Madison’s Isthmus population is young. A recent study of downtown Madison put 86% of the population between the ages of 15-34. Many of the Isthmus residents are students at UW-Madison. However, the faster growing part of this population are young professionals. Some come with formation in a church community or campus ministry, but many are part of that illusive group of “nones” so much of recent research has identified.
The community at PresHouse, a PCUSA affiliated UW-Madison campus ministry, noticed a growing number of young professionals choosing to take part in their worship and activities. A separate young professionals small group was formed, with regular pot-lucks and a weekly opportunity for study and fellowship at a local bar. However, PresHouse is inherently a ministry for students and could not put the staff or resources into reaching out to more young professionals, or growing this community within their ministry.
In 2016, the PresHouse Board, and several local PC(USA) congregations decided to move the young professionals group forward together. With seed money from Christ Presbyterian, Covenant Presbyterian, Westminster Presbyterian, the John Knox Presbytery, and the 1,001 Initiative of the PCUSA, a steering team was formed to explore creating an incubator for ministry to young professionals.
The new ministry is rooted in practices of campus ministry. There is a focus on reaching those who may not have experience or comfort in traditional churches. There is also an assumption of a highly transient population. Following the reception of a large grant from the Lilly Foundation, the young professional community is launching now. GatherX is an inclusive community for young adults, aged 23-30, in Madison. The focus is on a core set of values rooted in Christianity, establishing inclusive community, affecting positive change, and sharing our gifts with the world.
GatherX is holding regular gatherings for storytelling and sharing in homes, meeting up at local events to participate together, and seeking out new participants to be part of the growing community. The hope is that together GatherX participants will be able to draw on the strength of our Christian tradition to support one another in the inevitable change and challenge that comes with learning to navigate the world as young adults. Beyond the community itself, there is hope for the whole church that we might learn more about new ways to form community, share our stories, and invite new participants join us along the way. We also hope to learn from a new generation about sustaining ministry in new contexts and through nontraditional resources.
To learn more about this growing new community, please go to our website: gatherx.org
GatherX is in the process of hiring three new staff positions; a Lead Instigator/Networker (a full-time director position with benefits), a Lead Storyteller (a 10 hour/week communication strategist), and a Lead Framemaker (a 10 hour/week administrative manager). For more information on the staff positions please go to: gatherx.org/join-the-staff
We are looking forward to seeing how this incubator grows under the leadership and gifts of its participants. God is helping a new thing to happen on the Isthmus, may we all find blessings in this gift!