Music passed through the closed doors to the Winebrenner Theological Seminary auditorium at the University of Findlay. Revive, the worship session held every Thursday night in Winebrenner, was in motion during the Jan. 16 service. The warm air inside provided relief from the bitter cold night outside.
From the many groups that the Campus Ministries sponsors and the Bible studies and worship sessions that are held on campus, the ministry is an understated force at the University of Findlay. That force was on full display during this particular service.
The lights were low, the space almost pitch black and the only illuminating light on the crowd came from the yellowing bulbs shining on the musicians and the lyric video on the giant screen.
The unison voices of the crowd were overpowered by the singers on stage. The worship band played every song. The guitarist, overcome with emotion, stopped playing and outstretched his hands, rejoicing in the worship. There were many familiar faces in the crowd that attended the co-ed Bible study during the early week.
Placed on the chair is a bucket of multi-colored pens that had also shown up at the co-ed bible study that Tuesday.
Director of Campus Ministries, Pastor Matt Ginter, was in attendance, staying back from the crowd, watching the session progress.
Sometime in the middle of the service, Ginter spoke to the crowd about Spring Break Work Trips and leadership sessions they have available to any student wishing to participate. Ginter says Campus Ministries focuses a lot on leadership development.
“I think I’ve appreciated seeing students try to find areas where they’re passionate…” Ginter said, “Finding areas in where they have a passion and they’re willing, they’re interested in learning more about how they can share that passion and do so in a way that can help to stimulate faith conversations.”
Ginter said Revive was “pretty small” when he first started working for the University in 2010.
“There were 12 students on Thursday night and four or five on the stage…” Ginter said. “We saw some pretty big jumps the first couple years. It’s leveled out a little bit more, but we’d see the average pushing like 175 [students],” adding, “[In the] First weeks of the fall semester we’ve seen like 300 students’ll come out.”
The band played their last song and the lights were flipped on. A man named John spoke to the audience for about 20 minutes about the theme of that particular service– “stubbornness,” with a focus on Balaam’s donkey. After he was finished, the band played the rest of the night away and the pizza was offered at the end of the service.
Revive isn’t the only option for UF students looking to connect on a spiritual level.
This particular Bible study is located across town, about 10 minutes from campus in a neighborhood tucked away from the city road. The Bible study is scheduled for every other Monday, and this Monday night was no different.
In slightly warmer but still chilly weather, the attendees gathered in the living room of the host’s home to play a game to start off the night.
The large group split into two groups to eat in separate dining rooms not long after dinner was announced. Both rooms were filled with laughter and jovial conversation as they ate.
Javier Ramos, University of Findlay alumni who has attended this Bible study for about two years, seemed especially comfortable in this home as he made joking comments with many other participants throughout the night. The group— a little over a dozen people, mostly students– ranging from seniors in high school to college graduates, had a banter with each other that would come alive when given some downtime between the bible study.
“This is actually a larger non-summer group, this group is aimed more for college students, which makes it harder in the fall, winter, spring when everyone’s off to their respective schools,” Ramos said. “Not everybody goes here [to Findlay], there’s students who go all the way to Indiana, I mean who are hours away and who just coming on Mondays and [it’s] feasible.”
There were a few new faces in the crowd as everyone gathered back in the living room a bit after dinner. Just about everyone fit into the warm, yellow living room with a few couches, large brown beanbag and floor space for everyone to scooch into. Each person gave their name and one thing they were looking forward to as everyone sat in the haphazardly shaped circle in the living room.
“And when they do come back,” Ramos added, “It’s like they never left.”
Some of the crowd hung back after the Bible study ended. It didn’t end officially, with the hosts announcing that it was time to go, but some people trickled out the door into the night and some people stuck into the side room to talk a little longer.
Whether the Bible study across town or the worship service on campus, participants ended with fellowship and casual conversation. The cool nighttime waited for them when they finally got going. In many ways, both services are similar in that they are offered to college-aged students. And those aren’t the only two options for UF students. There are several other Bible studies on campus including Beyond the Barns, Men’s and Women’s respective Bible studies, Co-Ed Bible studies, and another for athletes.
Students at the University of Findlay can find many ways to participate in Christianity and to express their spirituality. All of the clubs are open to any student looking for a place to learn about Christ and study the Bible. The off-campus Bible study is open to any student or college-aged person.
They can always come back the next week or the week after to sit in and participate once they shake off the cold.