Celebrating Thom and Jan Hardwick

With a cast of 450 people, a herd of 71 animals, and almost 300 performances, the Passion Play presented the gospel to 450,000 attendees in a fresh, transformative way. It ministered to a 5-state area and brought in buses and sometimes even planes. Hundreds filled out slips saying they had made the decision to follow Christ (and later received phone calls from the outreach team). Coinciding with the Passion Play were The Splendor of Christmas, Freedom Celebration, and Kaleidoscope: impressive productions with the same goal of pointing people to Jesus. North Heights productions were truly a marvel.

But the two people behind it all want to make it clear that “we’re not drama people.”

Thom and Jan Hardwick have been an influential part of North Heights for 32 years, and this winter, we say goodbye to their roles on staff and bless them as they transition out of their weekly responsibilities.

It’s no question that they’ve made an impact. People describe them as faithful and talented, always walking out their calling with integrity, strength, and anointed energy. Jan is known for her keen ability to remember faces and names and recruit people to help out. She was responsible for obtaining many cast members for productions, often walking up to people and saying, “you would make a great Pharisee!” She confessed she once unknowingly asked a visiting bishop from England, “would you like to be an elephant in our children’s parade?”

Thom was the grandson of an evangelist, so passion for reaching the lost ran in his family. His grandpa’s fervor to evangelize in the South resulted in him being tarred and feathered, a form of persecution almost unheard of in today’s age. Being a natural musician, Thom soon had the calling to reach people through music.

The two of them met on a blind date in the ‘70s. After briefly spending time in different states, they began dating and got engaged 3 weeks later. Doing ministry together happened organically, and they soon found themselves behind the massive productions of North Heights.

The stories of those years are endless. One boy accepted Christ in the middle of the Calvary scene and now has children that he’s raising in the church. An “angel” once hit his head and bled all the way on the descent to the stage, causing someone else to faint. Jerry the Mule once got loose in the Arden Hills neighborhood and made the national news! One international student came to the play and went back to his home country to share the gospel.

Jan expressed that even though she watched the productions from the back around 300 times, she never got tired of it. Why? Because they were the stories and pieces of Jesus.

The Passion Play video has been shown all around the world and touched thousands. The Splendor of Christmas shared the true meaning of Christmas with many unchurched. The Freedom Celebration honored veterans who felt unrecognized in other spaces. Kaleidoscope, Chorale, Children’s Choir, Bell’s Choir, and Sunday worship happened on less of a grand scale but were equally as powerful for many.

Although Thom and Jan were orchestrating and spearheading all this, they are adamant that they didn’t do it alone. “We had the most fabulous people that we worked with. God supplied the most amazing people,” they said. Much like how God brought about people with different skill sets to work on the tabernacle, so He did with the North Heights productions.

The call of the Holy Spirit to step away from their roles isn’t an easy one. “It’s hard. We love these people. We love this church,” Thom expressed. “But under all these difficult emotions is the peace of the Lord.”

God’s will is always the greatest - as we have seen over the 32 years of Thom and Jan’s service. “He has the right person to come in. I expect great things to happen,” Jan says about North Heights and the Roseville location’s future.

Now, we enter a new season, a new era of transformation. Without Thom and Jan, there’s a gaping loss that many of us will feel in the next few months. But as Thom and Jan told of stories, feelings, and impact, they reiterate that “everything was for God’s glory” and they did everything “to reach people beyond the walls for Christ.”

That will undoubtably continue. 

Posted by Hannah Varberg

The Little Earth Story

Karl Gertz helps coordinate a little-known but incredibly important ministry: Little Earth Sunday School. This ministry reaches Native American kids in South Minneapolis. "Some of the kids we pray with say 'my dad is in jail, and my grandma has a heroin addiction.' The level is so much higher than we will ever realize."

Learn more by watching this video.

Posted by Hannah Varberg

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Arden Hills Campus

1700 West Highway 96, Arden Hills
Saint Paul, MN


Roseville Campus

2701 North Rice Street
Roseville, MN


(651) 797-7800