When most Christians think of going to church on Sundays during football season, they don’t expect to be greeted by tailgaters in the parking lot.

But River Ridge is changing how it does worship service on Sunday, Sept. 8, as they usher out summer and welcome the start of football season in Wisconsin.

The church is hosting an outdoor worship service at Millennium Park in Twin Lakes, followed by an old-fashioned tailgate party/picnic complete with family- friendly games.

Informal outdoor setting

According to the Rev. Rick DeMarco, pastor of administration at River Ridge Church, the daylong event, which is set to begin at 9:30 a.m., is an opportunity for members to invite others to worship, eat and play in an informal setting.

“We have always thought of having an outdoor service, and with this being at the beginning of football season, we thought it would be great to have this event like a big tailgate party,” he said. “We will begin with our normal coffee and doughnuts at 9:30, followed by our 10 a.m. worship service.

“After that, we will start the grills and grill hamburgers, hot dogs and brats. We will provide water and chips and are asking those who come to bring whatever they like to have to round out their own tailgate party.”

DeMarco is hoping for a large turnout, as the pavilion at the park will seat 300.

The service will be informal and will offer believers an opportunity to feel comfortable in a safe environment without the pressure of being in a church building.

“We are a very welcoming community,” he said. “We hope that many will come and worship with our family, friends and neighbors and help us celebrate the end of summer, play together and enjoy fellowship.”

Go with football theme

After lunch, there will be family games such as Kick and Punt, relay races, volleyball and other activities. Since the theme is football, worshipers are invited to wear their favorite football team jersey.

“We don’t care if it isn’t a Bears or Packers jersey; even if you have a New England Patriots jersey, you will be welcome,” DeMarco said, laughing.

“We plan to have a drawing of some kind. We have an autographed football of (former Chicago Bear and NFL Hall of Fame middle linebacker) Mike Singletary. I am looking to see if I can find an autographed ball from one of the Packers, too.”

Get a sense of their church

The contemporary River Ridge Worship Band will be accompanying the service with music. DeMarco hopes the community will get a sense of what their church is all about and witness their dedication to be an active part of the community. If there is severe weather, DeMarco asks that worshippers meet at the church, located at Wilmot High School.

“We serve and are truly committed as to what a church community should be all about. We care for each other and have fun doing that,” he explained. “It is not just trying to create a church where you come on Sunday, but we are trying to create a church that brings together a family. A lot of people have said that River Ridge has become part of their family just like their immediate family.”

One of the aspects that DeMarco says is unique about River Ridge Church is their “Needs Board,” located at the church’s reception desk. For those that may need help moving, for repairs or other difficult situations, they are invited to post their request on the “Needs Board” and members will rally to help.

“For example, we had a little girl in the congregation that was in a difficult situation. She was financially struggling to get back to school and gave us a list of school supplies and clothing she needed. We were able to buy everything she needed to go back to school,” said DeMarco. “It is really cool to see people rally together to support the needs of others in the congregation.

“Our lead pastor, Kerry Bauman, always leads by example. He is not just saying we need to serve; he gets right in there and moves people, helps them with things they need done and helped every day with Vacation Bible School over the summer. He and the elders all jump in to help rather than just talking about it or asking others to do it.”

“We can worship anywhere, and it is nice to worship somewhere different, and out in nature,” said DeMarco. “We don’t care where you are at, what you have done or what challenges you face. We want you to feel safe and comfortable and welcome you no matter where you are at spiritually, if you are a new believer, a seeker or a mature believer.

“We are committed to serving our communities in tangible ways — all of these things drive what we do and demonstrate who we are.”

If you go

Who: River Ridge Church

What: Worship service and tailgate party/picnic

Where: Millennium Park, 360 128th St., Twin Lakes

When: Sunday, Sept. 8


9:30 a.m.: Coffee, doughnuts and fellowship

10 a.m. Worship service

Noon: Tailgate party/picnic

Bring any items you want for your own tailgate party. This is not a potluck. River Ridge will provide hot dogs, hamburgers, brats, chips and water. Free and open to the public.

For more information on River Ridge Church, visit: http://riverridgewi.com/