Grassroots Church was planted in 2002, by three couples who followed God’s calling in their lives to start up a church for people who didn’t find they had a place in traditional churches. Pastor Chris Pacholczak and his wife Shawnee, one of those couples, had moved back to Chris’ hometown of Thunder Bay, after a few years in Oregon where they attended the Great Commission School.
Having been encouraged out west to plant a church in Thunder Bay, Chris followed God’s lead as he pastored the original congregation of about twenty people, meeting in a rented room of the building that is now Grassroots Church. Chris also discipled a number of people who would eventually be a part of the Leadership Team.
Co-existing with the church plant was the Great Commission School. Following the same model as its namesake school in Oregon, the GCS served to equip a small group of students in knowledge and truth, as they studied the Bible verse-by-verse, cover-to-cover over the course of ten months. Community was a big focus during the early years of Grassroots Church and the Great Commission School. As the congregation grew to 50 or 60 folks, “Grassrooters” (as they call themselves) continued to intentionally overlap in each other’s lives, providing care for each other, hospitality for visitors and newcomers, and generally striving to love each other through meeting needs – from free childcare services to sharing meals and even sharing homes.
As the congregation grew to 50 or 60 folks, “Grassrooters” (as they call themselves) continued to intentionally overlap in each other’s lives, providing care for each other, hospitality for visitors and newcomers, and generally striving to love each other through meeting needs – from free childcare services to sharing meals and even sharing homes.
During the early years, Grassroots Church attracted a lot of university and college students, who came to church often through a mutual friend or word of mouth, hungry for God’s word. Many of these folks were new to the faith, and baptisms were both frequent and celebratory! While the congregation was this size, Grassroots Church met on Sunday mornings in the living room of the house that was rented for the GCS dorm and classroom. In 2005, when the living room got too tight, the cafeteria of Confederation College was rented out on Sunday mornings. These years were tough in many ways, mostly because of the time and energy spent packing up and tearing down sound equipment, Sunday School and Nursery supplies every week. Despite this, the three years at the college did produce a lot of growth! Many people of all ages continued to be added to the weekly congregation – particularly students and young adults and families.
In the summer of 2008, Grassroots received an incredible gift: the building we now call home to our church community. Formerly Central Evangelical Free Church, the existing small congregation of that church made the generous decision to sell the building to Grassroots at an extremely low cost. At the time, Grassroots was just getting by in terms of income, and this was an amazing testament to God’s provision. The building was absolutely perfect in how it met the needs of our ever-growing congregation. When the community moved over in June, there were approximately 80 children filling the new Sunday School rooms!
The Bible School continued to run for a few more years, under the new name, Evoke. Fantastic support from the previous administrator (Derek Bravinder) and Church Life Pastor (Joel Symonds) resulted in continued church growth and care for people along the way.
In 2014, Grassroots said farewell to Pastor Chris and Shawnee and their family, as they headed to Washington to pursue other ministry avenues. Without a teaching pastor, the church established a Teaching Vision Team, to structure sermons and series, and arrange for speakers inside and outside of the church to share on Sunday mornings.
In 2015, another sad goodbye was said, as Church Life Pastor Joel Symonds and his family moved to pursue another pastoral position. Although it was another loss for the congregation, more people stepped up to serve in the areas needed.
In the interim period, the church has grown in amazing ways forcing the Ministry Team, Tribes, and other areas for Grassroots volunteers to be better organized and more effective. God has provided for the needs throughout Grassroots’ history, and continued to show us his provision through directing Pastor Keith Jagger and family to lead our church. Pastor Keith was hired in May 2016 and will lead our community as we continue to move forward carrying out the mission that God has called our community to be engaged in.
[Updated June 2016]