2017-10-08 / Insight

Merger doubles congregation at Woodside Bible Church

BY NICHOLAS PUGLIESE
810-452-2601 • npugliese@mihomepaper.com


Woodside Lapeer Campus Pastor Doug Champagne has only been on the job for a month, but has been involved in youth and student ministry for decades. 
Photo by Nicholas Pugliese Woodside Lapeer Campus Pastor Doug Champagne has only been on the job for a month, but has been involved in youth and student ministry for decades. Photo by Nicholas Pugliese LAPEER TWP. — Exactly one week ago on Oct. 1 was the twoyear anniversary of Maple Grove Christian Church merging with Troy-based Woodside Bible Church, and in the 105 weeks since that date, the church now referred to as Woodside Lapeer has seen its congregation double.

The number of congregants in September 2015, a month prior to the merger, was on average 75, but now, as new pastor Doug Champagne points out, the average is closer to 150, with a high attendance of more than 300.

“We do it by reaching into the community and being an effective ministry at meeting the needs of the community, said Champagne. “People are looking for friendly places, a place where they can go to and hear from God. That’s what we do.”


Woodside Lapeer Campus Pastor Doug Champagne retired from the U.S. Air Force as a colonel in 2006. He served seven tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq. 
Photo by Nicholas Pugliese Woodside Lapeer Campus Pastor Doug Champagne retired from the U.S. Air Force as a colonel in 2006. He served seven tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq. Photo by Nicholas Pugliese Champagne is new to Woodside Lapeer, becoming the campus pastor only a month ago, but the retired United States Air Force (USAF) pilot and commander has been involved in youth and student ministry since he was 23 years old. In 2003, Champagne was tapped to lead Reborne Rangers, an invitation only leadership camp for high school students, held yearly at Lake Ann Camp in Traverse City. The camp offers students an opportunity to cultivate relationships, build confidence and receive leadership training in the arena of Christianity, including training in devotional preparation and evangelism. Champagne retired from the USAF as a colonel in 2006 and during his career served seven tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq, flying 157 sorties. Champagne was also one of the only pilots operating aircraft during the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and was part of the aerial defense of Detroit following the attack.

“When Maple Grove merged with Woodside, there was an influx of energy, vision and direction,” said Champagne. Woodside’s main campus in Troy features a congregation of more than 4,000 members; the network currently involves 14 churches operating under the Woodside name. “The thought is together, we can do more,” said associate pastor Gary Gillim.

Woodside’s original campus has gone through its own share of changes over the years. Founded in 1955 by pastor Harold Moran under the name Big Beaver Baptist Church, the original congregation met at a home in Troy and later a bicycle shop before they moved into their own building a year later. In 1963, the church changed its name to Troy Baptist Church, and as the congregation grew, additions were built and new buildings were constructed, culminating in a 1,200-seat auditorium in 1981. After current pastor Doug Schmidt joined the church in 1991, attendance tripled, and in 1999, 84 acres were purchased on North Rochester Road where the current home of the main campus resides. The name became Woodside Bible Church in 2005, and each year since saw the merger of more churches under the Woodside name across the Thumb region of Michigan.

According to Champagne, the “vast majority” of Woodside Lapeer’s congregation is in the age range of 25-45, an important demographic. “(People of that age) are looking for a place where they can feel the presence of God and have a ‘sacred moment’ — a moment where they can feel His presence,” said Champagne.

“If a church’s congregation is mostly seniors, I’d say your church is probably dwindling.”

Woodside’s main campus is an attractive option for church-goers of that demographic, and the main campus employs several people whose duty is to share information about the church and it’s over a dozen campuses over social media. “A lot of people want their information digitally, and to the best of our ability we try to reach out the way they want to be reached,” said Champagne. Along with the church’s website, www.woodsidebible.org/lapeer, information on the church’s many programs and events can be found on Facebook and Instagram.

Champagne said one of the reasons he believes Woodside is an appealing option for young adults is the fact that the church approaches faith as a dialogue, not an argument. “There are some churches out there that are more aggressive with how they spread the gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said. “The gift of salvation is a free gift, but we can’t make someone take it.”

The key, according to Champagne, is to make the subject matter relatable to a young adult’s daily life. “We can use how the Bible explains things to reach into people’s lives,” he said. “The world is a chaotic place, and maybe we can help so some of that chaos won’t be so bad.” He said the teachings of the church focus on an emphasis on the gospel, spiritual growth and education of the saints, with Sundays frequently featuring a full band providing music. “We’re just trying to reach people,” said Champagne.

Harvest Festival on Oct. 22

Currently, Woodside Lapeer is planning Harvest Festival, a completely free event on Oct. 22 at Annrook Park. The event will feature children’s games, face painting, hay rides, cider and donuts and live music from 2 to 5 p.m. Gillim, who has been involved with Maple Grove Christian Church for more than 25 years, is involved with several of these outreach projects, including the National Day of Prayer, Jail Ministry and Loving Hands Medical Clinic. “We have a very open and invitational spirit,” said Gillim. “Come as you are. We want people to come out and meet Doug and get to know Woodside.”

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