The following is an interview between Larry Van Laar of North Coast and me from October 2008. These are Larry’s answers:

What did you do before becoming a Campus Pastor?
I owned a concrete pumping business with three direct employees. However, I would show up on job sites and run crews of up to 40 – 50 men to complete jobs .

What is your ministry background?
Before I became the campus pastor for North Coast church I was a volunteer in children’s ministry at another church while I went to school for my degree. Shortly before graduating I became the Youth Pastor. My responsibilities grew and I started occasionally sharing the pulpit on Sundays. I became the associate pastor after about 4 years and then the Executive pastor while still having hands on with high school and Jr high. I remained at that church for a total of 8 years and then stepped down. Two years later I was hired at North Coast.

If you were a pastor, do you still preach?
I do not. Well, rarely. In the last two years I have preached two times to my venue.

If you were a pastor, do you miss preaching regularly?
This is a bitter sweet thing. There is part of me that truly enjoys teaching/preaching. However, it is not my best gift. I think I want it to be at times. However, I don’t know if you have noticed, but Sunday comes every week and I truly feel the pressure to be ready. With all the time spent in preparation, stress of doing well, I have conceded that the Lord has other things for me to that truly bring me more energy and that I do better.

How would you define the role of Campus Pastor?
Well…let’s see… I oversee and am responsible for everything as a pastor might be except preaching.

With your focus being on the role of a Campus Pastor and not preparing a weekly sermon, what do you get to do that you think a lot of pastors/preachers miss out on? What are the advantages of your role?
First of all, I get to spend time with my family. If I had the role I do now and I had to spend many hours every week preparing a sermon my family would not see me. On the ministry side I get to hang out with and build into the people I call my sheep. I get more time to do a better job at everything else a pastor might normally do.  I got to tell you….it’s the best.

What are the unique challenges for a Campus Pastor at a multi-site church?
There is a season, whether personal or public, I think, that you go through that I call the transition from Puppet to Pastor. Traditionally, the pastor preaches. Anything less is just an imitation. However, once you meet people and begin to truly love them and get involved in their lives you become their pastor. Which really is the deal anyway; the preaching thing does not build relationship—except for maybe the preacher. It is getting into the dirt of people’s lives. Even a preacher knows that.

What is your communication like with your main campus or central support system?
We meet every week. I am given more than enough rope to hang myself and they trust me with that. However, I have such a brilliant group of Godly men to work with we talk just about everything. I am amazed at the lack of power acquisition. Nobody is trying to micro manage me and I am not trying to build my own church. This is a team attempting to do great things and I disappointed how so often I see a play for power in so many other churches.

This is from DJ Chuang of Leadership Network: Do you have a backup plan? If technology fails you are you the one to preach that day? What is your backup plan?
There would need to be a fairly large scale technical breakdown. First we check the DVD’S to make sure they are working by running all the way through one each morning. We have a back-up DVD that runs about 10 seconds behind the first in case the DVD player goes down or whatever. We have gone to the second DVD two times in three years. However, if everything went down I would probably give a message. It would really depend on when it went down however. If it was half way or more I think I would call it done.

Anything that you’d like to say, add, point out, etc.?
Understanding my unique gifts and talents is why I am here. Understanding is the key. I may like to preach or whatever, but at the end of the day I know why the Lord has me here. I love people and love to lead them.

Greg Atkinson

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