staff & Lead teams

staff team

Garry firth - lead pastor

I've served and been involved in church for most of my adult life. The thing that I absolutely love about TMP is that everything we do is geared toward creating a safe place where people who are skeptical about God can come and discover God's unconditional love and acceptance - no matter where they've been, no matter what they've done, and no matter what's been done to them. 
I have seen God's creativity up close, having spent over 6500 hrs underwater working as a commercial diver. I'm married to my high-school sweetheart for over 30 years and have three daughters who are all married.
When it comes time to unplug from it all, I slip on a motorcycle helmet and hit the road ... and if I'm not hitting the road I'm trying to hit a small white ball into a little wee hole in the grass.

russ smith - associate pastor

I love Jesus, I love people, and I get a kick out of playing music. After playing in the band Hokus Pick for the 90s and leading music at Camp Qwanoes from 2000 to 2020, I’m excited to be your Associate Pastor at TMP.  
I enjoy hanging out with my wife Michelle and my two kids who are now in university. And I’m happy to ride a red mountain bike and go jump in a lake.  
I’m passionate about asking “So what & now what?” when we explore a message about God and discover how we can apply it to our lives. So whether we’re unearthing truth from a message or singing songs, let’s do it together as we unleash God’s extravagant love on this city. 

peter bird - youth & social media pastor

I love playing music, listening to music, going to see bands, watching band documentaries … you get the idea. As well as doing anything music, I can be found playing hockey and having adventures with friends. 
I started attending The Meeting Place in September, 2012. My first Sunday in town I showed up and it is all history from there. What really attracted me to TMP was how genuine and kind everyone was, and how they worked hard to create an environment that gave people space to explore their questions about who God is. 
I am so excited that I now get to work with great people to support the purpose God has given us to bring His love and message of hope to the people of Nanaimo and the world.

sylvia thomson - kidz place director

I found TMP with a quick Google search in 2017. I was staying in Nanaimo for 2 months and wanted to find a place to connect with people and learn more about God. I fell in love with the island, the people and of course, TMP. I had no idea I would be working here four years later, but I must say I am very glad to be a part of this family of extraordinary people.
I’m a big kid at heart. I value a child’s curiosity and playful nature. Kids ask great questions and make us older kids rethink things sometimes. I believe it is so important that children know that the God who made them loves them more than anyone, no matter what. This will be an anchor for them throughout their lives. Kidz Place is a great place for kids and parents to find tools to help them discover God’s love.
I love reading and writing and illustrating books. I often have an idea for a story going through my brain and/or doodles dribbling onto the page. I also love the outdoors, and Vancouver Island is the best place to explore! I connect with God in a big way when I’m on the beach or in the woods.

julie christensen - communications director

I love TMP because it’s relaxed and honest with room for everyone. The music is awesome and the messages communicate truth about Jesus without complicated words getting in the way. 
My husband Tim and I have been part of TMP since our two young adult sons were little. At Avalon on Sunday mornings you can often find me hanging out at the info table in the lobby.
I love books as shown by my to-be-read pile and Kindle backlog, listening to my Irish boys (better known as U2), and looking for new instapot recipes. 

leadership team


My husband Chris and I started attending TMP in the spring of 2012. The relevant messages and the inclusive atmosphere are what kept us coming.  TMP is sometimes described as church for the "unchurched and the over-churched.” I was definitely in the latter category and very much appreciated the chance to breathe and rest in God's love and grace.  The music here is great and we are continually surprised that we are allowed to play with such awesome musicians on Sunday mornings. I’ve also enjoyed being with the littlest ones in Kidz Place.
Chris and I were high school sweethearts, were married 35 years ago and live in Qualicum Beach. We have 3 married children and 3 beautiful granddaughters, who live much too far away in Lethbridge. I love harmonizing and singing with Island Harmony, a local ladies acapella chorus. Gardening has been a passion of mine for a while, but a new obsession is genealogy and delving into our family's history.

tim christensen - lead team

My wife Julie and I have been part of TMP since our two boys (now university students) were small enough to swing & climb on the Avalon hallway railing. I love being part of the team at The Meeting Place and watching people experience those ‘aha’ moments when something new about God’s love for them is finally grasped.

Melanie lutz - lead team

I have attended TMP since it started in 1999 and love the heartbeat and mission of this church. I’m curious to see how God will continue to lead it. Even though I’ve attended a long time, we may not know each other as I am quiet and prefer to stay in the background.
 If you come to my house for a visit, you will probably need to go around back to find me in the garden or ring the doorbell twice so I can hear you from my sewing room. My husband Rick and I have been blessed with seven grandkids and they are my delight. I look forward to serving TMP in this capacity.

JEFF ROBINson - lead team

I was raised in rural Saskatchewan and have attended church and been a follower of Jesus since I was little. A little over 6 years ago my family moved to Nanaimo from the farm in Saskatchewan. A few months later we started attending TMP and have been here ever since. My wife Colleen and I have 3 adult children, all  in post secondary education. I am currently part of the setup and take down teams for TMP. I enjoy hearing about people’s life journeys and how they are led to follow Jesus. I’m looking forward to seeing what the next year has in store for TMP.