The Vision is Birthed

In 1978, Dr. John Tolson – alarmed by the lack of spiritual direction men were providing for their families and the alarmingly low number of men attending church – developed an appealing and effective way to reach men for Christ by mobilizing Christian men to invite their friends to a non-threatening outreach event in a secular setting.

Typically 500 to 2000 men would attend, including business, professional, and government leaders in the community. That ministry developed into what we now know as The Gathering USA and, over the years, about one million people have been impacted in some way through The Gathering.

The Gathering is Organized

The Gathering was officially formed in 1987 in Orlando, Florida, when John was joined by Larry Kreider, who came on board as President. The foundation was laid and the stage was now set for an expansion of Christ-centered influence that is still happening today.

Biblical Foundation

At its core, The Gathering is about developing communities of maturing, reproducing disciples of Jesus Christ. Bible Study luncheons and small groups were organized and expanded to help men grow further and deeper in their walk with Christ.The Gathering worked closely with local churches and encouraged men to get involved in the church of their choice.

Outreach and Service

A short-term social outreach, called ‘50 Good Men’, was started to encourage men to give back to their communities. In addition, short-term mission trips began to occur on a regular basis and a missions ministry called, ‘MasterWorks’, came under The Gathering’s umbrella, using the name ‘Mission Emmanuel’.


Several resource books for small groups were published, and a video, called Children in Rage, Fathers of Hope, was produced to promote fathering skills. This led to the beginning of Dads and Moms That Make a Difference seminars.

The Gathering, partnering with Promise Keepers, developed an accredited seminary level program to train pastors and others on ‘How to Develop a Men’s Ministry in the Church.’ John Tolson also became a regular speaker for the PK stadium events. In 2003, a discipleship tool, The Four Priorities, was launched and now a workbook by the same title is available for small groups.

City Expansion

Over the years, men from a number of cities began to be trained to set up and run a Gathering of Men in their own city. The Gathering’s ministry in each city, led by its own City Director and Board, finds a variety of expressions, but most will include the following components:

  • Weekly small group Bible studies where men share their lives in community with one another while growing in their understanding of Scripture and its application to their lives
  • Luncheon speaker series
  • Local and international hands-on mission and service opportunities
  • Annual Outreach event

Leadership Transition and New Vision

In 2014, after 27 years of faithful and impactful service, Larry Kreider resigned as President/CEO (but remains on the National Board of Directors) and a national search for his successor began.

In July, 2015, Matt Heard became the new President/CEO of The Gathering USA and was charged with re-visioning this ministry that God has greatly used over the years and ushering The Gathering into the next chapter of its story.

A Glimpse of the Gathering