JZ's A to Z Blog

Behind the scenes the finance committee has been churning, seeking outside donors to help Pathway lift the financial load of Northwoods. Here is the fund raising letter that was sent to Pathway friends. The committee will continue solicitations should Pathway vote for the building as a church home this Sunday.

Imagine yourself as a believer with “more than enough.” You receive this letter in the mail from Pathway, where you have friends, family, or employees who worship here. Would you give?

Have a good read. We will see you Sunday.

Dear potential Pathway at Northwoods supporter:

It is our privilege to present this request to you. We have contacted you because you are a friend of this congregation or dear to someone from this church; and, in addition, may have the resources to help us lift a project too heavy on our own.

We hope you can help us purchase the Northwoods Restaurant (St. John, IN) as a repurposing site to further Pathway Church’s mission of helping people take their next step toward God. Pathway engages our mission relationally through blended worship services, dynamic family programs, and community focused service projects. Pathway, unlike many small churches, employs a part-time service coordinator to envision and execute service opportunities and invites the St. John community to participate alongside us, through our deep partnership with the Chamber of Commerce. We have dreamed of a home where we can partner with our community 7 days a week for service to the community. Northwoods is a 12,000 sq. ft. log cabin ripe with possibilities. Currently, we work with Intervarsity of Lake Central, which is across the street from the Northwoods property, making it ideal for hosting their weekly club meetings. We host an intergenerational service at Park Place Senior Center and coordinate a Thanksgiving Day meal distribution to 1500 poor throughout Lake County. We partner with Mommy’s Haven, a woman’s crisis pregnancy home, and sponsor two of their principle fundraisers: a Princess Brunch and a Super Hero Event. We sponsor a monthly family night that includes events like a magic show, a Pinewood derby, and a wild game dinner with a live reptile show.

Why Northwoods? We believe it will increase our missional effectiveness.
1. It provides tremendous exposure on US 41/Wicker Avenue, which hosts 37,000
2. It has name recognition in our area due to its unique, beautiful log cabin design.
3. It creates an emotional response and a curiosity from the community. For
    instance, when we asked the chef who collaborates with us for our
    Thanksgiving meals, what he thought about Northwoods as a church, he 
    responded, “That would be a hell of a church.” Although we are uncomfortable
    with word choice, the building elicits a response, even from non-believers.
4. It provides a high quality kitchen, which would allow us to expand our
    Thanksgiving Day meal deliveries, increase food repurposing with Starbucks,
    and allow for new food-related ministries such as operating a food pantry.
5. It provides a cozy, woodsy environment for this community to relax and
    deepen friendships.
6. It’s an appropriate stewardship move for a 150 person congregation, who has 
    worshipped in schools for 11 years. Building on our site will cost more for less 
    space, and will require several more years of wait.
7. Our leadership team is committed to this project. Not only have they negotiated
    the purchase, but also they are backing this project deeply from their own

Northwoods presents unique opportunities that traditional church buildings cannot offer. Whether that be a unique decor, name recognition, location, industrial cooking capabilities, or a curiosity in the community, a non-traditional building will help appeal to those who are lost or those who have never known about Jesus. We will be waiting with innovative service opportunities, a blended worship service, and a congregation eager to welcome newcomers or returnees to the love of Christ.

Have a look! Northwoods is located at 8135 Wicker Ave., St. John, IN, or view on the web, https://www.edgemarkllc.com/properties/former-restaurant-for-sale/.

We look forward to working together to grow God’s kingdom.



Dan Eenigenburg, Chairman
Pathway Church Capital Campaign Team

Comments: 0

A week ago a Pathway family had over two friends of one of their children. The friends are newly engaged coaxed along in part by a 1-month old daughter whom they share. They live in southern Indiana where she’s studying for a teaching degree, and he’s in the Army. They plan to marry in September. Both grew up in this area and both used to regularly attend Christian churches, but currently do not worship regularly. When the topic of a church building for Pathway came up, the gal erupted in joy that Northwoods was being considered as a church building. She was so exuberant that her host asked, “Do you write? Do you want to say something to Pathway? There is a lot of uncertainty about purchasing Northwoods.” “Yes and yes,” she responded. Three days later Pathway received this article from her.

“Why the previously known as Northwoods restaurant log cabin would be the perfect place to establish a church:

Though it has a history as being a night club and restaurant, the building itself holds a lot of potential and promise for creating a perfect home for worship. It provides a beautiful foundation to be built upon and create a church that stands out from others in the area, providing a new atmosphere for young families in the area to welcome the Lord’s word into their lives. 

One of the problems I notice with many churches in the area are their ability to be found easily. So many are tucked back behind winding roads that it becomes difficult for new families to find them and allow the church to grow. The location of the building makes it easily viewed and accessible to the public, and the building itself draws the attention of those passing by.  

The land provides a venue for a live band, which would draw more attention to the church and help in growing the family. The addition of a large parking lot already laid on the grounds that fits the capacity of the building takes away the hassle of expanding the parking on another piece of land. It also includes a pond and wraparound patio which would provide space for outdoor events to not only draw more attention to the church but also provide a space for holding events in warmer months. It may also help in the church’s appeal as a wedding venue, which would benefit greatly in raising the funds brought in for the various expenses that need to be covered. 

As a young person myself and someone who has not been able to find a home church that feels right, I believe that this building would be an exciting investment and one that would not be regretted. Each time I pass by it, I can’t help but look and see if someone has picked it up and done something with it. The building holds a lot of memories for not only me, but many other people in the area, and I truly believe that those memories would attract many people in this area. What better place to bring people together than in a home of the Lord? The atmosphere of the building itself already draws you in, all that’s left is the right people to stand and hold the doors open and welcome the community inside.”

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By Mark Barnes
July 06, 2018

I wrote my first vision article feeling like it was part 1 of 2, though I really had no clue what part 2 would be about until we went on vacation.  While visiting friends in California we went with them over two Sundays to a newer satellite Saddleback Church.  Part 2 became clear as I observed how they “do church” on Sunday using a facility that is not perfect for a typical church, but turn it into a welcoming atmosphere from the point you drive on the lot.

I hope folks didn’t tune out on this when they saw Saddleback.  I am well aware of the many opinions about some of Pastor Rick Warren’s teaching when it comes to money, our desire to not become a mega-church, etc., but there is no denying they must be doing some things right and I believe every opportunity to learn something should be capitalized.  Looking for aspects that could be a fit for Pathway I kept my head on a swivel and took notes during our experience worshiping in this different setting.

Welcoming Atmosphere

Smiling greeters in their branded shirts and hanging name tags welcomed us as we drove in, clear signage indicated reserved prime parking spaces for first time guests, and greeters at multiple points welcomed us, pointed us in the right direction, chatted briefly with us, and offered us whatever assistance we may need.  There was music playing outside as we walked in, in the hallways, and in the sanctuary prior to the service avoiding “dead air” and beginning to create a sense of worship right away.  Multiple welcome stations offered information, points to collect our contact information via iPad, and offered us a first-time visitor gift.

Most areas, the coffee was free and available to anyone as they passed by.  The second Sunday, I noticed a unique coffee station tucked in the back corner of the sanctuary offering a $2 cup of coffee.  I walked over and the barista volunteering there explained it was a pour over cup that would be one of the best cups I’ve ever had.  I asked for one, and during the process, which took about 2 minutes, he chatted me up explaining the process as he ground fresh beans, measured and weighed everything for the perfect cup, bloomed the coffee before pouring, and proceeded to make me a really good cup of coffee.  While chatting he figured out we were visiting, and when I offered to pay for the coffee, he said nope, it’s on us.  I walked away thinking what a perfect way to give a little attention to folks that come over using a process that takes a couple minutes and has its own built in sort of talk track that is pretty easy for anyone with a good attitude to deliver.

Worship Service

During the service people came in at all sorts of random times.  There was always a greeter available to help them find a seat.  A photographer roamed grabbing pictures, and sat next to me the second Sunday taking a great shot as a super-cute 18 month old girl with pig tails going all directions peaked over her mom’s shoulder.  I asked him if they were for the web site, and he said they use some on the web, but also include new pics weekly in their bulletin to keep it fresh and real.

The service each week started with a well done video that focused on the importance of viewing church not as something to be consumed, but how important active participation is and also highlighting ministry and mission activities.  The videos looked very well done and I’m sure took decent time to create, and probably an investment in equipment and software to produce.

The local pastor invited all newcomers to a monthly newcomer dinner, requesting RSVP via web site, or contact card which was included in the program and collected during the offering.  He also focused on getting folks to 100 and 200 level newcomer classes to learn about church in general (100) and getting involved and taking part in church ministry (200).  He also talked about fun days for the whole church like a beach day for baptisms and fun in the sun for everyone and getting a block of tickets to a baseball game where they would tailgate and enjoy the game together.

The lyrics for singing were on multiple monitors throughout the room.  The sanctuary had a low ceiling, posts in various site lines, and was probably not the most optimal worship space.  They used varying graphics to accentuate the songs on the screens, colored stage lighting and even smoke makers.  Their primary worship leader had an awesome voice, but they also had others in the praise team lead portions of songs. During this time, I felt it maybe a bit over the top for my taste.  I also had never heard most of the songs that were being sung.  I missed the way Pathway keeps the praise team volume lower, so we can hear and feel the congregational singing.  Big plug and thanks from me for our singing, song selection, and all those involved in tech, music, and vocals to make it happen week after week.

Thought the approach gave some items for consideration if we were to begin configuring worship in Northwoods.  There is already existing stage lighting that could be used, lower ceiling and potential site line obstructions that would require a different, in a good way, setup that can still create an inviting atmosphere and maybe some ideas for enhancing what we currently do without going too far over the top.

I was also quietly please when there was a technical issue thinking, I guess it happens to everyone no matter what size church it is!  Probably mean on my part, but just like we do at Pathway when something happens, they powered on through and it was no big deal.

The sermon was piped in on the screen monitors from the main campus.  I didn’t expect to like this at all but had also never experienced it this way.  After experiencing it, my personal preference would still be having an in-person preacher, but I did find myself engaged and actively watching/listening to the monitors almost forgetting I wasn’t watching a live person.  My thought was that in a room where site lines may not be perfect, or overflow has to extend out into the reception area like we may possibly have to do at Northwoods, was that well place monitors can help overcome visibility issues and not leave folks or areas feeling isolated and left out.  I firmly believe in the importance of worshiping together as the Pathway family and body of Christ and how critical it is in my, and my family’s church life.

Children’s Church

This was an entirely separate experience where 8th grade and below goes to the youth area.  They have their own smaller stage, monitors, praise team (my friend’s 7th grader is starting to play bass guitar), separate message, and have time to play multiple games (video, board, and table games), and get snacks together.  Both my girls said they really liked it.

My friend’s wife had to work in children’s church both Sunday’s since they are a newer satellite start-up and don’t have enough volunteers yet.  She told us she hasn’t been able to be in church for months but doesn’t mind as she knows the church is building up more.  She made me think of all our members that so faithfully minister to our children, how I know some have done it for many years while we build toward a day of being able to serve and not be overloaded and how thankful I am for each person using their gifts in this way.

We toured this area afterward and I immediately thought of opportunities for the loft area in Northwoods realizing it would need to be built out a bit and have soundproofing in place to separate it from the main worship space if Pathway were to do something like this.

After Church

Greeters still staffed multiple locations for info table, assistance, and working to collect contact details in a non-pushy way, while also ensuring visitors received their gift.  Outside there was a freezer chest with popsicles and other snacks along with the multiple coffee stations with non-refrigerated snacks.  They included a donation jar to help support the hospitality ministry.  They even had a blow up bouncy house and bean bags outside readily available to anyone.

I stopped by the information table and noted they were selling Saddleback branded items, giving out free info packets, and also advertising something called “The Giving Keys”.

Turns out they have created a pay-it-forward ministry to give jobs and assistance to individuals transitioning out of homelessness in the LA area.  A pretty cool idea of buying this key with an inspirational word you choose on it that you also give or send to someone as encouragement and a way to pay-it-forward.  There is other merchandise, and the site collects testimonial stories from those that participate.  There are stories from people all across the country indicating it doesn’t just have to be money from those in the church.  My thought was it was a great way to expand a meaningful ministry across the country, or even world using the internet, and use it to create a real impact to individuals in need locally as well.

Stop Trying and Start Trusting

Times of change are the perfect time to evaluate how we do what we do.  Personally, I think it is a good practice to find the best practices elsewhere and consider where they may be applicable in our own approach in combination with our own ideas. I remember doing this when we designed the new web site.  There is a ton of good stuff out there already that can be incorporated here, but there is also a lot of it that just wouldn’t fit the Pathway culture.  The journey to discerning what fits, works, or even if God is saying yes, or no may be at times frustrating, but should also be viewed as great learning, growth, and build excitement toward what is coming.

My vacation church experience demonstrated further how a non-traditional space can be transformed into a welcoming and effective location for ministry.  It’s probably obvious, but I also came away with multiple ideas for how Northwoods could be configured and used in this way.  Much if the infrastructure already there and just needing to be put together in new way. 

I think I would be safe to describe Jesus’ ministry on earth as extremely non-traditional.  In fact, he flew in face of tradition intentionally with a message to stop trying their way and trust in Him as the way, the truth, and the life.   

In John 13:15-17 Jesus says, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”

I am thankful God placed me and my family at Pathway over 15 years ago!  This congregation has become our family and we enjoy doing church, doing life, and going through the ups and downs of a smaller church with a bigger vision.  Pathway began with the intention of being different and has not veered from that original course. 


Applying this in the context of considering Northwoods, we have opportunity to continue to be different, establish a ministry (or ministries), in a non-traditional context leveraging a core family already experienced in having to trust for its next step. 

The go-forward green lights seem to keep coming as we come up on a final vote.   I understand there can be legitimate concern on how it will all work and what are the right ways to use our time, effort, and resources.  But I further believe the logistics and specifics will work themselves out in great ways no matter what happens next because there is one in control far greater and more creative than we could ever hope to be!  

My vision is that we as a congregation would be given the wisdom and discernment to believe that if this is where God is calling Pathway, then we can focus our trying on His plan and trust that it will be glorifying to God and impactful for His kingdom if we get ourselves out of the way and go toward where he is leading.

In Christ,

Mark Barnes

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By Pastor Joel
June 19, 2018

Pathway received a surprise email this week from a secret CRC fan who watches our website including blogs. Here’s something she sent to the office. It’s published with her first name by permission.

Dear Pathway,

I am from another Christian Reformed Church, but there is great joy in my heart today believing God is creating a special future for Pathway Church! Be encouraged! Remember this:

God was the first one to think of home (food) delivery service--even before Domino's home pizza delivery! The first home delivery service was created by God for the children of Israel. It was not Pizza delivery but Manna delivery!

So it is with Pathway Church as it may be one of the first to start out in a well built structure that used to be a restaurant with an identifying animal creature out front. God is giving you folks a well known identification marker to help people find your church while driving down Rt. 41 and the streets of St. John. That's kind of unique and a great conversation piece. It may touch the hearts of new people (in the area) and will make them wonder and be interested in getting to know the church that has one of God's creations out front.

If God created Manna delivery, He can turn a food (for the body) restaurant into a Soul Food (for the Spirit) church! He may just be interested in showing a restaurant that once provided physical food is now going to provide spiritual food for the Soul. He is an awesome God! What a fantastic outreach He is providing to your congregation! I am an outsider looking in, but I am praising the Lord for this great opportunity He is giving to your church for growth. Awesome!! Rejoicing with your congregation as I watch to see how the Lord is laying out a future Pathway. Pathway Church just needs to let go and let God's Spirit move and direct. Praising the Lord for what He is doing!

Friend to Pathway Church,

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By Mark Barnes
June 15, 2018

“If the Gospel can change that dude, the Gospel can change anyone.” Bart Millard of Mercy Me ends the movie ‘I Can Only Imagine’ with those words talking about the transformation of his father from abusive monster growing up, to becoming his best friend and Godliest man he ever knew before passing away. Glad the girls asked for a movie night! I’ve always liked the song but had no idea about the powerful story behind it and the life of lead singer Bart. 

I’m all about the story. Always have been. I love the details that drive a building storyline, twisting plot, and finally snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, or saving the day when all appeared to be lost. The best stories really draw you in. Help you identify with the characters. Make you feel like a part of what is happening. Leave you feeling like your missing something when they are over.

I have this vision for Pathway. Unlike the fictional stories that grab our attention for a short while and then fade. Or sensationalized news that is here today, forgotten tomorrow. The Pathway story has a long-term impact on many. Changing monsters to best friends where they can grow to become Godly men and women. Or introducing Christ to individuals and families because they were invited or wanted to check us out and found a place where they were treated like family. A vision that is founded on a community that not only enjoys worshiping and serving together, but one that actively seeks to fulfill their mission God laid out before them.

All that that has nothing to do with a building. It is fundamental to a Christ-centered church. The story comes to life by those that are part of that family and earnestly seeking others with which to share Christ-like love and ministry. The individual stories come out of “doing church” day-to-day, every day. The stories have impact on lives. Eternal impact.  

Could we have this type of story for years to come at Pathway, and the impact on lives through Pathway worshiping at a school or some other rented space? Maybe.  Personally, I believe we are severely hindered by not having a permanent home. I also believe we are at risk with a new church beginning to be built across the street from Crown Point Christian School and need a sense of urgency to move ahead.  That sense of urgency needs to be backed up through action.

Make no mistake. I am thankful for those that I know take action at Pathway in many forms daily! The action I believe is needed is to move ahead quickly to a permanent space. I hope the green lights keep coming for Northwoods as we proceed through the process.  

A particular challenge is fear of the unknown. Like many, I want a good solid plan that is easy to visualize and execute with minimal risk. When the “i’s” are dotted and the “t’s” are crossed, that is when I’m most comfortable moving ahead.

God never seems to work that way! His plan always seems to be so far outside the box, if we actually knew what He was going to do next, we would just consider it nuts and never do anything. Maybe sometimes, it’s just better that we must trust Him, and move ahead step-by-step as the way is cleared to proceed. Many times in my personal life, those times where I had to completely trust Him and had no idea what was coming next, and felt no control, were the times I grew the most in my Christian walk.  

Pathway as a church feels like that sometimes. Northwoods as an opportunity absolutely feels like that. Outside of the box. Maybe kind of nuts. Not sure what’s coming next. Best to trust God, and not know everything so we must rely on Him for guidance.  

My near-term vision would be that we all would be able to envision that the property has enormous potential to become what we need it to be. Looking past the current state is not always easy. And while some things must be repaired or remodeled to become serviceable and begin ministry, much does not have to happen immediately.  Like the path we have been on as a church, we can wait for it to unfold, naturally as more is made clear.  

Additionally, I hope the financial message is clear. We are not out saving the year-over-year cost increases at our current pace to achieve building on our current property. Without significant uptick in financial building support or miraculous intervention, we will not be able to build in the next 5 years. The buildings that we currently cannot afford to build on our property would also require additions and are scoped smaller in size than what Northwoods already is.

My longer-term vision would be that it would be made clear what the right ministries and programs are, and we would see the individual stories of healing, transformation, and salvation come to light as He works through us. That we would be encouraged and energized by what is happening within the family of God at Pathway Church and our “story” would be one of true generational impact and community outreach that continues growing instead of like those fictional stories that grab our attention for a while but quickly fade. I want to witness the story where I can say, “If the Gospel can transform that dude (or dudette), the Gospel can transform anyone.” Be drawn in further. And be part of it happening over and over and over.  

In Christ,
Mark Barnes  

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Worshiping At

Crown Point Christian School

Sunday 10:00 AM
10550 Park Place
St. John, Indiana 46373

Office Location

11101 W. 97th Lane
St. John, Indiana 46373


Mailing Address

P.O. Box 62
St. John, Indiana 46373

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