Magazines 2024 Mar - Apr Planting a church in a Nanaimo nightclub

Planting a church in a Nanaimo nightclub

27 February 2024 By Sammy Kyereme

Removing barriers to faith for curious young adults



"God used all of creation to funnel me into the Kingdom," says Austin Penner, leader of the worship team at UpperLVL Worship, a church planted in a nightclub in Nanaimo, B.C.

After years of working as a DJ at Nanaimo’s LevelTwo nightclub, Penner partnered with his home church, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Nanaimo, to use the nightclub space as a church plant. The fledgling congregation, meeting on Sunday nights, is led by Penner and Pastor Jeremy Bellsmith of St. Andrew’s.

"Jeremy and I were meeting weekly asking, ‘What does the Lord have for us in this season?’ We were talking about maybe needing a Bible study, trying to invite the people from my circle into some form of discipleship," says Penner. Separately praying about this idea, the seed of a church plant in the nightclub came up in conversation last April.

Penner remembers sharing the vision of UpperLVL Worship with his friend, the manager of the club. "He was like, ‘Dude, whatever way we can support you, let’s make it happen.’"

The team prioritizes making the space a place where people feel welcomed and can ask questions. The team at UpperLVL Worship also says they understand this is far from an ordinary worship experience. With electronic dance music, along with praise and worship sets playing, and even drinks available for those who want them, Penner says the church is attracting agnostics, the spiritually curious and other Christian young adult groups and their leaders in the Nanaimo area. "People want a connection. They’re seeking something that transcends the daily grind. However, we can minister that grace to people. That’s our hope," says Penner. –SAMMY KYEREME

Related Articles