It’s not required you go to Smokey Bones before attending Bible class on Wednesday night with the Eastside church of Christ in Bowling Green, Kentucky, but we discovered first hand it wouldn’t hurt. We’d heard good things about this congregation, because several of the young people who grew up in our congregation or around the Northwest had gone to school at Western Kentucky University. In fact, if you are looking at colleges, you might want to consider this part of the country, especially if being around a lot of other young Christians is a priority. And it should be. Furthermore, if you are a congregation in or near a college or university, you may want to consider, if you’ve not already, implementing an outreach similar to what the congregation in Bowling Green has accomplished. Just one glance at their website shows the thought they’ve put into how they can best support the challenges of the WKU students who worship at Eastside. At the time of the writing of the book, the student section of the congregation’s website read like so:
"...Do you have a student attending or planning to come to college?
Our goal is to spiritually support your student as they experience college life, some away from home for the first time. As students enter college, they have greater independence, responsibility, and new-found freedom to make their own choices. The Christians at Eastside realize the greatest choice a student can make is whether they will serve the Lord or the world (Joshua 24:15, Matthew 22:37-39).
The local church serves as a haven of refuge against the assaults of Satan (Ephesians 4:14-16). Eastside is devoted to providing a place to worship, work, and grow using the inspired word of God as our source of authority in all we do in our service to Him. All sermons and many of our classes are posted on this website, a great spiritual resource. Eastside is the closest congregation to campus at 1706 Smallhouse Road and individual members can provide transportation when needed.
Opportunities for Growth
We encourage every student to become a member of the Eastside family where they can work, serve and be knit together with fellow Christians (Colossians 2:2). We are blessed to have a large group of students who are dedicated to providing support and encouragement to others.
Bible studies - Sunday 9:25 and Wednesday at 7:00 pm. There is a planned class each semester, following the university calendar, for college-age students. They are encouraged to attend and participate in these classes which are taught by experienced teachers of God's word.
Worship services - 10:25 and 5:00 pm on Sunday.
Monthly Singing - The 3rd Friday night of every month. Christians from surrounding congregations as well as out-of-state join us to sing praises to God.
Adopt-a-Student - This program encourages greater communication and involvement with the "resident" families and existing students to help bridge the transition from home to college.
Every Christian is encouraged to develop their talents to serve others. Men are asked to lead in public worship while women are given the opportunity to teach in our Bible class program.
Individual/small group studies - Various Bible subjects taught by different members of all ages and coordinated by the elders, are available.
There are Gospel meetings and special series throughout the year that focus on specific needs of the students as well as members of all ages.
I was especially interested in the efforts the students make to share the word of God on campus, so I looked online a little to see what I could discover on their Facebook page, and found the “all guys” or “all girls” options for on campus Bible studies, which seemed a bonus for individuals with that preference.
The following is a sample of how they advertised their efforts on Facebook to potential attendees:
Hello everyone! We are excited about many opportunities to study God's Word for what it is on WKU's campus! These studies are open to anyone and everyone, so please join us! Here are the options on the different days, including the location, time, and the book that will be studied. These will begin the second week of classes
Monday: All welcome, 2nd floor DSU, 7:30pm, 1 Timothy
Tuesday: All welcome, TBD, 7:30pm, Ephesians
Thursday: All Guys' Study, 2nd floor DSU, 7:30pm, Acts
All Girls' Study, 2nd floor DSU, 8:00pm, Ecclesiastes
If you have any questions or these times don't work for you and you would still like to study God's Word, message us on Facebook or contact us through our website (http://bit.ly/openbiblewku)..."
I wanted to know more of the details of how the members at the Eastside congregation made this fly, so I called and chatted with the preacher, Bob McPherson, to get those details, and learned the following: In terms of the red tape of initial set up, it goes without saying every college and university will have various processes in place for permissions and recognition of a group (for example, some require a name), use of university rooms, tables and other equipment during classes or various events where a table can be set up to invite others to join one’s group or club.
Before the semester even begins, one young man at the Eastside congregation volunteers to head up the Open Bible Study and asks the help of several other young men who are also willing to learn to teach some of the classes. The students leading the studies have chosen for themselves which material they want to study--- most often a section of scripture, rather than a specific Bible topic. They carefully explore the text in a class with the local preacher, deeply studying those sections that require special focus and anticipate questions that may surface. Since truth is found when ALL of God’s words are added up on any given topic, or as the Psalmist put it, “The SUM of Thy word is truth.” (Psalm 119:160), they consider other passages throughout the Bible around the topics in their chosen text to help students avoid common misinterpretations when those other passages fail to be taken into account.
There’s a job for everyone at the campus Open Bible Study. An artistic sister in Christ might create an announcement to hang on a board at a kiosk. Another might use colorful chalk on the sidewalk to do the same. Still another might head up the efforts to get the word out on social media. And one semester ahead of time, not only teachers, but class attendees are invited to sit in on the studies alongside the young men who will lead the discussions publicly the next semester, that way they will have more to offer in terms of participation during class.
Because the classes are Livestreamed on Facebook, the seeds of truth are broadcasted potentially into good soil (Matthew 13) beyond those physically present on the campus. Another potential this on campus effort creates is opportunities to have one on one Bible classes with receptive souls on campus who may have an interest in specific Bible topics not on the present agenda.
Has the work on campus been fruitful? It must be fruitful, for when sown, the word of God never returns unto Him void, but accomplishes that which He pleases:
“Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” Isaiah 55:6-12.
Success is measured by how many times the seeds of truth are planted. One of the most notable fruits of these efforts is that student leaders and attendees come out of the experience more knowledgeable about what God has spoken on numerous subjects, and are more bold for Christ and more confident in publicly delivering divine truths. They come out of this experience more bonded for having accomplished something challenging together.
In order to build a culture of continuity toward the long term good of the future souls attending Western Kentucky University, at the end of each volunteer’s tenure as a volunteer, they choose and train their own replacements so the “next generation” of student leaders passing through the college, can also receive the blessings reserved for those fulfilling their mission for having made a difference for good to the glory of God.
“...there will be … glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does good.” (Romans 2:9-10)
Let’s pray that more congregations in college and university towns will consider this approach to reach the mind and hearts that are often searching for wisdom during the formative college years and to grow the leadership skills of the young Christian men in their locale.
Eastside Church of Christ
1706 Smallhouse Road
Bowling Green, KY 42104