical engineer. However, a serious car accident in 1982 led to his questioning of the deeper meaning of life.
He entered seminary and married his childhood sweetheart, Lisa, and worked with inner-city poor children from 1983-1986.
“I joined the pastoral staff of a large church in south metro Atlanta in 1986 and served as lead pastor from 1988 to 1996,” he said.
He came to Midway in 1996 and built the church size to 3,400. The church was recognized as the fastest growing church in the Georgia Baptist Convention in 2007, and the third fastest growing in 2011.
Wright is author of a book, co-authored with Marty Duren of Lifeway, “Journeys: Transitioning Churches to Relevance.”
Midway Church celebrated its 150th birthday on July 15 this year. Its official name is Midway Macedonia Baptist Church, but is usually known as Midway Church. A highlight of the celebration was the dedication of the $9 million Jackson Children’s Center, named in honor of Lamar and Ruth Jackson. Lamar died in 2007, but Ruth, 83, was in attendance to receive a plaque and participate in the dedication ceremony.
Midway Church has a website, www.midwaychurch.com and Wright has his own site, www.toddwright.net, where he hosts a blog.
The church holds services at its Sandhill location at 8:15 a.m., 9:15 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. on Sunday and 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
The Midway West Campus on Highway 166-West in Carrollton holds 9:15 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. Sunday services, 6:30 p.m. Wednesday services and an 8 p.m. campus ministry.