Student senate develops new church directory for students

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Calvin College does not offer a school-run church service on Sunday mornings. Many students wish to attend a church service on Sunday mornings, but are unsure of what their options are.

Many students look for local churches to attend and be involved in. This is not always easy for underclassmen, especially students coming to Calvin from outside West Michigan. In an effort to assist such students, student senate is aiming to put together a detailed church directory that will be published on senate’s website spring semester.

According to student senator Hannah Biggs, the directory has been a student senate project since the early fall.

“It was one of our ideas at the very beginning of the semester and has been taking shape ever since,” Biggs said. “We hope to have the page up and running by the beginning of second semester. At the moment we are looking for a designer for the page so that we can finish it over Interim.”

Biggs said student senate began the directory by sending surveys to the 125 churches listed in campus ministries’ church directory. There are 25 different types of churches included in the list, including different Protestant denominations and also several Catholic churches. The denomination with the most church listings is the Christian Reformed Church, because of the large number of CRC congregations in the Grand Rapids area.

Biggs said most of the churches are close to Calvin.

“Fifty-eight percent of the churches are within five miles of campus,” Biggs said, “and all but four of them are within 10 miles of campus.”

The survey student senate sent to these 125 churches included not only the typical questions about worship times and days, the address of the church and whether or not the church offers transportation from Calvin to the church, but also questions about the church’s style of worship and service options. The survey specifically asked what opportunities Calvin students would have to serve at the church, what specific ministries the church offers for college students and how the church defines its worship style.

Biggs said nearly all the churches responded with ways Calvin students could serve at each church. Fourteen churches offered transportation from Calvin to their church and many more offered transportation upon request.

Student senate also hopes to create profiles for each Jubilee Fellow currently involved in Calvin’s Jubilee Fellows program. The Jubilee Fellows program is a program that allows 12 students to partner specifically with Grand Rapids churches to learn about what it means to be involved in church ministry. Each fellow interns at a different church. A profile of each fellow would allow students to connect with the Jubilee Fellows and be more connected with Grand Rapids area churches.

Senior Jakkie Englund said she wished she had access to the forthcoming directory when she started at Calvin.

“I would’ve loved to have a directory as a freshman,” Englund said. “Being from out of state I didn’t know any of the churches in the area, so having them all listed in one place would’ve been really helpful. I ended up just tagging along with different people practically every week since I didn’t know the church options I had.”

Senior Beth Henkels disagreed with Englund. She said she doubted she would have utilized a church directory as a freshman or sophomore.

“I still would have relied more on word of mouth or the Internet than a directory,” Henkels said.

Freshman Jackson VanHaitsma has attended various churches almost every week since starting school. He chose the churches he attended based on recommendations from others. He said he would have probably chosen the churches based on recommendations rather than a directory, even if he had access to one.

“[A directory] would be somewhat helpful because it would let me find churches of a style I like,” VanHaitsma said. “However, I would still probably prefer direct recommendation from people I know than a directory.”

Biggs said student senate has high hopes for the directory.

“This is just a starting point for us,” she said. “We hope that the directory will grow and evolve and Calvin students continue to become more involved in serving the Grand Rapids church community.”