A history of Jesus Burgers and revival: Isla Vista, CA

An arial view of “the loop” in Isla Vista in 1956

An arial view of “the loop” in Isla Vista in 1956

Isla Vista, CA

The City

1954 - 1969

After the University of California Santa Barbara, moved their campus to the Goleta mesa, students elected to live in the adjacent neighborhood of Isla Vista to avoid dormitory curfews and restrictions. As the city grew in population and was further developed, it quickly became known for its party scene.

guys at Deltopia.jpg

A Jesus Movement


Strongly influenced by the counter-cultural “hippie” movement, Isla Vista buzzed with a free-spirited attitude that pushed the boundaries of cultural norms and morals - with traces of this era still etched through the city. Yet, within this setting of spiritual hunger, the stage was set for a move of the Holy Spirit. Originating on the West Coast, the “Jesus Movement” swept through Isla Vista. Students were coming to Christ, being baptized in the ocean, and experiencing the presence of God. However, this movement faded away in the early 1980’s.

A photo of Del Playa Dr at night

A photo of Del Playa Dr at night





20 years later, a group of college aged kids, many of whom were from Calvary Chapel - a church born from the “Jesus Movement” in the late 60’s and 70’s - had an idea to reach the city of Isla Vista through a BBQ. For four consecutive months, once a month, these students would host a BBQ in a local park then head to Del Playa to pray for people.

A photo from 2002 of the very first Jesus Burgers at the house on Del Playa, on Halloween night.

A photo from 2002 of the very first Jesus Burgers at the house on Del Playa, on Halloween night.


A house on Del Playa


As they continued to love the city through a simple BBQ, God opened a door to move into a house in the middle of Del Playa and continue to host a BBQ from the house. (Full story in Jesus Burgers: Volume 1 chapter 2.)


The name “Jesus Burgers”


With the BBQ moving from once a month to once a week, the students of Isla Vista began calling these people the “Jesus People” a term which evolved into “Jesus Burgers.” The name simply stuck.


Upper Room Worship


In the early years of Jesus Burgers, the time beforehand was devoted to praying for the night. Then in 2006, worship was casually incorporated into that time until, in 2009, worship beforehand became a vital part of the night. This time of worship became known as Upper Room, a 2 hour time of worship, prayer, and teaching before starting the grill around 10pm.

From this time of worship there have been two live worship albums, “Live from the Upper Room” and "Ryan Ellis Live from the Upper Room II”


The “Free Blessings” sign



In 2011, people from the Jesus Burger’s house made a large sign reading “free blessings” and started standing with it across the street from the Jesus Burger home. Students walking on the street would stop for prayer, a blessing, to ask questions, etc. This sign is a vital part of a night at Jesus Burgers to this day. At this sign, Hundreds have experienced God, given their life to Christ and been healed.


Present Day & Around the World

Today, Jesus Burgers is typically the largest party on Del Playa. Hundreds of people hang out in the house, in the front yard, in the street, and at the “Free Blessings” sign. We consistently host teams from ministry schools, Bible colleges, and churches, all to love and serve the city.

Furthermore, over the past decade, others have been inspired to reach their own community through something as simple as a burger. Similar outreach ministries have sprouted throughout the USA and other countries around the globe.