The Watering Hole, a summer worship service in Glynn County, will help launch the new Coastal Wesley Foundation. Photo by Sarah Spivey with The Darkroom Photography.
By Kara Witherow, Editor
What began 20 years ago when a few young adults gathered in a small room at Epworth By The Sea on St. Simons Island has laid the groundwork for a campus ministry in Brunswick.
The Watering Hole, a summer worship service for college age young adults in Glynn County, has been a popular ministry since its inception in 1996. Meeting on Friday nights during the summer months, it attracts students who are home from college, summer ministry interns and staff, and young working adults with its relevant, Biblical teaching and contemporary worship. On a recent Friday evening nearly 100 people were worshiping together, hands raised in praise.
Unlike past years, though, the teaching and singing won’t end with the summer. During the season’s final Watering Hole service, leaders announced that a new ministry would soon launch on the College of Coastal Georgia’s campus and that many of those in leadership at the Watering Hole would continue with the new Wesley Foundation. They are hoping to build on the momentum developed through the Watering Hole, they said.
On Saturday, Aug. 20, the new Coastal Wesley Foundation at the College of Coastal Georgia (CCGA) will host a kickoff event, a cookout on the college’s grounds during move-in day. It will be a way for the ministry to introduce itself to students and parents, says Rev. Rob Grotheer, pastor at College Place United Methodist Church, which sits next to the campus in Brunswick.
College Place UMC has hosted the event the past four years, and it seemed a perfect fit that the Wesley Foundation would join this year. In addition to feeding families a great, free lunch, volunteers help move furniture, refrigerators, and other dorm necessities.
More than anything, it’s a way to connect and build relationships with the students and parents, and let them know there’s a caring Christian community right on campus.
Rev. Grotheer, who has long dreamed of a Wesley Foundation at CCGA, is thrilled that The United Methodist Church will have a presence on campus and that area churches have come together to support the ministry.
“I see this as the next step, the next level of activity and ministry, and that we have a chance to really do our best to serve (the students) in a greater sense,” he said.
One of the state’s 29 colleges and universities, in 2008 CCGA transitioned from a two-year community college into a four-year institution. When approached about the idea of starting a Wesley Foundation at CCGA, Rev. Michael McCord, Executive Director of the Georgia United Methodist Commission on Higher Education and Campus Ministry, was initially hesitant.
But after touring the campus and seeing local leaders’ enthusiasm, he became excited about the idea.
“We kept feeling like this is what we have to do, this is a ministry we can’t walk away from,” Rev. McCord said. “We started to talk and dream about what we could do.”
After several local churches made significant financial commitments to launch the ministry and the Conference’s Council on Finance and Administration approved their $35,000 funding request, they decided to press on.
“We thought, ‘We can’t not do it. We have to do this thing,’” he said. “I just really feel like God is in the midst of this. Churches are excited, we’ve got an amazing leadership team, and the financial resources have been made available to us. All of these things coming together … God is moving.”
Ministry and leadership teams are being developed, but at the helm will be Rev. Drew Thompson, who, in addition to serving as pastor of Taylors Chapel in Brunswick, will serve as director of the Coastal Wesley Foundation. Cameron Jones, campus pastor at Taylors United Methodist Church and communications director at The Chapel Ministries in Brunswick, will help teach and lead.
Campus ministries stand in the tenuous, scary, uncertain gap between high school and adulthood and help prepare students to be leaders in their faith and communities. That’s why their presence on college campuses are so vital, Rev. McCord says.
“These Wesley Foundations open new opportunities,” he said. “One part of our responsibility is to help the church grow, to help the church find leaders, to help the church of tomorrow. That’s a big part of what Wesleys do. But more than that, we’re the missional outreach of the church on these college campuses, helping kids discover and develop their faith.”
How to support the Coastal Wesley Foundation:
Support it with your prayers:
Cover this new ministry, the students it will serve, and its leaders in prayer. “Clearly, God, the Conference, and these churches are moving in a very special way, so be in prayer for that,” Rev. McCord said.
Support it with your gifts:
It takes resources to operate any ministry, especially a new one. Support the Wesley Foundation of Brunswick – and all South Georgia Wesley Foundations – as they share the gospel and Christ’s love by giving financially through the Georgia United Methodist Commission on Higher Education and Campus Ministry. Visit them online at www.umcommission.org
Support it with your presence:
Give the gift of your time and presence to a college student who is missing home (and probably his or her parents). A home-cooked meal or a conversation over coffee are easy ways to build relationships.
“I’m definitely hoping all of the churches in this area will do their best to support (the Coastal Wesley Foundation) to help it be the ministry it needs to be in these kids’ lives,” Rev. Grotheer said.