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Church plant wrestles with growth

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Eight years into its existance, a B.C. church plant is growing so fast that its leadership is urgently looking for ways to handle the expansion.

Promontory Community Church, located on “the hillside” to the south of Chilliwack, began with the hope of reaching the families of a new neighbourhood for Jesus. It met in the gym at Promontory Community School, under pastor Brian Wiebe (a Fraser Valley church planter who had interned at a new plant in southeast Calgary).

Promontory had great success. Wiebe moved on, but Promontory kept attracting new people, and the leadership is grappling with parking and overcrowding issues – the right kind of problems for a church.

Promontory has started a third service as a short-term answer. But longer-term growth issues remain, and the church’s leadership is in a state of serious prayer, research, and planning.

“We don’t want to coast,” pastor Shawn Vandop says. “We want to keep our church plant mentality, and we are really looking to the Lord for how to grow.”

Much homework has already been done. They have learned that 60 percent of those who attend regularly are now coming from “off the mountain.” Vandop says it is possible the Lord is leading Promontory to have a greater impact on all of Chilliwack, “but the downside is that we are not reaching the hillside as well as we had thought.”

Eight hundred attend

The gym church now attracts 800 per week. People are still coming to Christ as new believers. In 2009, 45 people were baptized (including 16 just last month). Most of its congregation is composed of young families, as in the early days of the church plant, but now, Promontory is also attracting a growing number from the over-60 demographic.

Evangelical and community outreach were always keystone purposes, but now, the church has intentionally added a strong foreign mission component, with major involvement in east Africa, and active support of four missionary couples. Eleven percent of the church’s budget is devoted to missions this year. So, the ministry has broadened and deepened – but the space remains an issue.

As numbers increase, there is insufficient room to hold “next step” programs for new believers during the week. More room is needed for activities like Alpha, financial classes and other elements that form part of Promontory’s ministry.

Current thought leans to renting or buying a building on the valley floor as a second campus, while continuing with the hillside gym and renewing efforts to reach a still-growing Promontory neighbourhood.

In the meantime, services are at 8:30, 10:00 and 11:30. On weekdays, prayer, research, and planning go on at Promontory’s rented office space on the valley floor.

—Barrie McMaster

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