BarChurch – End of an Era

In 2014 The Gathering launched its BarChurch site – doubling down on its mission of reaching new generations of people in St. Louis, and inviting them to become deeply devoted followers of Jesus. Over the past 4 years we’ve had much to celebrate as we worked to create an engaging place of worship and development for college-aged people in the city.

One of my favorite stories from BarChurch is about a guy who we’ll call John – and it happened back when BarChurch met inside Humphrey’s Bar on the Saint Louis University campus. John came to Humphrey’s the way many of us go to a bar on a Sunday night – looking to escape the pain that followed him around all week. Belly up to the bar he ordered his first drink, while unbeknownst to him, a BarChurch service was just beginning. Throughout the service John was visibly disengaged (and probably even annoyed) that church was taking place, in what was supposed to be his place of escape.  John was not pleased with the distraction happening to his right – but eventually there was a point in the service that grabbed his attention in a profound way – communion. It was during communion he heard an invitation which said everyone was welcome – something he had never heard before, an invitation that sat at the center of the pain that brought him to drink at Humphrey’s that night in the first place. Something in that invitation moved John to come forward – and it became one of the only times in my life as a pastor that I’ve seen someone “accidently” come to church. What makes this story so meaningful to me is this is what BarChurch was created for, and the mission it set out to accomplish.

It’s with that story in my mind, and a heart full of emotions that we are announcing the end of weekend worship at BarChurch. We have realized that through several venues changes, shifting service times and other changing factors, that BarChurch was drifting further from its initial vision and purpose – to create spaces for people like John to experience the radical love of Jesus in new and unexpected ways. We believe that ending what we currently do, and reimagining it for the future, will give us the best chance of reaching college aged people well into the future.

Over the past academic year we’ve been able to witness numerous students coming to know the transformative power of Jesus and for that we are truly grateful. Watching students develop into leaders, interns, staff members and overall more deeply devoted follower of Jesus, has been an amazing joy and privilege to be a part of.

So what will The Gathering be doing for college-aged people moving forward? One amazing thing is that across the other 3 sites of The Gathering, many college-aged people are already actively participating in worship, and deeply engaging in what is happening at The Gathering. This year we will spend time figuring out how best to reimagine and re-engage our outreach specifically to this college aged students. Finally, we invite BarChurch regulars to worship at one of our other sites and join us in conversations about how we might do work like BarChurch in the future.

With all that said, here is what I hope to see happen in the season to come. My hope is that if you currently attend BarChurch, that you would join us this weekend for our farewell worship celebration. It will be a time to remember where we’ve come from, and to celebrate the close of an amazing season at BarChurch. If you attend any of our other sites – my request is that you join me in prayer. Pray for the ministry of The Gathering and the season that sits ahead of us. Pray for the college-age people in our congregation, and those yet to be connected within our city. Our hope and prayer remains that every college-aged person in STL would move into a deeper understanding that they are both intimately known, and deeply loved by God.

I look forward to wrapping up this season with my friends and family at BarChurch this weekend. Service will be at 6:00pm Sunday night, inside Café Ventata’s Annex. I look forward to seeing many of the familiar faces at BarChurch this Sunday night, as we celebrate the end of a season in style.


Danny Lybarger

BarChurch Site Pastor