There’s an experiment going on at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich. But this one’s not in the science hall. Campus Ministry @ GVSU, a joint outreach of the Christian Reformed Church and the Reformed Church in America to Grand Valley’s 25,000 students, has ended its Sunday morning worship services to start a new Monday night ministry a dozen miles away in downtown Grand Rapids.
Previously the campus ministry held both morning and evening Sunday worship gatherings known as The Well with about 200 students attending each service. But as more and more students began moving to the Grand Rapids campus as part of their academic programs, there was an increasing desire for a similar sense of Christian community there.
“We saw a need and an opportunity,” said Scott Stark, one of two GVSU campus ministers. “We recognized that students are moving downtown, and they are moving there sooner rather than later.”
In September the ministry launched The Well Downtown, a worship gathering held Monday nights in the basement of Gold Avenue CRC in Grand Rapids. Around 60 students have been attending, many of whom had not previously been involved with the Campus Ministry @ GVSU. “We did not expect how much students were really hungry for this,” Stark said. “By God’s grace this has really become something.”
Back at the Allendale campus, students are encouraged to spend Sunday mornings worshiping in local churches. Campus Ministry @ GVSU arranges transportation to nearby congregations that have supported the ministry; it strives to foster connections between these churches and the campus.
For some, particularly the upper-class students, “it’s worked really well,” Stark said. First-year students have been slower to embrace the change, and staff will spend the next months considering how to address the issue.
The Sunday evening gathering of The Well is still going strong. Said Stark, “We wanted students to still [worship] on campus and connect with other students as well. We continue to put a lot of energy into it.”