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Igniting a Passion to Follow Jesus: Reflections on the Year

Who are we? That’s quite a question. And rather than simply answering it by listing our missions statement, Core Values, and discipleship strategy, let’s go on a journey around College Park to see practical examples that demonstrate who we are and how we, as a church, are igniting a passion to follow Jesus.

“In 2022, we endured some of the toughest trials and tribulations that we've ever faced as a Small Group. A miscarriage, a 19-day hospitalization of a newborn, uncertainties in careers, strained marriages, hidden sin wreaking havoc . . . but God. God, in his mercy, allowed the members of our group to lean into these difficult situations and be the hands and feet of Jesus by serving and loving one another. We are a messy bunch who strive to point each other to Jesus."

David Rawlins, Small Group Leader

"Who knew a little bit of creativity and a whole lot of candy would be the way we could engage such a diverse community? Trunk or Treat gave us the opportunity to welcome over seventeen hundred people for a time of safe, fun festivities where our people modeled what Christ-like hospitality looks like. The tears shed from a woman as one of our pastors prayed for her sick son and the three Afghani refugee families who were picked up to participate in this event remind me that the Lord will move whenever we provide a place and space for our community to join us."
Jeff Brown, Assistant Pastor of Local Outreach

“One of my favorite parts of my job is getting a front row seat to see what God is doing in the hearts of people outside the walls of our church. One woman I met recently hadn’t been to church in years. She woke up that morning, wanted to go to church, and Googled to see what was nearby. After interacting with multiple people that morning, she decided to stay and attend DISCOVER. And the cool thing is her story is not an isolated one. God is leading people in all different life stages and spiritual conditions through our doors on a Sunday morning.”

Kendall Carlson, Hospitality Manager

“Your twenties are typically a season of transition. Graduating from college, moving to a new city, or living on your own for the first time can feel lonely and remind us that we’re not meant to do life alone. Fireside has created a space for young adults at College Park to enjoy biblical community, grow in their faith, and develop Christ-centered friendships. Every week, when I see twenty- and thirty-somethings leave Fireside renewed and strengthened to continue in their walk with Christ, I am reminded that God provides for all our needs—including our need for friendship and community.”
Lauren Hesler, Fireside Leadership Team

“This year in Student Ministry I have watched students show up on Sunday evenings not just to be passive listeners, but to be active participants. I have seen students desire to attend our gatherings, to be in friendship, and to follow Jesus together. Since August of 2022, I have seen the culture of Student Ministry grow more hospitable; a place where belonging is happening.”

Alex Anderson, Pastor of Students & Sunday Ministries

"It has been an incredible honor to photograph so many events that unify the community of College Park. For example, while serving as a photographer for Student Ministry, I’ve witnessed their community grow—not just in size, but spiritually as well. I’ve seen them let go and trust God with their future.”
Claire Thomas, College Park member

“2022 has been a sweet year of seeing the Hospitality Ministry grow as the vision catches for it to be a culture more than a singular ministry. An attender recently shared how she felt prompted to start a conversation with a woman a couple rows ahead of her. As it turned out, this confident-looking woman was lonely and struggling with the largeness of College Park, but each time she visited, she had a meaningful interaction with someone who took time to notice her and engage. So, she kept coming.”

Kendall Carlson, Hospitality Manager

Belong: Intentional Care

By Kayla Pugh

Eighteen months before accepting the role of Pastor of Care & Connection in August 2022, Mitch DePoy was caught in a windstorm—unexpected and tragic circumstances hitting from all sides. During this season, the DePoys, members since 2015, felt intentional and meaningful support from their church family, Small Group, and elders. As a lay elder himself, Mitch knew that tangible care within the church body was crucial. And as a member, he felt this care deeply. 

Serving as a lay leader during this season, Mitch was charged with implementing a strategy that answered the question “What would it look like if we did ‘care’ really well?”

Using his personal experience to bring clarity, Mitch developed a springboard for a new deacon ministry and set the vision for the growing parish ministry. 

The parish ministry at College Park helps members to be known by their leaders by dividing members based on geographical location. Two things are needed to care well: proximity and relationships. Through the parish model, proximity is achieved; and through time and trust, relationships are built. This, in turn, helps make a big church feel small and creates a sense of belonging.

Belonging is a hard word to capture. It can signify ownership or grant access. Often, it is better felt than defined—felt through the care of deacons and elders, membership, and the act of serving within the church.

Bob Martin, Pastor of Small Groups & Membership, put it simply when he said, “Church membership is how you belong to a church. When you become a member, you are saying, ‘This is my church, this is my home, this is my church family.’”

If membership is step one in belonging, then joining a group or class is step two. That’s because belonging is more than signing a member covenant. It’s also asking the question “Where else can I belong?” Belonging opens the door to further growth in godliness and community, leading to the third step in belonging: serving on a team to multiply the message of the gospel. In all three avenues, the goal is discipleship.

That message isn’t lost on Allan and Barb Dorn. After joining College Park in 2012, the Dorns were quick to find a place to serve, later becoming part of the first wave of deacons under Mitch’s leadership. They saw this calling as deacons as an extension of how they were already serving.

 “If you look, you can find a place to plug in.” Barb said. “You don’t know your gifting until you use it,” Allan added.

The Dorns are one example of a couple using their giftings to serve the church family.

“We tend to minimize just doing things for people,” Allan said, “but it’s a form of worship.”

This is the joy of church membership.

The Dorn’s story is one of many that exemplify what it means to care well. Mostly, these stories are found in the personal, intimate, often unremarkable moments of life—when a meal is more meaningful than a sermon, a sympathy card more moving than a worship chorus.

Having felt this care and serving as a lay elder for five years, Mitch felt the call to ministry. So, when a pastoral position became available at the end of 2021, Mitch knew it was where the Lord was leading him. Not only was this an answer to prayer after completing seminary, but it answered the need to unite the growing parish and compassion ministries to work in tandem.

In his new role, Mitch seeks to help people in three ways: know where God may be calling members to serve; find ways to care strategically; and empower those in serving roles, like the Dorns, to meet those needs.

The goal of all of it is to foster a sense of belonging—the same belonging that first led him and his family to call College Park home.

Interested in learning how to belong at College Park? Visit

Grow: Community & Gospel Transformation

By Evan Collister

Between Sunday services, you’ll find Don and Molly Lawton in the atrium, inviting people to join them for Living Stones, the class they lead during second service.

As the class gets started, it’s clear there is something special—a multigenerational community in which burdens are shared, the Word is taught, and interactive teaching fosters faith. “It’s such a great environment,” Don says.

Among the class participants are four young women whose paths crossed during their first year at the IU School of Medicine downtown. One of them, Angela, had pursued medical school with the prayer that she would find close friends and have opportunities to share Jesus with her community. God answered those prayers almost immediately when Angela met Doriann and Sara.

When the friends first met, neither Doriann nor Sara were believers. But both were interested in the faith of their new friend. So, Doriann began attending a college Bible study that Angela led—leading to deep conversations and prayer times together. By the end of their first school year, Doriann trusted her life to Jesus.

The friendship grew as the three friends—with the addition of Taite, a friend and fellow believer who Angela knew from undergrad at Purdue—became roommates. Angela and Taite began looking for a home church and decided to attend a gathering of Fireside, College Park’s young adult ministry. After connecting with Fireside and attending a few Sunday services, the friends made College Park their church home. Curious, Doriann and Sara began attending as well.

That’s where the Lawtons and the Living Stones class come into the picture. Doriann heard about the class from a friend and, accompanied by Sara, decided to try it out. They immediately fell in love with the community and the study of God’s Word. They felt that they had inherited a family, and they encouraged Angela and Taite to join them.

After months of seeking answers from friends, attending College Park, studying God’s Word, and investing in different spheres of Christ-centered community, God revealed his grace to Sara. As she describes it, she woke up with a deep conviction and realization. “Wow, all my close friends are Christians. That’s gotta mean something.”

It did. In late 2021, Sara asked her roommates what it really meant to be a Christian. After they explained the simple, yet profound, truth of salvation and true life in Christ, Sara’s response was beautiful, “I think I’m there!”

Both Doriann and Sara were baptized at College Park in 2022. In the presence of Angela, Taite, the Living Stones class, and their church family, the women testified to the wonderful work of God in their lives.

By God’s grace, groups like Living Stones will continue testifying, multiplying, and spreading the power of the gospel—one Sunday and one invitation at a time.

Interested in learning how to grow at College Park? Visit

Multiply: Living on Mission

By Jill Henry

Last year, Pastor Nate shared “7 Reasons to Go on a Vision Trip.” These seven reasons don’t apply exclusively to Global Outreach trips though. They’re also the driving motivation behind Brookside Road Trips and Civil Rights Vision Trips. Each type of trip reveals how God is multiplying his kingdom.

In 2016, Megan and her roommates, Mary and Emily, had just graduated from college. Together, they wanted to move to a larger city—one that would provide ministry opportunities both vocationally and personally. Megan’s sister, who was attending College Park, shared about the church’s partnerships in the Brookside neighborhood. Interested in learning more, Megan and her friends signed up for a Brookside Road Trip. Perhaps, they thought, God was leading them to move to Brookside.

When the friends introduced themselves to Pastor Dale Shaw on the trip, he was excited to learn why they had signed up. He introduced the women to a College Park couple who had renovated a Brookside home in hopes of renting it to missionally minded Christians. Megan, Mary, and Emily moved into the rental home in early 2017. They’re now involved with Kid’s Church at Nehemiah Bible Church, a neighborhood Bible study, The Oaks Academy, and more.

This multiplying impact is something Richard and Kelli Ellis have experienced as well. In 2018, they went on the first Civil Rights Vision Trip—a trip born out of a desire to pursue biblical unity in diversity through a gospel-centered, experience-oriented pilgrimage to important towns and sites of the civil rights movement.

It’s a conversation that Richard admits he had tried to stay away from at the time. Richard and Kelli knew racism still existed, but they thought it was rare and it certainly never happened at College Park.

By the time the couple had read the required books and were on the bus, though, God had already shown them that they were living in a “vanilla world” and had allowed themselves to become immune to the heartache of their Black brothers and sisters and the daily racial injustices that plague the Black community.

Richard recalls a moment that brought him from a place of simple sympathy to deep empathy as he listened to a Black brother share through tears how he had to train his teenage sons how to act, respond, and respect police officers when, not if, they were approached by police or pulled over while driving. Richard never had to think about that when raising his son.

As Richard and Kelli realized, living on mission for the global world also means living alongside brothers and sisters from other backgrounds and ethnicities right in their own church and community.

Taking guidance from Romans 12, the Ellises now strive toward that end. Together, they lead an ethnically and generationally diverse Small Group. Richard also helps coordinate events for Civil Rights Vision Trip alumni. Kelli recently participated in a Woven group that’s allowed for continued growth in gospel-centered ethnic harmony.

While we have a long way to go, this harmony is multiplying in our church, including on our Global Vision Trips.

After two years of canceled trips due to the pandemic, College Park sent out 106 people across the world in 2022! One of those trips was to Hungary where a team of students served at a Word of Life sports camp.

The camp was a great first trip for Hazel Ritz, an avid basketball player and sports enthusiast. But as the youngest member of the team going to a country of students who didn’t speak English, she was very anxious.

Hazel wasn’t in Hungary for very long before she experienced a severe panic attack that took her to the hospital. While there, she experienced God’s peace in an unexplainable way.

When she was released from the hospital, Hazel returned to camp and quickly began connecting with the Hungarian teens attending the camp. “God united us in a special way—our team and the camp teens—as we learned about God together.”

She also learned more about herself. “God showed me that there’s more to life than basketball and basketball doesn’t define me,” she explained. “God also showed me there are ways to use basketball for his glory and how I actually fit into God’s plan!”

Alex Anderson, Pastor of Students and Sunday Ministries, couldn’t be more excited about the impact of the trip. “Yes, we played sports,” Alex said, “but we talked a lot more about Jesus.”

One student he talked with was a German named Phillip. Phillip shared that he only came for the sports, but it was clear that God was moving in his heart. After countless hard conversations that week, Phillip ran across the camp looking for Alex and the team, sharing, “God wants me to repent and turn to him.”

“Not only did I see the gospel change the lives of teens like Phillip,” Alex shared, “I also saw it on my student team. They came back with a new view of the world and a fresh energy for ministry and for the Lord.”

Whether down the road in Brookside, across state lines, or around the globe—God is using these trips to bring vision and gospel multiplication.

Interested in learning how to multiply at College Park? Visit

Download the Full 2022 Annual Report

To view a 2022-23 fiscal-year update, download the full report below. 


All publication content has been produced by the College Park Church Communications Team unless otherwise stated.