Interview with Rachael Ernst & Charles Karugu

Gateway Western Campus is a multi-site of Gateway Church in London, Ontario. This new disciple-making community started in September 2017 with co-pastors Charles Karugu and Rachael Ernst on the Gateway University Campus. They are both working bi-vocationally as they lead this new church. Read about their journey in this short interview and celebrate with them the great things God has started in this new church!

Gateway Western Campus is a multi-site of Gateway Church in London, Ontario. This new disciple-making community started in September 2017 with co-pastors Charles Karugu and Rachael Ernst on the Gateway University Campus. They are both working bi-vocationally as they lead this new church. Read about their journey in this short interview and celebrate with them the great things God has started in this new church!

What’s the story behind your involvement in Gateway Western campus?

From Rachael Ernst

I started to attend Gateway when I was about 15 years old and became involved in the youth group shortly after. Upon graduating from high school, I attended Western University for nursing and immediately became involved in campus ministry through Power to Change. As my years at university progressed, my passion for helping students discover Jesus grew. When I graduated in 2015, my heart stayed with student ministry. Our lead pastor, Rick Boyes, asked me to take on the university support network program called Red Frogs, which, little did I know, would lay the foundation for Gateway Western. As I continued to serve in student ministry, God impressed upon my heart the calling I’ve always known I have had but was too frightened to step into. Through the prompting of the Spirit and the encouragement of the pastoral team at Gateway, I took the needed steps to pursue pastoral ministry. As I said yes to God and shared this with Pastor Rick, he pitched the vision of Gateway Western and asked me to come alongside as co-pastor to Charles Karugu. God’s timing and handiwork has been so evident during this whole process. To say this is a dream come true is an understatement. 

From Charles Karugu

I have been going to Gateway for over 16 years now. Over the years I have had the pastoral leadership pouring into me, helping me with my faith, and giving me opportunities to serve in different areas of the church. Throughout my time in high school I really enjoyed being a part of the ministries of Gateway Church. My love for people continued to grow as I was entering post-secondary schooling at Western University, but I also started feeling called towards pursuing full-time ministry. From there, I started to follow my calling, and one thing led to another and eventually got me here. I am super-honoured to be working in this position with a church I grew up in and have so much respect for. What started off as just a fun thing to do back in high school has now become a strong passion in my life. 

Why did Gateway’s main campus decide to multi-site at Western University?

Rachael and Charles

Gateway Church’s mission is to help people take a step in the right direction towards their ultimate redemptive potential. Over the past couple years, the number of students had been growing at Gateway, and there was an obvious incredible need for a spiritual community on campus. What it came down to is that God had placed a passion in Gateway’s leadership for students and had created an opportunity for something new to be planted. God brought the right people at the right time, and it was simply about being obedient and taking steps forward.

What kind of impact is your church already making?

Rachael and Charles

This all got started through a program called Red Frogs. Through serving the campus, we were able to build relationship with the leadership of Western, which helped lay the foundation for what would now be Gateway Western. One of the best parts of this journey is seeing how these relationships have helped soften the university’s heart towards the Church, which had previously been broken. As we serve through Gateway Western and Red Frogs, there is a growing community of trust and of genuineness. We have also had the opportunity to partner with student ministries to empower and equip movements already started. One of the biggest encouragements has been to see students come out to Gateway Western who may not have stepped into a church otherwise. Since Gateway Western is on campus, in a familiar environment, it’s quite disarming. Hopefully it breaks down mental or perceptual barriers that students may have that prevent them from going to a traditional church.  

What were some of the effective ways you got the word out about this new church?

The major ways we got the word out was through partnership with other students’ ministries, serving the campus in any way that we could, and through our social media feeds. 

What’s been the hardest part so far in launching this church?

One difficulty that we have encountered is navigating the university’s policies and red tape. It has been a steep learning curve, but the experience has also taught us to celebrate even the smallest of victories. We never wanted it to feel like it’s “us versus them,” but rather a collaboration. This relationship has taken time, effort and grace. Another challenge has been that we are both new pastors and have never planted a church before. However, we are blessed to be a part of the Gateway staff who have both experience and wisdom. 

What would you say to senior pastors and churches considering a multi-site at universities and colleges?

Rachael and Charles

Do your research, love on the campus, and pick your team wisely. One of the biggest things that we realized is that each university has its own subculture. In order to be effective, it’s important to understand it and get involved within it. Secondly, the more you serve the campus, the greater your heart will grow for it, while also expanding your influence within it. Lastly, have a diverse team that is committed and loves the campus. Spend time together, pray together and dream together.