Our History


An inviting culture has been central to Northwoods since the very beginning, so in an effort to invite as many people to the new church as possible, a unique telephone campaign called The Phone’s For You
launches. Volunteers make over 32,000 calls to invite people to the first service.

Northwoods holds its first service on March 25 with 331 in attendance at the Christian Center in Peoria, Illinois.

People are drawn to Northwoods, and in less than six months, the church celebrates its first baptisms and adds a second service to accommodate growth. The congregation enthusiastically embraces the mission statement: “to make fully devoted followers of Christ from unchurched people in the Peoria area.”


Attendance continues to grow, and Sunday services move to Notre Dame High School.

Northwoods leadership identifies 40 acres of land at the corner of Allen and
Wilhelm roads in north Peoria where they want to build a permanent home for Northwoods. The church launches an eight-week campaign that raises $135,000 in cash to purchase the land where the Peoria Campus stands today.


The former Jay’s Truck Driving School at 8919 N. University is purchased to become Northwoods’ interim facility until the “Field of Dreams” on Allen Road is developed for permanent use.

In July, the renovation and transformation of the Truck Dock begins, and the first services are held there on September 19.


The first Board of Elders and Board of Directors are selected.

The growth of children’s ministry leads to the need of more space for Discoveryland, so staff offices move to the Mordue Building.


On March 8, the groundbreaking ceremony for Phase I of the building takes place at the Field of Dreams. This phase includes the Activity Center, where the present-day Student Center on the Peoria Campus is located. 

Services move into the PARC building until Phase I is complete.

The first weekend services in the newly constructed building are celebrated on November 29-30 with an attendance of over 2,000.


The church purchases an additional 19 acres adjacent to the current property to allow for future development and growth.

After the purchase, God abundantly blesses the Journey Continues campaign, which raises 79% of necessary funds for the upcoming Phase II project that will include the auditorium.


Northwoods celebrates its 10th anniversary—A Decade of Difference—March 22–26. Festivities include a concert of worship and are capped off with the groundbreaking for the development of Phase II.

Northwoods holds its first Christmas show with over 5,000 people in attendance.


On September 9, Northwoods enjoys the first weekend in the new auditorium with an attendance of 3,382.

The dedication of the Auditorium features keynote speaker Dr. John Maxwell.


The Press On! campaign launches, which focuses on investing in the next
generation of Christ followers with the construction of immersive, themed ministry spaces.

This phase also includes the building of the Atrium as a place for relationships to continue developing among those coming to Northwoods.


The compass logo is introduced and becomes a tool to guide spiritual growth and reinforce a commitment to help people experience lives of full devotion to Jesus.

Northwoods begins directly supporting and sending mission teams to Solid Rock International in the Dominican Republic.


Northwoods celebrates its 15th anniversary on March 16 with the dedication of the Atrium.

The final part of Phase III growth is completed with the dedication of the Children’s Wing on May 7.

The Willow Creek Association asks Northwoods to help take the Leadership Summit to Brazil. 1,542 pastors, lay, and business leaders attend.

Over 10,000 people attend Believe—the first major Christmas Production at Northwoods.


After a major encounter with the Holy Spirit on his study break, Pastor Cal develops the E4 Life Transformation Strategy with the goal that the church itself would be a catalyst for spiritual growth by helping an individual through the various stages of personal change. 

Encountering Jesus in the
fullness of His love and power

Established in God’s Word and in loving relationships

Equipped to share the words and do the works of Jesus

Engaged to take God’s love and power to a needy world


As the implementation of the E4 Strategy continues, Northwoods staff develop the curriculum for Doing What Jesus Did—a class that equips others to operate in the power of the Holy Spirit in their everyday lives.

Northwoods’ connection with Samaritan’s Purse deepens, and the church collects 2,400 boxes for Operation Christmas Child.


January kicks off with first 21-day fast, as the Northwoods family seeks God for Real Change.

The first Doing What Jesus Did class launches.

Pastor Cal and some of the elders attend a conference where they meet Tass Saada and Tony Sperandeo. This meeting leads to Northwoods’ partnership with their ministries in the Holy Land.


Northwoods celebrates its Turning Twenty anniversary celebration held at the Peoria Civic Center.


Northwoods ministry expands with the first multi-site campus launch in Galesburg on Easter weekend. Hundreds pack the new facility that features live worship teams and teaching broadcast from Peoria via high-definition video.

Across both Northwoods campuses, over 70% of the Northwoods family engages financially in the 15:8 Project to expand ministry facilities in Peoria and prepare for multi-site and online growth.

In Peoria, the project includes the addition of the auditorium balcony, updated student ministry space, Prayer Tower, and Chapel.


The Re:New Thrift Store & Benevolence Center opens in Galesburg with a mission to help those in need in the community.

For the first time, Northwoods offers Freedom Ministry classes and events designed to help people disconnect from old wounds and discover the life of
freedom that Jesus promises.

Northwoods experiences an incredible, historic moment with Palestinian Tass Saada and Messianic Pastor Tony Sperandeo together.

Northwoods’ passion for missions continues to grow, and the church begins to partner with ministries in India.


With a vision to reach the unchurched in Chillicothe and the surrounding
communities, the Chillicothe Campus launches on Easter.

In September, Northwoods celebrates the grand opening of the auditorium balcony with services that include performances from Mandisa.


Northwoods celebrates its 25th anniversary.

The development of deliverance ministry and what is now the Setting Captives Free conference begins as a ministry to help people experience freedom through Jesus Christ.


Northwoods leadership works with Auxano—a church consulting group—to refine and develop Northwoods’ mission, vision, and values.


Following God’s leading and community interest, Northwoods launches campuses in Canton and Princeton.

Pastor Cal announces the new mission statement, “Inviting broken-world people to experience complete freedom in Christ Jesus.”

Along with the new mission, the refined vision, values, and measures of Northwoods are taught through several message series.

Pastor Cal announces Northwoods’ vision to plant 3,000 churches globally  through the Surge Project and 20 churches regionally by 2030.


Northwoods plans and hosts its first New Conference designed to recharge and renew Christian leaders.

The Northwoods School of Ministry welcomes its first cohort of students in the fall. The school is designed as a leadership funnel to grow and develop church planters to carry out Northwoods’ vision of planting 20 regional churches by 2030.


Pastor Cal announces his plans to transition out of his role as senior pastor over the next couple of years. The elders name Jon Rychener as the next senior pastor.

The Christmas Production breaks all records with an attendance of over 30,000 people and 1,776 people saying yes to Jesus.


Pastor Cal transitions out of his role as Senior Pastor to Founding Pastor, as Northwoods celebrates its 32 anniversary in March 2022.

Pastor Jon Rychener is commissioned as the new Senior Pastor on March 20, 2022.