Microchurches for the Next Generation

How We’re Equipping and Sending Students for Gospel Saturation on High School Campuses!

September 18, 2023

Every year, more than one million young people will walk away from the Christian faith. 

The young people in America are considered to be the first post-Christian generation in our nation’s history. Statistically, most people decide on their faith by 35 — and the oldest millennial is now 39; the oldest Gen Z is 19. This provides a huge opportunity to envision something new and innovative with the next generation! 

We believe that if 1 out of every 100 high schoolers were equipped and sent to make disciples of Jesus at their schools, we could significantly transform the spiritual landscape. 

We believe that if 1 out of every 100 high schoolers were equipped and sent to make disciples of Jesus at their schools, we could significantly transform the spiritual landscape. 

For years and years, we have watched the severe decline of youth following Jesus while still running the same plays of event-based fun, hoping to see a handful of students each year come to know Jesus. The strategy has been to shift from putting a spotlight on one youth pastor or leader to training and empowering the next generation to take the power of the gospel to their schools and to see microchurches, ongoing spiritual families, and teams emerge from out of the harvest. 

Zero Hour started in 2020 in the midst of a pandemic with a vision to see students trained and equipped to be the disciplemakers in their high schools with ongoing microchurches. 

It started with a trip to the Smoky Mountains in the summer of 2021 with 12 students that we trained in simple, reproducible ways of disciplemaking to launch them back into their high schools alongside adult coaches to help the students play their part in the Great Commission. 

Zero Hour Ministries was launched with this deep passion for seeing the next generation trained and equipped to be disciplemakers. Now, some of these trainings include disciplemaking trips, Zero Hour Camps, disciplemaking training huddles, monthly equipping gatherings for student leaders, and ongoing coaches for every team that emerges. 

We try to ensure that within every training, we maintain a ratio of 3-4 students to one adult leader and coach so that we are multiplying student leaders and adult leaders. 

Today, we have 15 microchurches of disciplemakers at different high schools around Kansas City. We’ve trained 250+ students through our Disciple-Making Pathway. We’ve seen 150 new spiritual conversations with students who are not yet followers of Jesus and launched 17 new Discovery Bible Studies with students who are not yet followers of Jesus. A Hub Team of three full-time leaders has also developed. These leaders are owning the primary role of equipping these students to make disciples around Kansas City, and students are actively multiplying their lives and sharing the hope of the gospel with others around them. We think about scalability and reproducibility. 

Students can often feel really alone as believers and even more alone wanting to be active disciplemakers in their schools. 

After our first year of training and sending students on campuses, we realized they needed others around them who were in the trenches, wanting to live a life on mission in community. These students can often feel really alone as believers and even more alone wanting to be active disciplemakers in their schools. 

The three main components of microchurches that we embrace as a Hub of the Kansas City Underground of Community, Worship, and Mission have really helped students realize the holistic reality of what the church could be. They can all clearly see where the American church has fallen short on the side of Mission. Simultaneously, the next generation is marked by this deep desire to be a part of something bigger, to make a difference. They are primed to reinvent the church in the west to be a much healthier and complete picture of the church. This paradigm shift has allowed us to formalize students into student-led microchurches all around Kansas City.

For students, the way that they gather really, really matters. They have been so used to running the same play of an inward-focused gathering of other believers. Students continue to gather around Worship and Community and never really have a mission. Students, just like anyone, when given the chance to take an easy or safe route, will always take it. It’s in our nature to go for easier things. It takes us fighting against our flesh and standing up to it to pick the road less traveled. 

We must do our best to show students a new path and way of living as missionaries and disciplemakers. It requires our gatherings to change. It requires new forms of gathering that fuel us unto mission. We have deeply resonated with the concept of, “If you gather Christians in community and worship and hope that they go on mission it rarely happens. But if you gather and send them on mission, they will naturally be in community and worship.” 

We must provide places and spaces where students can catch a vision and continually be reminded of our calling as believers to be disciples who go and make disciples. 

When our microchurches gather, we have them scan a QR code that leads them to a Google form that asks some baseline questions about being missional. 

We ask the following questions: 

  • How many spiritual conversations did you have? 
  • Do you have any new or ongoing Discovery Bible Studies? 
  • Do you have any questions or concerns? 
  • How are you BLESSing others around you at your school or from your BLESS 5? 

After this, we have them spend time in prayer for their friends, their teachers, and their school. To wrap up their gathering, they discuss and brainstorm ways to serve and bless others at school as a team.

Real Life Examples

Let me introduce you to one of our teams at a local high school here in Kansas City. A few students came to our winter camp in January, where we trained 60 high school students on disciplemaking. They were fired up about the vision and mission and felt called to start a team at their local high school. 

Over the past school semester, they started meeting weekly and setting goals as individuals and as a team. One of the girls was connected to a senior student through their sports team and started to hear more of her story and background. 

She learned of a difficult and broken home life with a lot of pain and turmoil. This student just began praying and asking God for a way to bless and serve and love this other student. As the team gathered and discussed some ideas, they learned that she wouldn’t be doing a graduation party like most other seniors do. The hearts of these students were broken and the microchurch came up with the idea to throw her a party and send her off to college with love and blessing. As they began to share with their parents, everyone started pooling their resources to help throw this girl a graduation party. The party was an amazing success, and they even gifted her with a going away college prep basket full of things she may need. This is just one example of how a microchurch of students has begun impacting their school with the beauty, justice, and Good News of Jesus. They are bringing the Good News to others around them through healthy, loving relationships and servanthood. 

Let me introduce you to another student from a different high school. This student was your classic youth group student who knew all the “right answers,” went to all the youth group events, and for the most part, loved people to the best of his ability. We got introduced to him through some local church connections, and he joined one of our training huddles online where we walked him and a few other students through our Disciple-Making Pathway. This student admittedly informed me he was skeptical that what we were teaching him would work. He expressed that his past experiences and efforts have all come up empty-handed. 

As we talked more with him, we explained that we don’t force doors down, but instead, we join God in the places he is already at work. Our job is to be committed to praying for the open doors and getting in tune with where the doors are opening. This student agreed to commit to the consistent praying of others around him for the rest of the summer until school starts. On the first day of school, we received a call from this student. He was blown away that God had opened the door to have multiple spiritual conversations, all prompted by non-believing friends and students. One of the students, in particular, expressed an openness and desire to know more about God and what the Bible says. The student we trained responded by agreeing to start working through the journey of Jesus with a Discovery-based Bible study format. All of this was fueled through our Disciple-Making Training and his having an ongoing microchurch that served as his team.

The next wave of the church is hungry for more than just being inviters to youth groups and playing games on a Wednesday night.

The next wave of the church is hungry for more than just being inviters to youth groups and playing games on a Wednesday night. They are hungry to see entire schools know and follow Jesus as we have never seen before. They are hungry for adults to believe in them and invest their time and wisdom to shift the tide of a generation to see a movement of God sweep through the campuses of America that see long-lasting fruit that redefines and reshapes the church in the west. 

We long to see students multiplying their lives through disciplemaking in their schools and with multiple student-led, disciplemaking teams in every high school within a 30-mile radius of Kansas City so that every student could see, hear, experience, and respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ! We believe that with time and vision, this next generation will truly pave the way for what the church could look like in the next 50-100 years in the west.

It’s going to take a movement of Gen Z to reach Gen Z! 

Cory McElvain

Cory McElvain

Cory and Celicia McElvain are Kansas City natives with a passion for training and equipping students to be disciplemakers in their school to reach a hurting and lost generation with the beauty, justice, and good news of the Gospel. Together, Cory and Celicia have one son, Luca, and a daughter on the way. Cory began planting microchurches as a high school student in his senior year after being captivated by the movement of the global Church. He continued making disciples and planting microchurches with REACH starting in 2007 and continued until 2012. After moving to Lawrence, Kansas, in 2012, he began planting collegiate-focused microchurches alongside his CrossFit gym, which operated as a “business as missions” for around two years. After a break from ministry to jump back into the fitness industry, Cory realized he was missing his relationship with students. He began working as the youth pastor at Colonial Presbyterian in 2017 and continued to build those relationships even after his departure in 2019. Through all of these moments, Cory knew God had something more planned for him. After starting a job at a gym in Overland Park in July 2019, he was still feeling a constant tug at his heart to reach students. Cory and Celicia began praying for where they would be called next and in the summer of 2020, the McElvains decided to come underneath the Kansas City Underground to launch Zero Hour Ministries. With the vision to see students mobilized to make disciples and multiple student-led disciple making teams in every school within a 30 mile radius of Kansas City so that every student would be able to see, hear, and respond to the Gospel!
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