David Hickman ’02 entered Montreat College with one thing, and one thing only on his mind: baseball. His academic career came second in his estimation, and when his advisors counseled him to choose a major his sophomore year, he surprised himself by choosing something out of his comfort zone. The Bible and Religion major, some might say, chose him. The following three years were spent under the discipleship of Montreat’s staff and faculty, a time that shaped the rest of his life’s course and revealed a calling and a passion for a life of ministry that David would continue later in life.
In 2006, George Barna published a study indicating that 70% of college graduates who considered themselves to be Christians, were not going to church. David, serving as a young adult pastor at a church in Charlotte, NC at the time, was seeing this reality manifested. The city of Charlotte had seen a burgeoning number of young professionals, but few could be found in the more than 800 area churches. David began contacting church leaders to see if they would be willing to work together on an outreach effort for this population.
CharlotteONE sprang out of this collaboration. It is a multi-church effort involving 48 congregations, created to reach adults in their twenties and thirties for Christ by plugging them into local faith communities. “We exist to give people away to the local church. We’re not a church, or even a para-church. This is Christ’s community in Charlotte recognizing a need and meeting it together,” David explains.
The results of his efforts speak volumes: 48% have connected to a local church through Hickman’s program; 31% were introduced to Jesus Christ, and an astonishing 78% have chosen to remain in Charlotte due to the connections they made through CharlotteONE.
While the inspiration for the project remains the same: to serve young professionals in the area without a church community to call home, the impact of Hickman’s initiative has not been restricted to one demographic. City leaders have taken an interest in his ministry, and have partnered with CharlotteONE to create a movement of citywide service. Members of the CharlotteONE family can be found working many Saturdays beautifying the city, providing school supplies to low income children and giving out shoes to the needy.
David Hickman’s prayer, and CharlotteONE’s mission statement, “Let them be one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as much as you have loved me,” (John 17:23) has truly become a reality. And because of CharlotteONE’s success, the City One Network was established in 2011, encouraging other urban churches to use the same model of collaboration to reach young professionals. PhoenixONE began in the spring of 2011.
David continues to reside in Charlotte with his wife Monica and their two sons Ryan and Cole.