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Urban Church Leadership Center

Our Story


Gatherings of Hope (GOH) is a collaborative of congregational leaders and learning communities in Grand Rapids, Michigan. We provide material support, educational opportunities, and coaching to local congregations as they work to deepen their leadership skills, strengthen their families, and increase their impact on their neighborhoods.

From mid-2006 through 2007, the Calvin College Center for Social Research, the Grand Valley State University Community Research Institute, and the Doug and Maria DeVos Foundation conducted a comprehensive study of Kent County religious congregations. The study had four purposes:

  1. To document the social and educational services that Kent County congregations provide.
  2. To collect demographic and contextual information about religious leaders, congregations, as well as their civic and community engagement.
  3. To facilitate comparison of Kent County to the nation.
  4. To estimate the “replacement value” of the top three social or educational services provided by each congregation.

In November 2008, they produced a report titled, Gatherings of Hope: How Religious Congregations Contribute to the Quality of Life in Kent County. This recommendation from the text sums it up:

“As gatherings of hope, religious congregations have a major role to play in improving the lives of children and families in Kent County… By finding ways to enhance the leadership and organizational capacity of its congregations, a most valuable asset, Kent County can advance the future health and well-being of its residents.”

It is from that determination that Gatherings of Hope was born and we received our mission: look at the work of the Church, see where there is life, see where there is need, and go there to offer our support.

Where we want to forge connections:

  • among leaders of diverse denominations and cultural backgrounds
  • between pastors and their leadership
  • between parents and children
  • between churches and the public schools in their neighborhoods
  • between churches and area seminaries
  • between churches and area cultural institutions

When you draw a map that not only pinpoints our partner churches, but also draw lines connecting them with the schools and community organization they partner with, you would see a web that will grow to cover the entire city of Grand Rapids.

These connections fuel all our initiatives and our attitude towards our work. There is so much wisdom in our community and so much desire to make a difference, but also so many overwhelmed and struggling congregations. We partner with churches and learning institutions to strengthen congregations, to inspire healthy families, and to forge learning communities that can support each other.