Palatka church finds new ways to reach community

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Pete Wilkinson, pastor of College Park Baptist Church in Palatka, is finding new ways to reach beyond the walls of his church and into his community with the help of the Florida Baptist Convention.

East Region Catalyst Craig Culbreth has been on the journey with Wilkinson as he works to help his church focus outward rather than inward.

“He’s made changes and turned some pages over but culture doesn’t change overnight,” Culbreth said.

Wilkinson is working to shepherd his older congregation while finding ways to attract young families.

“We want to take care of the people here and love them well – not offend or upset them but also look for things that are necessary to reach younger generations as well,” Wilkinson said.

To that end, College Park hosted its first season of Upward Soccer last year. While the turnout was modest and some of the children already had church homes, Wilkinson said they did have many unchurched families participate.

Having a young family himself, Culbreth said Wilkinson knows the kinds of ministries and events that will attract families with young children.

But Wilkinson isn’t just interested in attracting new members. He also wants to make a difference in his community.

When South Putnam Church in Crescent City wanted to expand its medical mission into Palatka, Wilkinson knew it was just the opportunity he had been looking for.

“What more practical way to love people than to have a free medical clinic at your church,” he said.

The Putnam County Medical Mission currently meets at College Park twice a month. Wilkinson said the recent addition of another healthcare provider means they will be expanding soon.

Along with prayer and encouragement, College Park also received revitalization funds from the Florida Baptist Convention, allowing it to purchase a new LED sign. Situated on a major roadway in Palatka that sees plenty of traffic, the church can now make sure the community knows when big things are happening on campus.

“We want to do more for the community in and out of the church and being able to make those things known is an amazing blessing,” Wilkinson said.

By Nicole Kalil, Florida Baptist Convention, January 16, 2018

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