Fivers encourage campus community to grow in faith

Fivers, weekly ministry “mini-series,” provide an opportunity for Grove City College students, faculty, and staff to engage with each other outside the classroom to grow and sustain their Christian faith.

The educator-led, five week programs – from which they get their names – were launched in 2022 as part of an intentional overhaul of the College’s signature Chapel Program by the Christian Formation Office.

“We set out to give students more options to fulfill the chapel requirement so that they could choose what might be most beneficial to them,” said Dr. Donald D. Opitz, College chaplain and senior director of Christian Formation.

Full time Grove City College students must earn 12 Chapel credits each semester. Fivers, offered at 11 a.m. Fridays during time set aside from the academic schedule for formation, are one of several ways that they can. While some Fivers are reminiscent of traditional Bible studies, many of the programs involve other texts, the practice of Christian disciplines, and the exploration of Christian implications for life in the workplace and the world.

Each Fiver is developed and led by faculty and staff, which is key to the intent and effectiveness of the program, according to Opitz.

“Research on faith formation during the college years tells us that a good relationship with Christian faculty who are able to articulate what they believe, why it is relevant, and how they sustain it is key to the faith-formation of students. Every educator that I have talked to has enjoyed the opportunity, and this initiative has been very well-received by students as well,” he said.

“The collaborative relationships that fivers foster inspire students to engage the truth of the gospel and reckon with its implications for their lives,” said Joseph Cirelli, associate dean of Student Life & Learning. “This is no small feat, and when it occurs, spiritual growth takes place. I have witnessed this growth firsthand as students have come to better know the God of the universe as the One knows them better, loves them more, and care more deeply than they could ever know.”

Over the course of the academic year, the College offers about 50 different Fivers, with more than 500 students and 30 faculty and staff involved.

“Fivers have been great opportunities to engage students around the common faith that bonds us, breaking down some of the distinctions of faculty and student to focus on our humanity under God,” said Dr. Adam J. Loretto ’05, associate professor of English. A Fiver he led this spring dove into the grand narrative of the Bible and how it explains who God is, His creation and plan for the world and His people, the Fall, Christ’s redemption, the Church’s mission, and ultimate restoration.

"I am a big fan of the program and think Fivers have been a tremendous blessing for the community,” said Professor of History Dr. Jason R. Edwards, who just finished a Fiver discussing Rosario Butterfield’s book “Five Lies of our Anti-Christian Age.”

Students are equally effusive. “I think Fivers are a great alternative because they allow students to join in a discussion with a smaller group of people. They are another way to connect with the student body of GCC’s campus,” said Anna Forrest, a sophomore English and Sociology major from Manassas Park, Va., who recently finished a Fiver on 1 Kings led by Dr. Julie C. Moeller ’93, professor of Biblical and Religious Studies.

Fiver topics cover myriad topics. Earlier this semester, Assistant Professor of Spanish Dr. April M. Knupp, led students in a devotional reading, prayer, and songs of praise in Spanish, giving students a chance to worship in another language.

Mathematics professors Dr. Remi Drai and Dr. Steven T. Flanders led a Fiver together on “The Mysteries of God and Us,” which looked at God’s mysteries as revealed in Scriptures. Sophomore English major Taryn Chan of Aliso Viejo, Calif., appreciated their approach. “I find them engaging since we are discussing fallen angels, a topic rarely discussed in the Christian circles I am used to.”

Director of Student Care Mandie McCreadie ’04 offered “Beyond Survival,” a women-only Fiver she said was intended to get young women out of “survival mode” and pursue God’s truth through His word and wisdom. “Fivers have been successful in bringing together students that would not have ordinarily crossed paths and students have been engaged, desiring to take their faith to the next level,” McCreadie said.

Hudson Hadley, a freshman Computer Science major from Leesburg, Va., said he favors the Fivers approach to faith formation. “It can be much easier to have discussion and make things more personal in a smaller setting. They encourage personal growth much more instead of it simply being something we feel like we have to attend,” he said.

There are other opportunities to worship and learn besides attending a Fiver on Formation, such as the all-campus Bible Study, which draws about 200 students, or the Prayer Gathering in Harbison Chapel that draws 600 students. Other weekly Chapel credit opportunities include Worship Wednesday services and Faith for Life lectures, which are designed to challenge students to consider the implications of their faith for life, work, and culture.

Fivers encourage campus community to grow in faith

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