Dr. John Tolson began the Gathering in 1978 as an assistant pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Houston. John was alarmed by the lack of spiritual direction men were providing for their families and the extremely low number of men attending church. Dr. Tolson 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. Men were recruited and trained to be table hosts for outreach breakfasts where a dynamic, nationally known speaker would present a winsome Gospel message. Typically 500 to 2,000 men would attend, including business, professional, and government leaders in the community. As men were reached, they were placed into small groups and Bible studies which ranged from 10 to 100 men. Men were encouraged to study the Word, to pray, to learn Scripture, and to fellowship with other Christian men. Many men were discipled in a one-on-one setting to help them to apply the Christian life on a daily basis.
The Houston work continued to be led by volunteers for about five years in the downtown area and for almost ten years in the northwest part of the city. The men who made up the core group then began to search for someone to take the ministry on a full-time basis. The person needed to be familiar with the business world and its special needs and also be well versed in running a ministry.
HOUSTON ADVISORY BOARD
Glenn Bauguss, Bauguss Turner Properties
Steve Biegel, Newmark Knight Frank
Todd Davis, Nalco Champion, Division of Ecolab Trey Domann, Surgical Care Affiliates
Mark Gillespie, GT Brentmark Brad Hays, Leaven Exchange
Paul McDonald, McDonald & Associates
Paul Oliphant, Midstream Energy Holdings David Pokorny, Independent Bank
Jim Stephenson, Attorney
Roger Wernette had served in Young Life’s youth ministry for 13 years, five years on the staff, and was familiar with a relational ministry. Roger also taught the Bible at his church and in other settings. He had a desire to work in a full-time men’s ministry and after some discussions with John Tolson and Larry Kreider, accepted the position of Executive Director in Houston. His tenure on staff began in January of 1999.
Within 5 years, Roger and his dedicated advisory board had grown the ministry to include a network of over 3000 men. Excellent speakers including Lance Berkman, Dr. Howard Hendricks, Coaches Joe Gibbs and Bobby Bowden had given their testimonies at well attended outreach events. Roger had begun to integrate a behavioralassessment tool, The Flippen Profile, into his ministry and was meeting with many men individually to work through the test results. In addition, small groups were forming and meeting regularly. To assist Roger in the day to day activity of the ministry, Tracey Antestenis was hired as Administrator in January of 2004. Tracey had previously served on Young Life staff, then took a break from the working world to have her twins, Gus and Ellie. Her position with The Gathering allows Tracey to have the best of both the working and the mothering worlds.