“He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new.” —Revelation 21:5
Northstar was started with the person in mind who doesn’t go to church and didn’t grow up in church. There are a lot of people who don’t really know that God is relevant and has a purpose for their lives. That target has helped us model a lot of our strategies. It’s why we have a come as you are philosophy, why we teach the Word of God in a creative and practical manner, it’s why we have a band instead of a choir. It’s why we do everything we do – to help people who are disconnected from God get connected. We try to be very intentional.
That intentionality led us to our vision of 25 locations, 2,500 small groups and 25,000 people by 2020. We long to see our vision expressed in our church as a body of thousands of people, gathering in locations throughout the Panama City area, and planting churches all over the world that draw many more people far from the heart of God into a relationship with His son, Jesus Christ. And our opening of our second location in Rutherford High School is the first step in seeing the vision become a reality.
For the last few years we believe God was calling us to move out of our comfort zone and reformat the way we do church into a multi-campus model instead of a single campus approach? We decided to heed God’s call when we began experiencing an imminent need for space. It happened faster than we ever expected. We had only been in this building a few years, and while growth is good, insufficient room is not. But God was working and we needed to figure this out. At the same time we knew that our task is not merely to start a second location, but to continue the movement of God.
Presented with the options, church leadership decided that launching a satellite campus was the wise choice because it gave us greater impact at less cost. We concluded that the multi-site model for the church is both biblically sound and practically helpful, and we have embraced multi-site as a strategy for growing our church and reaching our city, not merely as a temporary way to deal with a space problem. After a lot of research, we ended up in Rutherford High School, or the Callaway/East Bay area, a high-growth area that is close – but not too close – to Our Panama City campus. We are right in the middle of an incredible community of people, and we are thrilled to be a part of what is happening here.
We have found out other the past few months that starting a new church is tons of fun and tons of work. We put a staff in place, campus and worship arts pastor, and got ourselves organized. We were ready.
Northstar at East Bay Launched on Sunday, April 8 (Easter). On launch day an amazing thing happened, 500 people showed up. Such numbers are almost unheard of. Needless to say we were surprised, but not shocked by what God is doing in our midst. And on day one, people were engaged, handing out stuff, putting away stuff, or asking what help we needed, unprompted by any announcement. They could see the need and wanted to help. Knowing Northstar people as I do that did not surprise me.
The next service was Mother’s Day. We had 141 in attendance. Before you panic, that is to be expected. Statistically, you can expect a 33 percent return from launch sunday. We were a little less than that, but remember our launch service was Easter. The real positive was that we had 4 first-time guest families return for the monthly launch so at least I know the people in the community find it a good enough experience to return for a second time. The next service is June 10.
Serving the community lies at the heart of everything the church is and does. We had over 400 people attend the East Bay Block party at Under the Oaks. We’ve been working to develop a relationship with the communities in and around the Rutherford Campus to show the community that the body of Christ is not inwardly focused. We’ve seen progress in that area through our work days and we plan on continuing those type of activities.
At the Rutherford campus, worshippers experience that “alive, vibrant” worship and the same casual, welcoming atmosphere that is a hallmark of our main campus. Rutherford’s worship service features a live band and children’s programming; only the message is taped. The service time is changing to 10:30 a.m. to allow us more time to deal with the technical side of transferring the message from Panama City to Rutherford High School.
Our plan is to begin weekly services on August 5. But please don’t wait until that date to invite people, We still have two monthly pre-view services on June 10 and July 8. Campus pastor Ray Woodard and a group of volunteers are working everyday to improve the Sunday experience and make the campus the best it can be. Something that Northstar can truly be proud of. Something that God can use to change the lives of every person in the East Bay area.
Our desire is for everyone in our region to be no more than 15-20 minutes from a thriving evangelical church or a Northstar congregation. We want people to stay where you are; serve where you live; be the church in your local community. It’s never to late to join the team and be at the start of the amazing things God is doing through our new campus. If you want to connect in serving email firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have any questions about the church we would be happy to answer them. You can email Ray at the email address listed above.
I will share more details about Northstar at East Bay in the future.