In 2006 at GCC, we decided to try our hand at college-age ministry (CAM – lame acronym, I know, but this is going to get really long without it). I’ve been leading that effort with an intrepid group of volunteers ever since. This thing has played like an epic. It’s been challenging, for sure, and has brought me to my knees more than once. Sometimes those prayers have been "God, why do I suck at this?", but mostly, they've been full of gratitude.
Before I start writing about present-day MERGE, I’m going to get you caught up on the past three years, a little bit at a time. Some of you will be tempted to check out for this; it might feel like I’m talking shop with college pastors. But you should stick around.
It started with that summer in 2006. Our lead team of pastors gave me a green light to figure out what a CAM should look like. Mark Waltz took me under his wing (and has been a mentor ever since). We researched other churches’ programs and started asking questions of the 18-25 year olds at GCC. A couple of things came to our attention:
- We have a lot of 18-25 year olds at GCC. We found out that every weekend, literally hundreds of them show up for service.
- A lot of CAMs become separate churches that meet in the same building. We looked around the country and found groups of college-aged adults in churches who worshiped together, prayed together, studied Scripture together, evangelized together, served together, and never did any of those things with people who weren’t their age. I’m not knocking the idea of a church for 18-25 year olds, but that wasn’t what we were aiming for.
So we crafted a plan for MERGE. The goal was to give 18-25 year olds a way to connect to God, GCC, and each other. We launched in September 2006 and quickly realized we had some adjustments to make. I’ll unpack the details of that initial program next time.