The Gathering was a movement begun by Dr. John Tolson in 1978. Alarmed by the lack of spiritual direction men were providing for their families and the alarmingly low number of men attending church, John 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 the Outreach Breakfasts, where a dynamic, nationally known speaker would present a winsome message with an evangelistic thrust. Typically 500 to 2000 men would attend, including business, professional and government leaders in the community.
The organization was officially formed in 1987 in Orlando, when Larry Kreider came on board as the President. Laymen from a number of cities were trained to setup and run a Gathering of Men in their own city. The Gathering has worked closely with local churches and encouraged men to get involved in the church of their choice. Bible study/luncheons and small groups were developed to help men grow further in their Christian walk. Several resource books for small groups were published and a video, called Children in Rage, Fathers of Hope was produced to promote fathering skills and Dads and Moms That Make a Difference seminars started. A short-term social outreach, called 50 Good Men, was begun to encourage men to give back to their community. In addition, short-term mission trips began and a missions ministry, MasterWorks, came under The Gathering umbrella, under the name Mission Emanuel. The Gathering also developed with Promise Keepers an accredited seminary level program to train pastors and others on How to Develop a Men's Ministry in the Church. John Tolson also became a regular speaker for the PK stadium events. As the new century began, The Gathering started a Gathering of Women ministry and in 2003, a discipleship program, The Four Priorities, was launched and now a workbook by the same title is available for small groups.
Most of the Gathering ministries are run by volunteer laymen across the country, but we do have full time staff in Orlando, Florida; West Palm Beach, Florida; Columbus, Ohio; Houston, Texas; and Los Angeles, California. In some other cities, a paid director is secunded to The Gathering from another organization.
President & CEO
Larry Kreider is a native of Colorado and has lived in the Orlando area since 1987. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas and has attended Reformed Theological Seminary.
He serves on the boards of several civic and ministry organizations including Venture Middle East. He is the former President of Greater Orlando Leadership Foundation and part of the faculty of "Success That Matters Seminars" sponsored by Man In The Mirror Ministries. He is on the steering committee of the National Coalition of Men's Ministries and was one of the founding members. He is author of Bottom Line Faith published by Tyndale House, and teaches a seminary course, "Men's Ministry in the Church."
Since John's move to Dallas, Larry has taken over the teaching of BASICS Sunday School Class at First Presbyterian Church/Orlando. Larry and his wife, Susan, have two grown children, Brett and Erica and five grandsons. He enjoys golf and video production.
Founder and Chairman of The Board
Dr. John Tolson is a nationally renowned teacher, speaker and author who has spent more than 30 years making a profound impact on the lives of others. As Founder and Chairman of High Impact Life, he oversees a collection of ministries across the country that specialize in outreach and discipleship training for adults and students.
Of his many leadership roles, Tolson is also the Founder and Chairman of the Board for The Gathering USA, Inc., a national outreach movement formed in 1978 that teaches men leadership principles and motivates them to be active in their families, churches and communities. Through Tolson's Gathering ministry, about a half million men in 16 U.S. cities (and soon to begin in South Africa) have been mentored and served. The Gathering has developed a following among many prominent business, professional and government leaders nationwide.