January 23, 2024 | Matt Kucinski

“It’s like having a big buffet with lots of food, but you are the one that has to pick up the plate and the fork.”

Mary Hulst goes by Pastor Mary on the Calvin University campus. As university pastor in campus ministries, she and her team offer students a buffet of options to help them grow in their faith.

One of those options that starts back up the week of January 28 is the campus-wide Bible study. This year, students, faculty, and staff are together studying the Gospel of John.

“When in college, you choose what to go to, what kind of person you want to become,” said Hulst. “We can help with that, but you have to be willing to be in the conversation.”

Reluctant, but right decision

This past fall, 30 groups formed for the all-campus Bible study. Senior Jesse McCurdy, who is a biochemistry and religion double major on a pre-med track, was on the fence about joining one. So too was his eventual leader, chemistry professor Chad Tatko.

“When I saw Tatko was leading, I immediately was desiring to join that one,” said McCurdy.

While reluctant to lead the group, Hulst said Tatko was grateful he did. “He came to me about halfway through and said ‘This has been so great. We get to talk about things that matter. It helped me as a prof to be in the Word with my students, gave me a role in their lives.’”

It's a role McCurdy and the other five seniors needed.


“He was able to speak into our faith at a very pivotal point of our lives as we were looking at life after Calvin,” said McCurdy. “He was a Bible study leader and also a life mentor.”

Always on the menu

While a formalized Bible study, where students are able to connect with professors and peers, is an option to choose from the buffet line, Hulst appreciates that at Calvin there are some items that are just always on the table.

“If you want to go to chapel every day, great. If you want to lead or join a Bible study, great. There are all kinds of opportunities for that. But don’t think you can come to Calvin and think you can avoid faith formation if you avoid chapel or Bible study,” said Hulst. “Faith formation is going to happen, it’s just will it be intentional or unintentional?”

Faith at the forefront

A key reason for this is because faith is integrated into everything.

“All of my professors try their best to pray before class and frame the time as learning about God’s creation or learning about something that God is pleased with,” said Ben Richards, a senior with an IDS major combining entrepreneurship, urban planning, and sociology. “It’s important to keep that in the forefront. Professors don’t shy away from faith topics while teaching and that’s been very valuable.”

“Faith at Calvin is not this isolated vacuum that you do or perform, you get to live into this in a community and the relationships at Calvin are just so strong and it’s also our relationship with Christ,” said McCurdy. Again and again, I’m blown away by the community and how faith is not just part of it, it’s the full flavoring, full color of it.”

Surrounded by a cloud of witnesses

Hulst says this wrap-around support from Christ-centered faculty and staff is key for students during their college years.

“A student may not cross paths with me or other campus ministry folks often, but they may be really involved in engineering or in film,” said Hulst. “I have every confidence that our faculty and staff in those departments will love students and point them to Jesus. In fact, it may be a lot easier and organic for students to connect with them than me.”


For Richards, the Calvin community is not only helping him connect his faith to his areas of study, but also to his extracurricular interests—one of those being outdoor recreation where Richards now serves as a discipleship assistant.

“What an awesome experience to be in community with people who understand why you want to be outdoors, marveling at the beauty of God’s creation whenever they go outside to do fun things and recreate and who also really love Jesus,” said Richards. “So, we’re building this Christian community of friends and people that can talk to each other and not hide our faith in Jesus while we recreate.”

The choices are yours

While the campus-wide bible study is a featured item for the next several weeks, Richards and McCurdy both know that there’s a full buffet of options for students to consider throughout the academic year.

“Saying no is a harder thing for me,” said McCurdy. “Calvin is incredible, it has so many good things to offer."

“I would encourage anybody to get involved and try to find a community that can encourage them to love Jesus better and in the space He has given them,” said Richards.

“When you come to Calvin, you own your faith for yourself,” said Hulst, “and you can choose how you want to grow in it.”

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