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Pat Dryburgh

I had lunch today with Bob Cottrill, Pastor of Worship at North Park Community Church. This is the second lunch I’ve had with him (even if he doesn’t quite remember the first one!), and I had a great time. Bob is a very intelligent person, has a lot of vision and great ideas that I feel I can latch onto. However, what impressed me even more in our conversation was a bit of the story of North Park, where they’ve come from, where they’re at, and where they may be going. To better understand the past and the future, let’s look at the present first:

  • North Park currently has 4 weekend services. One on Saturday night and three on Sunday morning, one of which is a more “traditional” service.
  • Approximately 2500 people come to North Park every week. Each service can hold 700 people. For those who may be mathematically challenged, that’s a maximum capacity of 2800. They are at 89% of their maximum capacity.
  • North Park does not take an offering. They set up a few boxes at the back of the auditorium for people to give, and have automatic giving through the bank. Even with this method, they consistently have a surplus in their budget from year to year.

Now, a lot of church leaders have asked how they got to that point. They ask about their strategies, their targets, their goals and visions. Here is how they did it:

  • North Park started out of the Brethren church, a very anti-institutional group. They were very grassroots, and very independent. Their two church plants, Byron Community Church and Community Bible Church, were launched and continue independent of North Park.
  • North Park has never set growth targets. They have not put together strategies to grow their congregation. They do not advertise through local media, and very seldom will they create promotional materials. Their focus has been great teaching and great music. North Park has never had a “target demographic.” They have been open to those outside the church, inviting them into the North Park community.
  • They have on several occasions expanded their facilities to accommodate the people that come. The most recent in 2004 cost approximately $2.23 million. Today they are virtually debt free.

While it’s cool to see where they have come from and see their grassroots beginnings, it’s even more intriguing where they are going:

  • North Park has made the decision not to expand their auditorium. This could mean that in the next year, they will reach and/or exceed their current maximum capacity. They currently do not have plans on how to deal with this.
  • They are planning on integrating more with the community around them. If someone is doing something in the community that is compelling, whether Christian or not, they want to partner with them. They have already done so with the London Food Bank, and plan to continue with more groups.
  • They want to learn from the community, whether Christian or not. They want facilitate a conversation where they are able to learn from other religions, rather than only preach at people.
  • They want to get out of the way. Today, church is not relevant to people. Rather than put a band-aid on the situation, they want to get out of the way. They do not see the institutional church as the only gateway to God. They would like to simply be a place where people can be energized to live their own lives, rather than try to program the lives of the congregation.

I may have some of this wrong, and if so I apologize. However, with as big of a church as North Park is, this is exciting to me. There are going to be some huge changes coming soon, that could rock the foundations of their community. The reckless side of me cannot wait to see it. The leader side of me can’t wait to be a part of it. Maybe I will end up sticking around.

I mean, they do let me play guitar.

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