If you attend a church or lead a church you know churches are facing uncertain times. In the midst of a leadership shortage, declining attendance, a decrease in volunteers, and increasing cultural irrelevance, there are stories from the frontlines of churches that are making a comeback.
Twenty years ago, Mike Freake walked through the doors of Evangel Church in Gander, NL as the new youth pastor. Ralph Benson, the Lead Pastor, hired Mike to lead change together. Today,
Mike is the Lead Pastor, and people who would not have darkened the doors of Evangel twenty years ago are serving and leading programs in the church. How did that happen?
Twenty years ago, Evangel was one of the most traditional churches within The Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador. The style was late 70’s. The congregation was inward-focused, with a “don’t-try-to-change-us” mindset. The congregation was isolated from the community and quite content to remain that way. They believed they maintained holiness by not being “like the world.” Evangel’s reputation in the community was not good news for the community. But all that changed.
You believe a church community is a good thing, but many people in your small town think churches are a waste of real estate and a tax burden.
Tony Warriner lives in Fort St. John, BC, and pastors what he calls “a Boondock Church” in the middle of the great Canadian North. Tony is 49, a pastor for 30 years, married for 28 years, with four adult children and three grandchildren, and currently in a church called Evangel, where he’s worked for the past 19 years. The little chapel he pastors has grown to 500+ people.
Those in metropolises can benefit from his insights. The small-town way of life is trending in the big city.
Tony says the values needed to lead a Boondock Church are:
- having a leader or pastor who gets and loves the culture of the small town,
- working with a team or congregation from within that environment, and
- realigning the Sunday gathering away from the megachurch model to something more fitted to the sticks.
What you give your time to shows what you value. Worship and preaching occupy most of the time, most Sundays that Christians gather. What if an occasional Sunday throughout the year was used to lift the value of sharing the gospel by going into your community? What if you took prime time to leave the building? All it takes is a little inspiration to create momentum.
At Cold Lake Community Church in Cold Lake, AB, Christianity is not a spectator sport. The church is driven by a vision to deepen connections to God, each other, and the wider community. Nurturing these connections requires everyone—young and old—to participate.
Pastor Mark McMillan leads the church each quarter to hold an Engage Sunday. During these services, the focus turns outward to pray for and show love to the surrounding community. Each Engage Sunday is unique, but they all serve the same overarching purpose – outbound ministry. The Engage service looks a lot different from a typical Sunday gathering at a PAOC church.
When it comes to summer Sunday guests, think hospitality. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to determine if you’re welcome at someone’s home. The same is true at church.
Hospitality is the combination of two words: stranger and love. To be hospitable is to welcome strangers with love—to welcome strangers as family. Your first impressions team should be a tangible demonstration of what we believe about Jesus—that he welcomes strangers with love. How we treat guests is an illustration of how God treats them.
If we’re truly hospitable, we’re putting our guest’s needs first. In The Come Back Effect, authors Jason Young and Jonathan Malm advise, “…hospitality is about caring for the guest’s emotions just as much as it is about serving them, if not even more.” Does your church’s welcome process think first and foremost about your guests’ feelings?
Hope grows here. We share stories that inspire people, build faith, and offer lasting purpose.
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