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Northgate Church in Ramsey has stadium-style seating and a modern feel. A children’s theater group and charter school will also use the new space.

Richard Tsong-Taatarii , Star Tribune

Ramsey church appeals to the under-35 crowd

  • Article by: Shannon Prather
  • Star Tribune
  • December 17, 2013 - 2:49 PM

Sunday services at Northgate Church spark with pop-culture references and the latest high-tech creature comforts. The congregation’s new building in Ramsey’s COR development features stadium seating, enormous flatscreens and high-tech lighting and sound systems. Guests are encouraged to tap into their Bible apps on their smartphones during the sermon.

A Christmas video features clips of comedian Will Ferrell in “Elf” and Chevy Chase in “Christmas Vacation.” The Rev. Steve Perkins quotes songstress Christina Aguilera’s “Genie in a Bottle” and confesses loathing “Sesame Street” in childhood. “It was just too educational,” he explains.

“You don’t have to be a superstar Christ follower. … You can even be a nerd,” said Perkins, standing at the podium in jeans and sneakers. “God will work through you and in you and with you. God has a purpose for you.”

Three years ago Perkins, then an ELCA pastor, and a handful of others left an established Lutheran church in Ramsey to start Northgate Church.

His goal: to minister to young adults and families 35 and under who either didn’t grow up in church or who stopped going long ago.

The fledgling congregation met in the PACT Charter school gym, gaining new members and momentum. With a $1.6 million loan from COR developer Jim Deal and $1.6 million in pledges from 190 families, the congregation celebrated the opening of its new building this month. More than 1,400 people attended three services.

“We really wanted a building that represents what we do,” Perkins said. “We are not a stained-glass-and-organ kind of church.”

During a recent interview, Perkins and Northgate’s executive pastor, Wayne Skaff, talked about their new congregation’s path.

Perkins described the moment he decided to leave the safety of an established church and start his own. At Lord of Life Lutheran Church, he knew he just wasn’t a “stained-glass” kind of minister, but being a ELCA minister had been his dream.

“It was a Holy Spirit impression, a whisper that I should start a new church,” he said. “It was the death of a dream in some ways.”

He resigned from the ELCA and started his plant church with a handful of others from the old congregation. They grew largely by attracting people who weren’t actively attending church before. Their dream of a building — a new kind of church — that would support their mission initially met some harsh economic realities.

A financial adviser told Perkins they couldn’t afford their own building. But a deal with a COR developer, savings from sharing parking with a neighboring office building and money from the congregation made it happen.

“This building is a testament to the idea that God will give you exactly what you need when you need it,” said Tracy Wojcik, a worship team staff member team.

The city’s development services director said it is pleased the church is partnering with other groups and making space available for theatrical events. A local theater group and the charter school also will use the space at 7295 Sunwood Dr. NW. The congregation holds regular services at 5 p.m. Saturday and 9 and 11 a.m. Sunday. The building is 15,000 square feet with 503 seats.

“It’s a positive addition to Ramsey in terms of community space,” said Tim Gladhill, Ramsey’s development services director. “The quality of the design both inside and out is something the community can be proud of.”

Shannon Prather • 612-673-4804



 

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