On our trip to Activate, a leadership conference located on the border between New Hampshire and Maine; there were concerns that finding the small New England church hosting the event might be difficult. All concerns vanished when a vivid lime green and grey painted building with a sign appeared announcing Next Level Church in bold block lettering.
Next Level is a remarkable church in several ways. First, it's a wildly flourishing church located in New England. So much so, that Outreach Magazine listed Next Level as 2014's fifth fastest growing church in America. It's also one of the northeast's first ministries to successfully launch satellite locations. To date Next Level Church, which was founded six years ago, has four locations with two more sites to launch in 2015.
With another satellite scheduled to launch this spring, efforts to create interest are underway. Activity in the proposed area is generated through a multi-level marketing campaign. Sometimes the simplest solutions can be the most effective. "Yard signs work really well for us," says Daniel King, Next Level Church's pastor of operations. "We'll put up a hundred of those in a city that say, Next Level Church, coming soon, interested?' with our website below." Next Level's website is structured to make an easy path for people investigating Next Level Church. Basic information is gathered from inquiries and soon after the person is contacted by a launch pastor who will move them into a huddle for that city.
While Next Level Church has communicated relevance in their outreach to surrounding communities with a gospel centered message, the church is also engaging church leaders in their area and beyond.
During Next Level's one-day conference designed for pastors local to New England, Worship Facilities had the good fortune to sit down with Next Level Church's founding and lead pastor, Josh Gagnon.
Alison Istnick: Church growth is a challenge, especially in the northeast. What does it mean to you, being listed as one of America's fastest growing churches?
Josh Gagnon: New England is often seen as the frozen chosen and the pastor's graveyard. So, what's exciting to me is that in northeast you can't grow a church rapidly by reaching people that are already going to church. To do that here we have to reach people that are unchurched. Just within the past 10 months we have seen 367 people come to Christ. I always begged that God would allow me to be part of a church where no man could get the credit. I would say that our church has seen some pretty amazing things that only God could accomplish.
AI: Worship Facilities is attending Activate as a sponsor and to see what this conference is all about. What started you on this path?
JG: I have a heart for pastors. It was our first year of existence as a church and I asked a bunch of pastors to come to a round table to share life and eighty leaders showed up. At that moment I thought we should do a conference. They were all mentioning the need to be ministered to, the need for leadership, the need to do life together.
Our number one reason for the conference is to encourage church leaders in a region where often pastors have to travel south to be encouraged.
There are very few leadership conferences north of the state of New York with nationally known speakers. What our country has fallen into the trap of doing is asking the smallest churches in the country, with the lowest budgets, to travel the furthest to gain wisdom and leadership. Shouldn't it be the opposite of that? Shouldn't we go the greatest mission field in America, New England? We thought, "Why can't we put on a national quality conference here in an area where they don't do them? "
AI: This is your second year of hosting Activate with nationally recognized speakers. Today you've brought in Gordon MacDonald, Ed Young and others to minister to pastors. Looking ahead what are your hopes for this conference?
JG: We have 85 registered churches registered and are hoping to see 100 churches in total who actually attend. This translates to roughly five hundred people. We want to grow that number.
My hope is to get people around the country to understand the heartbeat of Activate. We hope to encourage sponsorship of the conference to help cover costs. For churches that attend with 100 or less congregants we ask for just twenty dollars a ticket which doesn't even get close to covering our costs. Sponsorship is a viable way to fund future Activate Conferences, so we are encouraging sponsorship. Activate presents a unique opportunity to reach pastors who rarely travel to conferences and therefore may not know about available products or services. Our Activate for 2015 is scheduled for Wednesday, September 16th.