March 7, 2023
It can be tough to find community as a young adult. That's why Austin started a microchurch—and you helped make it possible.
Austin Phillips and a group of young men gather every Tuesday morning before starting their workdays. Recent university graduates in their young twenties, many of them have struggled to really connect with a church in their community.
But on Tuesdays, they gather together and read the Bible. They pray. They talk about the meaning of the passage and how it applies to daily life. They share their challenges, insecurities, hopes, dreams, and anything else.
“And then we go out,” said Austin.
This group of young men is a microchurch. Microchurches are small communities of people “centered around a heart that beats for one thing,” said Austin.
That “one thing” could be nursing, working in an office, parenting, or something else. For Austin and his microchurch, they’re a group of young men who are focusing on developing their relationships—with Christ, with one another, and with other people in their lives.
We’re really just pursuing Christ together and growing in our identity in Christ. And from that, say on a Tuesday morning after Bible study, we go out into our workplace—knowing who we are and how we can impact God’s kingdom.
Austin started the church as a new collaboration between Campus Ministry at Grand Valley State University and Calvin Theological Seminary to equip young adults to lead these small, missional faith communities. They received a Resonate Global Mission Innovation Experiment Grant that helped them launch the first cohort last fall.
“I think sometimes with people in their early twenties, it’s hard to find a home church where they feel they really belong. I think a lot of time people graduate from college and feel a little lost because their community is gone,” said Austin.
That’s one of the reasons why this microchurch community is so valuable. While each member is part of a larger, established church as well, Austin said the microchurch provides close-knit relationships and opportunities for growth that can be difficult to find in a larger church.
“The ability for a small group to gather and ask intentional questions creates a sense of relational buy-in and relational growth and vulnerability that I think is harder with a large number of people. Everyone has a voice,” said Austin.
For Austin, he said the group was “God-led and God-given.”
As part of forming this microchurch, Austin has been part of a cohort of young adults led by Cody Zuiderveen, a campus minister at GVSU, and Cory Wilson, a professor of missiology at Calvin Theological Seminary.
“Austin and I have been doing discipleship together for a number of years now,” said Cody. “I asked him to join this cohort because he has always cared really well for his community, his friends—and not just as a friend, but as one who wants to help them go deeply into the Word and into community together.”
Cody sees this cohort as a continuation of that discipleship with Austin. With Calvin Theological Seminary, he’s been able to provide Austin with resources that he wasn’t able to do in a one-on-one relationship.
“That’s one of the things I’ve been really grateful for from Calvin Theological Seminary and Cory Wilson … being able to bring some of his expertise in things like context, and helping Austin understand the people around him more deeply,” said Cody.
“Some of the ways I’ve seen Austin grow is just in clarity and how the gospel interacts with this group of guys,” he added.
The microchurch that Austin has fostered not only meets for Bible studies, but they often spend time hanging out. Austin often checks in one-on-one throughout the week, and they’re all ready to pray for one another whenever asked.
“We’re really just pursuing Christ together and growing in our identity in Christ,” said Austin. “And from that, say on a Tuesday morning after Bible study, we go out into our workplace—knowing who we are and how we can impact God’s kingdom.