Learning from North Point, part 1

Back in 2001 I flew to Atlanta for John Maxwell’s Catalyst Conference, held at North Point Community Church in Alpharetta. I didn’t know much about NPCC before I arrived, but found my experience there quite impressive. Here’s a short list of what impressed me:

  • Clean Restrooms. It sounds like a minor detail but when a church can maintain clean restrooms while hosting a conference with several thousand people that tells me something about the commitment level of their people. The whole facility was staffed continuously while we were there, not only maintaining cleanliness, but to be available to help out in any way needed. Clearly this was a high commitment church.
  • The children’s ministry. NPCC is one of those churches that segregates by age. (I’ll comment on that practice elsewhere.) Their Sunday morning children’s ministry is a high energy ministry to children and parents. Parents are not allowed to drop off their children: they must attend with them. This is a great idea – and another sign of a high commitment church. (It also looks like it’d be tough to transfer what they do to a small church in a small town.)
  • The simplicity of their model of ministry. Their mission statement – “The mission of North Point is to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. We accomplish this by creating irresistible environments led by skilled staff and volunteers” – doesn’t look like anything special. It’s the way they envision it that drew me in. Using the metaphor of a home (“environment” is a key concept in NPCC thinking), they talk about moving from the “Foyer” to the “Living Room” to the “Kitchen.”
  • Of the Foyer they say: “It’s the place in your home that serves as the welcome area for guests and new friends. It’s the first step, and it’s often your only chance to make your guests feel comfortable enough to return.” They have Foyer-type environments for each level of their ministry: adults (the Sunday morning service), children (Kidstuf), youth (Rush Hour) and singles (7:22). Anonymity is possible in the Foyer environment – it’s designed for checking things out.
  • Beyond the Foyer is the Living Room. “When guests arrive and are welcomed into your home, you invite them into the living room. Everyone finds a comfortable place to sit, and the interaction begins. At North Point Community Church, this is where you connect with people like yourself. Smaller and more interactive than the foyer environment, these gatherings offer genuine opportunity to begin friendships…just like the living room in your home.” People start interacting face to face in the Living Room and begin to build trust as they grow with God. Again, there are Living Room environments for each age group.
  • Finally, at the greatest level of intimacy is the Kitchen. “This is where lasting friendships are made. And that’s the kind of environment we are striving for in our small groups. Small groups are where people meet regularly for Bible study and prayer, and commit to accountability, friendship and support. They are the safe place to open your heart, share your life, and ask the tough questions.” In these small group environments, again there are separate groups for different age levels, each person is able to grow in their intimacy with God and find the support they need to live as faithful followers of Jesus.
  • Their success in reaching people. Their objective is to reach unchurched people, not just to shuffle sheep. In their short time of existence (about 10 years) they’ve clearly done that.

NPCC puts on several conferences a year (check their site for details). They also put out a variety of resources from those who want to learn about how they do what they do. They’ve put out 7 Practices of Effective Ministry, a book that explores the practices that shape what they do. If you’d like to find out what they have to say, the simplest way is to go to their site and download the mp3 version of the discussion. I find the material quite useful – and challenging at the same time. In several future posts I will discuss my take on what they have to say and how we might apply it in our old small town church.

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