It smells like banana bread, but it isn’t.
Each week, the aroma of freshly-baked “squash bread” reminds senior Monicah Wanjiru of Bible study.
“This scent is associated with this Bible study because I have had it every week faithfully since freshman year,” Wanjiru said.
Many Hillsdale students, like Wanjiru, have found community within various groups studying scripture on campus.
For the past four years, Wanjiru has attended a weekly scripture-based study with fellow students led by Robert Snyder, a lecturer in religion at Hillsdale College and associate pastor at Countryside Bible Church in Jonesville, Michigan. The Bible study, which has grown from a small group of around seven to a gathering of almost 30 students, is affectionately called “Pastor Bob’s Bible study,” and is hosted weekly at a student-owned house on West Street called “The Nest.”
“I don’t know how people hear about it, probably just through word of mouth,” Wanjiru said. “But once you get there, you’ll probably want to come back.”
InterVarsity is a “witnessing community” that gathers in numerous forms across campus to learn more about Christ and to share him with others, Campus Staff Minister Hannah Weikart ’15 said. The organization runs 33 Bible studies on campus.
“Our desire is to see Bible studies happen in places where people already trust each other,” Weikart said. “We want to see Jesus become central to people’s lives. A big part of that is how he is central to our relationships.”
The InterVarsity Bible studies take place in Greek houses, among sports teams, and in other communities throughout campus, such as dorms and arts groups.
“Instead of just starting a Bible study and saying whoever wants to come, can come, starting a Bible study in a sorority, you’re going to get a higher level of trust among those people already, and application can be so much deeper because you don’t have to build that trust first,” Weikart said.
During her own time at Hillsdale, Weikart took part in an InterVarsity Bible study at Pi Beta Phi sorority.
“My Bible study experiences were up and down,” Weikart said. “I went to a lot of not-the-best Bible studies, and I think that led me to want to come on staff, because you can see the potential of what a Bible study can be.”
She said helping and equipping Christians to witness more effectively is the best way to reach people who don’t know how they feel about Jesus.
“My heart has always been for people who don’t know God, and making sure that they have a space where they can question scripture where they can engage with it and be honest about where they are,” Weikart said.
Junior Chris Sturges is the chaplain of Delta Tau Delta and uses the Greek InterVarsity curriculum to run a weekly Bible study for the men in his fraternity, although he said he rearranged the curriculum a lot to reflect where DTD is and where he wanted it to go.
“The main thing that I saw a lot in the house was two different sets of guys: one of them that were firmly founded in their faith and wanted to grow more, and one who wanted to figure out where they’re at,” Sturges said. “I wanted to meet them wherever they are.”
Sturges said he challenged all the men in his fraternity to make a commitment to delve more into their spiritual life, which has led to about half of DTD joining Sturges’s weekly study.
For the next four weeks, the group will study scripture in the context of Delt’s four pillars of Truth, Courage, Faith, and Power.
“What we are doing is examining a scripture passage and trying to figure out what scripture has to say about these things and how it connects to how we use these pillars,” Sturges said.
Students find Bible studies to help them engage with scripture when they might not be able to do so on their own.
“I love it because reading scripture can be very daunting for me, especially because my temptation is to sort of go through it very quickly and try to get more quantity over quality,” said Olivia Brady, who leads a women’s scripture study through Catholic Society.
Brady is a member of the society’s Outreach Board, and she leads women in a scriptural reading approach called Lectio Divina each week. Lectio Divina, which is Latin for “Divine Reading,” is a devotion from the Benedictine order and guides people through reading, meditation, and prayer through scripture.
“The point is for it to be slow and meditative and prayerful and not necessarily just starting out the discussion the right way,” Brady said.
She opens up her group to women of all backgrounds. They study the following Sunday’s gospel reading, which allows for her group to function without the ongoing commitment of a scripture study that studies a specific book.
“As a student at Hillsdale, studying scripture is a great way to make time for prayer,” Brady said. “Because of all the anxiety of stress, that state of mind wasn’t really conducive to open prayer, for me. So having myself step aside and take 10 minutes even to look at a few verses and meditate on that and have that be the template and inspiration for my prayer was really helpful.”
Weikart emphasized the importance of Hillsdale students in particular engaging in Bible studies.
“The culture of Hillsdale is often performance, and I want the culture of Bible study to be honesty,” she said. “That’s really hard to crack.”
Wanjiru’s study with Pastor Bob this semester has been going through the book of the Colossians. She said being reminded “God himself is our peace,” helps her throughout her faith journey.
“This semester we’ve been talking a lot about identity in Christ,” Wanjiru said. “This school is very performance oriented, a lot of people are defined by GPA and leading different clubs…so we’ve been talking a lot about what Colossians says about identity and how that is wrapped around our identity, which is in Christ and in him alone. Everything is secondary to his glory.”