Four years ago, the members of the Belmont chapter of Campus Crusade for Christ could all fit around a small coffee table.
Now, they are lucky if they can all fit in the University Ministries office each Wednesday night.
“This could have been a disaster,” said group president Ryan Combs. “We went from two small Bible studies to one large group [in 2011]. Just based on us, we wouldn’t still be here.”
The student organization, better known as CRU around campus, is meant to bring together Christians at the university. Through this unity, Combs said they hope to spread God’s love and grow in their own faith.
“Our goal is to just create a community where people can strive in following Jesus,” the senior mass communications major said.
That community, while large now, was initially far from it.
In 2009, Combs and a few other Belmont students attended weekly bible studies and CRU members from Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro. As the year went on, they started several Bible studies on campus and started attracting members of their own.
The following year, the group split in two had separate Bible studies between men and women. By Spring 2011, the leaders of both studies joined and decided to “just try” to bring the two groups together in the fall, Combs said.
When the first meeting came around the next semester, Combs said they were shocked when more than 100 students showed up. While attendance dropped from there, the group still averaged about 50 students a week.
Since then, the group’s weekly meeting has continued to grow as around 100 people now come each week. The reason behind this, Combs said, was a divine one.
“Enough people are allowing God to move through them to make this work,” Combs said.
Britt Pettigrew, an adult staff member at MTSU’s chapter who still supports and coaches the student-led Belmont chapter, said the progress the group has made is remarkable.
“I have been able to see God grow the current movement from hardly any students involved a few years ago to having some very mature students ministering to their peers and running with the movement,” said Pettigrew.
Many of the students who were part of the early CRU movement now have taken leadership roles in the group, whether as small group leaders, event planners or prayer team leaders.
New students are coming to the group to see what the buzz is about while trying to find a niche where they belong.
“I joined CRU because I wanted a place where I can grow spiritually on campus and find fellowship also in a community with a group of people my age who encourage others to grow in Christ,” said sophomore Trey Hayman.
Combs said the structure of Belmont CRU is a relaxed one, which can keep new and returning members on their feet. The group does more than just their weekly meetings though, as social events are consistently on the group’s schedule and campus outreach and ministry is always a priority to them.
“If you let organization lead you, there’s only so much you can do,” Combs said. Our weekly meetings will never look exactly the same.”
While Combs will graduate in May, he said the group is blessed to have sophomore and junior leaders to continue to develop the group. The underclassmen below him have been learning and committing a lot of their time to the group, he said.
“God’s raised up leaders,” he said.
Combs said he is hopeful for the group’s future, and is looking forward to hearing about its growth.
“I’m excited to see what God does through all these people’s lives, we’ve come a long way in four years,” he said.
New member Hayden also has high hopes for the organization.
“I’d like to see more people involved and deeper relationships occur between members and with God, and to be an environment of encouragement,” he said.
The group’s weekly meetings occur every Wednesday at 8:00 p.m. in the University Ministries’ office.