Pioneering in Denver
by John W. Kennedy12/2/2022 8:00:00 AM
Dan J. Gibson spent most of his childhood in Mexico City as the son of Assemblies of God world missionaries Jerry and Gwen Gibson. He sensed a call to ministry himself at 15, and figured he would spend his life south of the U.S. border, the only context he knew.
Gibson graduated from Northwest University, the Assemblies of God school in Kirkland, Washington. He served a Chi Alpha Campus Missionary-in-Training internship at Stanford University in California. At the top-tier school, Gibson had the opportunity to invest in many future influencers.
Halfway through the internship in 2009, Gibson married Kayla Blair. The couple had met at Westminster Community Church in Shoreline, Washington, where Kayla served on the youth staff. In 2010, the Gibsons joined a team headed by Brad Novosad in pioneering Chi Alpha at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs. In 2013, they became directors at the school, a role they maintained the next six years.
Still, the Gibsons felt they needed to learn more about team building, so in 2019 they moved to Fort Collins to help U.S. missionary Nate Banke, who had planted the Chi Alpha at Colorado State University a decade before. Dan served as diversity program director. Even though the Gibsons had three preschool-aged children at the time, Kayla decided to do a CMIT.
“Even though what seemed inconvenient at the time — with having three kids and learning what full time was like again — I now see the value of it,” says Kayla, 35. “It was a sweet time being with younger interns, learning what true community was like. It helped us grow as parents and as a couple.”
Although she grew up in the Fellowship, went on missions trips, participated in Fine Arts competitions, and felt called to ministry at 15, Kayla instead graduated from cosmetology school and worked at a salon for a living.
“Being on the Stanford campus and jumping into Dan’s world was so overwhelming I felt like I could never minister to students there,” Kayla remembers. “My involvement in campus ministry, while minimal initially, gradually grew until my full-time involvement at Colorado Springs. The details of life are so different than what I expected, in a challenging way.”
At a prayer retreat, the Gibsons sought direction for their next step in ministry. They sensed the Lord impressing Proverbs 24:11 upon them — to rescue the perishing. Subsequently, they felt the Lord calling them to plant a Chi Alpha at the University of Denver, a school with 13,856 students. The chapter opened in September. Chad and Kendall Stogner — who served as interns with Kayla at Colorado State in 2019-20 — also are on the team. Like Stanford, the University of Denver is a prestigious private research school.
Whatever the collegiate setting, Gibson, a U.S. missionary, believes students are hungry for deep, caring friendships that Chi Alpha can provide.
“This generation is addicted to the phone, the clicks, the likes, having a curated life on Instagram and TikTok,” says Gibson, 36. “There is little depth to their relationships.”
But he expects to find students receptive to offers of a homey atmosphere.
“Community will be a key element of our ministry,” Dan says. “We can invite students into our home.” The Gibsons’ three children are Bennett, 8; Brielle, 7; and Brynlee, 4.
Banke, 40, notes that eight Chi Alpha chapters have been planted in Colorado in the past decade.
“We’re all about ministries making ministries,” says Banke, who serves as state Chi Alpha director in Colorado. He believes the Gibsons, assisted by their close friends the Stogners, who share similar convictions, will be effective pioneers at the University of Denver.
“Dan Gibson is high quality,” Banke says. “His experience — both working at the elite Stanford as well as other pioneering efforts in the past — prepares him well.”
Banke doesn’t think Gibson will have difficulty adjusting to the potentially antagonistic environment.
“Dan is conscientious to ministering in a lot of different cultural dynamics,” says Banke, noting his protégé’s missionary kid origins. “His ability to be sensitive in sharing the gospel connects with people in a relational way. Students can tell he cares about them.”
After serving for 24 years in Mexico as an AG world missionary, Jerry Gibson now is national director of Chi Alpha’s Church Partnership Initiative to connect AG congregations to plant chapters on campuses.