The Bridge is Elizabeth's youth ministry, serving the youth and families of the city for over a decade.
Carlos Cedeño was given leadership over the youth ministry of Christ Fellowship church early in the year 2000. At the time there were only four leaders in the program: Carlos Cedeño, Jennifer (Alves) Cedeño, Brian Mayfield, and William Hartz. The average weekly attendance was between 8 and 10 teenagers. Looking to start something new, the leaders met and decided on a new name for the youth ministry: The Bridge.
The Bridge first opened it's doors on June 02, 2000. Since we had no building of our own, we met in a small rented room in the 2nd Presbyterian Church on E. Jersey St. This building would be home to The Bridge for several years.
As time went on, the Bridge began to grow. In November 2002, we noticed that most of the teenagers who were coming to The Bridge all lived within a fairly short radius of where we were meeting on E. Jersey St. Since Elizabeth is such a large city in New Jersey, we knew we were not reaching our maximum potential and influence with teenagers across the city, and we began to dream.
What if we had other locations in different parts of the City of Elizabeth where teenagers from those areas could come and learn who they were and who God is and what they could accomplish together? And so, we opened The Bridge: Elmora on April 04, 2003, in a rented room of another church: the Elmora Presbyterian Church on Magie Ave.
The experiment worked, and new students from the Elmora area of Elizabeth began attending The Bridge! And so, we continued to replicate and add new Bridges as the opportunities arose and we were able to do so.
Eventually we moved from renting out other churches and began to work with the public school system to use their gymnasiums for our Friday programs. Over the years we have opened many different Bridge locations. Some have grown wildly, some have transitioned to new locations, and some have had to close. But every Bridge that meets, regardless of what school they are in or what the culture of their area is like, follows the same structure and vision as all the other Bridges.
Our leadership team has grown over the years, with new people coming on and several students who have grown up though the ministry remaining to share Jesus with the next generation. Today, The Bridge has six different locations: Elmora in School 12, Downtown in School 07, North Elizabeth in School 18, South Elmora in School 19, Twenty-Three in School 23, and Uptown in School 16. We have also developed various programs to benefit our community if different ways, including: The Mission - a week long community service project that takes place every summer, A Helping Hand - an on-going project where our students can go out and serve their community as needs arise every month, BYMC - an annual youth conference, the BBA - a free high school boys basketball league, and many more.
On July 27, 2014, Carlos Cedeño, our founder, changed positions in the church and became the senior pastor of Christ Fellowship of Elizabeth. His 14 years of service and leadership to The Bridge has helped to make it what it is today, and we are excited for the new season and new adventures that await us in the years to come.
This year will be our 18th year as a ministry. We started with not much else than a simple mission statement: "Uniting the hearts of youth with the heart of God." We have done our best to remain faithful to that mission since the beginning.