Like many churches across the country, First United Methodist Church in Gulfport meets during the week as well as on Sunday's to offer it's congregation another opportunity to come together and worship. A study by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research found that several factors are bringing more numbers to church rolls. First and foremost may be the programs churches offer the community.
Guss Shelly is the pastor at First UMC and says, "We have a child development center here we take care of about 90 children every day from about six something in the morning until six in the evening, we also have divorce and grief recovery workshops that go on, and broken rainbow which is a teaching and learning experience for children who are from families where there's a breakup in a marriage."
Penny Bise and her family have been members of First UMC for seventeen years and says, "The church offers a lot of support and a lot of counseling if you need it, there's just a lot here at First Methodist that we enjoy."
With all of the recent school shootings and a rise in criminal behavior, churches are also a place to get away from that. Penny Bise says, "I think children, youth and adults are looking for someplace to belong and fit in and to feel the support and the love that they find at church."
Guss Shelly says, "People hurt and they're in need they're looking for somewhere to find somebody to love them and to share love with them and when a worship service has that element about it, then people come."
Kelty Bise says she feels comfortable at church with her family and knows it's a place she can come to learn and worship. "It provides you with a place to come and confess of your wrong doings, and it also if you come and listen to Guss's sermons, you learn that you can be forgiven with what you do if you just confess."