A few weeks ago, I diligently covered my first weekend’s five church experiences in this post. Since then, nothin’ more about one of the more broadly-interesting parts of my trip. Sorry about that.In hopes of catching up, though, I present my church experiences from weekends #2 (Aug. 25 & 26) and #3 (Sept. 1 & 2).
There’s quite a span of denominations, styles, and other aspects of the churches I end up in here; the reasons I “found” each church will be explained below. I’m certainly a little freer to enjoy multiple churches right now because of the lack of college ministry Sunday activities here.
But that doesn’t mean a church’s Saturday night, Sunday morning, or Sunday night doesn’t have anything to do with its collegiate impact; if anything, I’m realizing more and more how much of a part a church service plays in a church’s outreach to students.
As I’ve said before, I don’t really know how to “summarize” these experiences, so mostly you’ll get a very brief synopsis, with some interesting points (including anything connected to college students). These synopses are actually pretty short on the details, so feel free to ask stuff in the comments or via email if you’re interested.
If you didn’t read it before or need a refresher, please take a look at an important Disclaimer about all these church visits (and all the experiences I undertake on this trip). You can check it out here.
Now for the churches!
Weekend Two: Sunday, August 26th – North Park Covenant Church
In the middle of all those Orientations, North Park University had its “church fair” at breakfast on a Sunday morning – a pretty great idea, if you ask me (and we got free breakfast for attending). There were van sign-ups, and I had decided just to kind of watch and wait to decide where I needed to go. But after several vans filled up, I ended up walking to a closeby church I had passed on the way in that morning – and one the University Ministries head told me drew lots of NPU students – North Park Covenant Church.
NPCC is an Evangelical Covenant Church church (yep, the denomination name has “Church” in it), and North Park University is the denomination’s only 4-year college. So there’s a definite tie there, and it makes sense that this is a popular choice for students. It was nice being in a church whose denomination I hadn’t even heard of before this trip. And this pastor read his sermon, too – which I’m starting to realize may simply be normal practice, even if little Southern Baptist me isn’t used to it. (I bet I find quite a few things like that on this trip…)
This church, like others I have seen, makes a point to place students in adult classes (instead of having a separate “college ministry” in that sense). The way the pastor put it, those graduated from high school “are now invited to be adults.”
Believe it or not, that was it for Weekend Two on the church-front. I definitely decided I must be backsliding, after having attended 5 services the weekend before and all.
Weekend Three: Saturday, Sept. 1st and Sunday, Sept. 2nd
Apparently, I rededicated my life, because last weekend was 3-church strong.
The Chapel, Libertyville
The Chapel views itelf as a multi-campus church, and this weekend I went to The Chapel, Libertyville (up in Trinity’s neck of the woods). I’ve run into 3 churches in Chicagoland with the multi-campus model, by the way: The Chapel, Harvest Bible Church, and Willow Creek. Only unlike the other two, The Chapel’s “campuses” aren’t “broadcast” campuses, they’re circuit-ridden (with pastors progressing through a series on a rotation). At least I think that’s how it works – I was probably a little confused. But it’s interesting nonetheless.
This church was on my radar because of their excellent promo materials, which I got way back at the Trinity Church Fair. Included in those materials was a sort of “annual report” full-color pamphlet, which I thought was pretty neat for catchin’ up on what a church had accomplished in its previous year.
I’ve noticed plenty of churches use mid-service testimonies from church members, and this church used two – in this case, really well done (and really meaningful) on video (high-def, I believe). So that was pretty neato. We met in a multi-purpose gym space, with all kinds of seating options that night – plenty of normal, stackable chairs; bigger, poofy chairs; and couches. And I even saw some ottomans. Sadly, that was just the Saturday night “cool factor” – a guy told me Sunday mornings were a little more strait-laced as far as setup goes. But everything else would be the same.
Larkin Avenue Baptist Church, Elgin
Remember, the highlights of the church fairs included little Larkin Avenue Baptist, who gave a laundry bag, along with some good information. So I headed there for my Sunday morning in Elgin, Illinois, the home of Judson University.
This was a very interesting church experience, in all kinds of ways. The biggest thing was that it was probably the smallest traditional Sunday service I’ve ever been to – but that says a lot more about my lack of experiences than it does this church. Despite a small size, the bi-vocational pastor is very interested in reaching the Judson U. and Elgin Community College students. According to him, in the past couple of years they’ve seen 30% of their service made up of college students, and that held true that morning, too. (The worship leader is a college-age guy.) Out of about 35 in attendance, 9 or 10 appeared to be students, and I heard good murmurings from the students about why they liked the church.
I hope to talk to the pastor further. Way to love students.
Harvest Bible Church, Elgin
HBC Elgin, unlike HBC Lake Zurich that I attended previously, is an actual campus of the mother ship in Rolling Meadows. In their case, the weekend’s teaching pastor speaks at Rolling Meadows for 2 services and Elgin for 1 service. While he does so, the messages are broadcast live to the various campus. It will make more sense if you just look at a weekend schedule – which you should find here.
Anyway, the 11am service was a “broadcast” time (Dr. Stowell had been in Elgin that morning but was back at Rolling Meadows now), so I got to have my first “satellite church” experience. I will say this: it felt pretty stinkin’ natural, for all the concerns we sometimes have about that particular innovation. Basically, at the Elgin campus we had music and worship and offering and announcements on our own, but when it was time for the service, we started watchin’ from Rolling Meadows.
We certainly had a good view of Stowell via the broadcast (better than you would probably have at his location), but what was particularly interesting was the easy way everybody in my location (several hundred of us) seemed almost to “interact” with Stowell’s preaching – laughter, sure, but even verbal responses to questions. Maybe even an Amen or two…
HBC, as best I can figure, is a pretty classic “big Bible church” in a lot of ways – though certainly it is nationally known for its size and the quality of its teachers. But it was interesting to see a church that clearly has developed “the satellite thing” to the point that it feels normal for attendees – although, because of the schedule, many attendees have the option to attend a “live” service. The church clearly strives to “feel” like one church with many campuses, which helps pastor-on-video still to “feel” like the pastor, I suppose.
And, as I’ve mentioned, Dr. Stowell was phenomenal – maybe the most personally impactful message I’ve heard on this trip so far. So that was a bonus for Benson.