River Terrace Christian Reformed Church in Lansing, Mich., recently hosted 71 students for its seventh Midnight Breakfast. Located just west of campus, the church has opened its doors for students the Monday of finals week each term since May 2015.
From 7 p.m. on April 30 to to 1 a.m. the next day, students could study in quiet rooms in the church’s lower level or play volleyball or basketball upstairs in the gym. At 10 p.m., Ken Bieber announced through a bullhorn: “Time for breakfast, everyone!,” as students gathered for the meal in the fellowship hall. Bieber, pastor of outreach and discipleship at River Terrace, offered a prayer before the meal, including a blessing for the graduating seniors. Cheerful church volunteers in green aprons then served piles of pancakes and bacon, mounds of scrambled eggs, and pans of cinnamon rolls.
Bieber said the goal for the midnight breakfasts is “for Christian and non-Christian students to experience the love of Christ through the hospitality of the church.”
The idea came out of a shared experience that Bieber and Dave Ruark, a member of River Terrace, had in their own undergrad days in Kalamazoo, Mich., when an area church had hosted a similar event.
Bieber said the April 30 event had the largest group of students yet, including many first-time attendees. In addition to word-of-mouth advertising and promotion through Christian student groups, this year they advertised through Facebook, which brought in 25-35 percent of the students this term.
“It’s a good place to study and there’s food. That’s how you woo college students anywhere,” said 2018 Michigan State University graduate Katelyn Gutwein, who attends River Terrace when in Lansing. Gutwein has attended all seven Midnight Breakfasts. “I think it is a great outreach opportunity,” she said, “if only to get more people to know that there is a church there…to see what they have, and how much they care about the students.”
The event is a great way to help students “end the year on a high note,” said Bieber. “The students are really grateful.”