Joe Cox, Director of Covenant College Ministry, levels the playing field between cultures, genders and socio-economic statuses. Using a small group model, mentorship and worship, Joe helps college students looking for a church home find a social, connected community at Coastal Fog Coffee Shop.
“It’s Paul in Corinth,” Joe said. “It’s the marketplace. This is where [Paul] did the bulk of his ministry in places just like this because it leveled the playing field of different cultures and different genders.”
For the past four years, Covenant College Ministries met on the campus of East Carolina University. Joe described it as a set-up/tear-down campus in the campus’ recital hall with excellent acoustics, great lobby, arena seating and plenty of parking. The building was every church planter’s dream, but Joe’s team discovered that the location created a barrier between university and community college students.
“[We found that] when you go to a community college, you’re a ‘have not,’ but at a university, you’re a ‘have,’” Joe said.
Although the church averaged 60-70 people each Sunday, small groups were averaging 105-110 students throughout the week.
“The more money we [were] spending on Sunday mornings, the more training and energy, it’s like we’re pushing something that we’re not seeing the results that we want,” Joe said. “The Hallmark stories of transformation are coming out of our small groups.”
After attending Asbury Seminary’s Church Planting Fellowship that talked about innovation, entrepreneurship, and marketplace ministry, Covenant Church decided to do church differently.
Starting in Fall 2018, the Covenant College Church will re-direct its focus from weekly church services to weekly small group discipleship. The weekly small groups point to Lift, a larger, monthly worship service at Coastal Fog, a coffee shop that is part of an interior design company. Weekly services will be available at the neighboring Winterville Campus.