How I Found My Place at Northland
Discovering Northland through Belong & Grow
Northland is a big place and it’s hard to not get overwhelmed by the size, especially for a newcomer like me. Where do I fit in this church community that’s been established for years? Where is the best fit for me? Would they welcome me with open arms? Would I want to get involved in their outreach? And how do I even find out about all the programs and small groups Northland has to offer?
Before I get into Belong & Grow, let me tell you a little bit about myself. My name is Chandler and I’ve grown up right here in Longwood, Florida, and I’m currently attending UCF as an Advertising and Public Relations major. This summer I’ve had the opportunity to intern here at Northland in our Communications department and it’s been an awesome time. I found out about Belong & Grow and was interested in learning all about Northland. At first I didn’t really know what to expect, but it seemed like a good place to find the answers to my questions. So, I decided to give it a shot and see what it was all about. There was also free food, so that was a plus for me -- what college student doesn’t love free food?
At this point, you might be wondering what exactly is Belong & Grow. I was too, don’t worry! Belong & Grow provokes questions, conversations, and stretches your comfort zone through group experiences, which are designed to help you hear His voice in surprising places. And yes, I totally just copy and pasted that from our website. But if I had to put it into my own words, I’d say that it helped me process why I wanted to be involved at Northland in the first place: to feel connected, to find a home church that offered serving opportunities and allowed me to use my gifts for others. I quickly realized that there’s something for everyone at Northland, from the Connect Team to the Children’s Ministry teachers. I was able to meet the people who ran each of these ministries and get all my questions answered. Northland’s ministry leaders and staff are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met.
At first, I was nervous when I walked in, because I didn’t know anybody. But then the Connections Team leaders Barbara and Lauren welcomed me with a big smile, and their warmth, charisma and introductions made connecting with others at my table easy. I don’t know how Barbara and Lauren do it, but they made meeting 53 new people relaxing. If you get nervous when meeting new people like I do, I promise the nerves will go away at Belong & Grow. Parents are encouraged to bring their kids and it began to feel like family as we journeyed on this four-week class together.
Throughout the Belong & Grow class I had the pleasure of sitting at a table with some LifeHope single moms. Hearing about their stories and life struggles was so encouraging to me. A common thread shared among these moms was how much Northland and this community they belong to has changed their lives -- they’ve each have become a whole new person, knowing that the “old them” would have done something completely different. All the moms support one another, whether it’s getting food for or watching each other’s kids, or being there as other needs arise. This community network is their lifeline and support group.
Belong & Grow isn’t just for newbies wanting to find their place at Northland. I’ve been attending Northland for only a few weeks, but there are people who have been going here for 20+ years. Everyone is welcomed. As I experienced being a newcomer, I looked around and saw so many different ages and races, and they were all looking for the same thing I was. Even if we didn’t understand everything about Northland yet, we all knew that we wanted to be a part of where it was going. Newbies and veterans, young and old, single and married, all come together in this amazing, shared experience of learning and discovering what it looks like to follow God together -- and that’s the key, together. You can’t journey alone.
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