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September/October 2006 Issue

Mill Woods Assembly, Edmonton

By Debra Fieguth

A creative, community church builds ”fervent, stable followers of Christ”.

Mill Woods was started in 1976 with 76 founding members from an ethnic (German) parent church, Southside Pentecostal Assembly. Mill Woods founders wanted to have a church that reached the broader Canadian society. Average Sunday attendance at Mill Woods is now about 1,750. Senior pastor Gary Taitinger has been on staff since 1981. The church has about two dozen staff, half of them pastoral. “The church has been willing to staff for growth,” says Taitinger.

Why Neighbours Know About This Church

Mill Woods is intentional about being a community centre. The church hosts political nomination meetings, blood donor clinics, business seminars, car washes for single moms, free haircuts for kids, food banks, free clothing distribution accessed by 250 families, fireworks on July 1, high school graduations, day camps during spring break and summer. The hope, Taitinger says, is that people would drive by and say, “You know, that church is a responsible part of the community.”

The Mission Statement That Moves Us – and Why

“To build fervent, stable followers of Christ” – the idea is that people become fervent rather than nominal believers and that they become stable through finding “safe pasture” in the church, says Taitinger. The church also uses the catch-phrase “Stat One,” which is printed on posters and bulletin boards all over the church. “You can’t go and change the whole world,” says music ministries pastor Bernie Stein, “but you can make a difference in the life of the one person you meet.”

The Breadth and Depth of an Outreach Mindset

Mill Woods has used a variety of means to reach out to the community. One of the main ones is large musical events, especially at Christmas and Easter, attracting 3,000 to 5,000 people over several nights. The fast-paced productions involving about 200 participants give people an opportunity to come to church in a non-threatening environment, says Stein. Those who attend, even non-Christians, will often return a night or two later with several guests.

Fifteen years ago, at the height of the seeker-friendly church movement, Mill Woods undertook a phone survey in the community, calling up 17,000 homes to find out who wasn’t in a church, why and what they would want in a church. As a result, 175 people showed up at the first seeker service. One was a man who had been contemplating suicide when the phone call came. He went to church, began a faith journey with Christ, and is now helping start a new congregation.

The church has also worked at attracting children. Ninety percent of the kids who attend the spring and summer day camps are from non-church homes.

Several years ago, Mill Woods initiated a generation-specific evening service to reach young adults. Up to 500 people, 40 percent of whom have no church background, now attend The Project on Sunday nights. The service is casual, low-key and based on the premise that young people are interested in spirituality but are looking for something that is authentic and honest, says Tracy Dunham, young adult worship pastor. Everything in the service is explained step by step. And The Project is attracting the most unlikely people, such as a young man who dealt drugs in high school and a couple of strippers, one of whom commented, “If this is what church is like, I wouldn’t mind coming.”

Besides its own ministry and outreach, Mill Woods devotes a third of its $3-million annual budget to overseas or home missions.

Seeking to Mirror Neighbourhood Diversity

People who have migrated from every part of the world attend Mill Woods. “There’s lots of colour in the congregation and on the platform,” says Taitinger. Although the largest numbers are of western European origin, the next largest groups are South Asian, Chinese, Vietnamese, then Latin American and African as well as Caribbean. Forty percent of attendees are 19 or under; nine percent are between 65 and 101.

A Challenge

While Mill Woods has done a good job of attracting the hard-to-reach 20-30-year-olds – the so-called Generation Next – the current challenge is “to reach either lapsed or pre-Christian people in Canadian culture,” says Taitinger.

Visit the Millwoods Assembly website

Debra Fieguth is a freelance writer in Kingston, Ont. This is the first in a series of church profiles. Mill Woods is a congregation in the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, an affiliate denomination of The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.

Other Articles
Sept/Oct 2006 Issue

Cover Story
Every Nation, Tribe & People: How to Become an Intentionally Intercultural Church

From the Editor
Sharing Space

Feature Article
How to Advertise the Good News: Professional Advertising Campaigns

Kingdom Matters
Website Brings Bible to Kids

The Gathering Place
An Uneasy Conscience

God at Work in Denominations
Transformers and Reformers

A Church You Should Know
Mill Woods Assembly, Edmonton

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