COLUMBIA — "Not your grandmother’s church."
That’s how the Son Riders Motorcycle Church defines itself on its Facebook page.
Joe Ginter, one of the church’s founders, has ridden motorcycles for years. His father owned a Triumph motorcycle and let Ginter ride it when he was 5. That hooked him.
Ginter is also a committed Christian, and he felt that his biker lifestyle didn't mesh with his childhood church — what he described as a rigid, traditional church. Church members were expected to dress a certain way and wear their Sunday best, he said, and if someone didn’t, "you were frowned upon."
"If you have tattoos, if you have long hair, if you wear earrings, as a guy, don’t come to our church — that’s what they would preach," Ginter said. "It pushed me away."
When Ginter rode his motorcycle, he met other bikers and learned they also felt uncomfortable in a traditional church setting. He decided to enlist his friend Rick Hall in starting a church where motorcyclists could come as they are. There, people would be welcome no matter what they wore or looked like.
The church got off the ground from donations from Ginter's home church, First Baptist Church in Moberly, and The Gathering, a motorcycle church in Moberly in which Ginter also had a hand. Donations also came anonymously.
"Motorcyclists have a natural fellowship together," Ginter said. "They’re kind of their own subculture."
To spread the word, he and other members reached out to their peers in unorthodox places. They hung up fliers in bars and ran ads on television.
But it wasn't the venue that worried Ginter's wife, Lee Ellen. She was concerned that the biker church would uproot the family from its home congregation.
The Ginters have been members of First Baptist Church for 11 years. There, Joe Ginter is a deacon, and Lee Ellen Ginter is a Sunday school teacher. Their younger children grew up in the church, she said.
"I don’t like the leather and the do-rags," she said, laughing.
When her husband decided to hold regular services Monday, rather than Sunday, Lee Ellen Ginter made peace with the idea.
The Son Riders conduct weekly services at 6 p.m. Mondays at 5695 Clark Lane. The services last about an hour and provide a community setting for bikers to share their faith with others.
Every second and fourth Sunday of the month, bikers can come to the church for breakfast starting at 9 a.m. followed by a ride, which can last anywhere from one to three hours. The mornings end with a short devotional, and then bikers are invited to an optional lunch.
Sunday during Memorial Day weekend, the bikers visited Jefferson City National Cemetery. After praying for the servicemen and women of the country, they walked among the headstones, straightening wreaths and fallen flags.
Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.