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Booming in Bismarck

Church grows by focusing on needs of mothers.
In Bismarck, North Dakota, Catholicism and Lutheranism long have dominated the religious landscape and local culture. So when Evangel Church, an Assemblies of God congregation, started experiencing rapid growth, people took notice. Evangel Church is now one of the Assemblies of God’s 100 largest congregations, with attendance approaching 2,500.

While many pastors view youth as the future of the church, Evangel’s Josh D. Skjoldal focuses more attention on adults in their 20s and 30s.

“You can really build something on the back of young families,” says Skjoldal, who has been pastor since 2015. Evangel Church considers young families — young mothers in particular — in all its ministry efforts.

“I’m a 32-year-old dad with two young kids,” Skjoldal says. “For my wife and myself, our lives are really dictated by raising young kids. For others who may have been part of a church and left along the way, this is one of the key re-entry points the church gets.”

Skjoldal has taken these concepts to his staff and board, and together the leaders intentionally try to make Evangel more appealing to this demographic. For example, the church has invested in a cutting-edge kids facility, with a major emphasis on security. For the future, Evangel is looking to open an eatery that contains a “play café” within so mothers can connect with others and still be within arm’s reach of their children.

“We want to get out of a ‘weekend’ mindset and open our doors to more people,” Skjoldal says.

Nowadays Skjoldal believes a church must offer tangibles to attract those who don’t yet have a personal relationship with Christ. Some have attended Evangel simply because it’s a place where someone will watch their kids for an hour and a half.

“We get people in the door by making it convenient for their family,” Skjoldal says. “We have to get them in the door before we ask them to shed their own convenience to pick up their cross and follow Jesus.”

Skjoldal has taken other opportunities to get the message out, including doing devotions on Facebook Live. He notes Evangel Church has grown in part by streaming services over the internet.

“People will often watch online for a while before they join us for a service,” says Skjoldal, who is a North Dakota District Church Multiplication Network representative helping church planters prepare for ministry

North Dakota District Superintendent Winston G. Titus previously served as Evangel Church executive pastor.

“People come hungry and anticipate something real,” says Titus, 62. “Pastor Skjoldal is transparent, he’s genuine. People feel at home because there’s a deep sense of the presence of God.”

Ana Pierce Elliott

Ana Pierce Elliott is a freelance writer based in Springfield, Missouri.