Editor’s Note: The following article takes a look at the Christian faith-based student organizations at Fort Hays State University. As of the spring 2019 semester, six such groups had official status as FHSU student organizations, meaning they met the requirements of the Office of Student Affairs. They are listed below in alphabetical order.</italics>
Catholic Disciples has been in existence at FHSU since the 1960’s, according to Reese Leiker, Littleton, Colo., senior and the group’s president.
The organization meets at the Comeau Catholic Campus Center, 506 W. Sixth, directly across the street from the FHSU campus. The group’s sponsors are Fr. Brian Lager (pronounced Logger), who took over as parish pastor in July, and Glenn Growe, assistant professor of Accounting at FHSU.
Confessions are heard from 5 to 5:40 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 5 to 5:30 p.m. Sundays. Mass is 5:45 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 9:15 p.m. on Wednesdays, and 12:10 p.m. on Fridays. Sundays Masses are at 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Adoration is 6:15 p.m. Tuesdays until 5:40 p.m. Wednesdays.
Leiker, who will begin his third and final year as president this fall, said that, to him, the big event every week takes place at 8 p.m. Wednesdays.
“We have a speaker offering a different perspective on Catholic faith or a personal testimony. Afterwards is a social gathering, and we end with Nightprayer, which is part of the Liturgy of the Hours.”
The center had 163 registered participants as of spring 2019. “We are a student organization dedicated to the teaching of the Catholic faith and participation in the sacraments,” Leiker said, although he is quick to add students do not have to be Catholic to attend and get involved.
“Many people just come to hang out and participate in a Christ-centered community … We’re always real[ly] excited to get new people.”
In addition to the regularly scheduled services, the organization also features nightly men’s and women’s groups, which include fellowship followed by prayer. “These help people get integrated into the community of faith,” Leiker said.
Last year the group participated in events such as Trick or Treat So Others Can Eat, the Rice Bowl fundraiser, and the Baby Bottle fundraiser, Leiker said.
At the beginning of each semester, the organization has spirituality luncheons and a “new student retreat.”
This coming year the FHSU chapter will host the Catholic Campus Center Olympics Clothing Drive for Catholic Charities, which will take place in Manhattan, Kan.
“My wonderful college experience has been because of Catholic Disciples,” Leiker said. “We try to be good examples of a Catholic lifestyle.”
More information about the group is available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christian Challenge will begin its 26th year in Hays this fall. The group meets at 8 p.m. Tuesdays at Cross Point Church, 1300 Harvest Road. Attendance is normally around 90 students, said Carin Cochran, the organization’s director.
The group’s student leadership team this fall will include Cheyanne Adkins, Hays sophomore; Jessica Holloway, Sterling, Colo., junior; Hunter Brown, Jetmore senior; and Katelyn Baker, Larned senior.
According to the group’s website, “Christian Challenge exists for the glory of God. We are a group who seeks and welcomes students and gives them the opportunity to know Jesus Christ as Lord, so that they would love God, love others, and serve the world.
“We are a ministry on the campus of Fort Hays State University that is committed to glorifying God and making disciples of Jesus Christ. The Challenge community is one that welcomes people from all backgrounds and desires to see them transformed and grow into mature followers of Jesus Christ.”
In addition to the regular Tuesday night meeting, the group has small “life groups” that meet at various times during the week.
“There, we study God’s word, but we also deal with life’s issues,” said Dustin Stanley of Bennington, a former member of the leadership team who graduated last spring. “Our purpose is to point students toward Jesus Christ and help them become disciples who would make more disciples.”
Among the group’s activities are a pancake social where members serve pancakes to students in the dorms; Capture the Flag, a game activity in the FHSU quad; and attending a fall conference each year in Salina.
In addition, the group serves free community meals twice a month at Breathe Coffee House, 703 Main, and performs service projects at Bethesda Place, a residential home in Hays for men with special needs.
Cochran said the group has no membership requirements, but there are certain standards that students must meet to be on the leadership team.
Adkins said one thing that attracted her to the group is “it’s a really welcoming and encouraging atmosphere where we grow in relationship with each other and with Christ. We’re very open and vulnerable with each other, and we love each other through it all.”
Stanley, in looking back on his participation in the group, said, “It’s a community where I have somebody who is walking ahead of me to lead me along, someone to walk beside me to encourage me, and someone walking behind me that I can encourage.”
More information about the group is available by contacting staff member Nicole Bosse at (913) 375-4940 or email@example.com.
Encounter has been part of the college ministry of Celebration Community Church, 5790 230th Ave., for 20 years. The group has two new sponsors this fall, the husband and wife team of Garrett and Talia Kahrs. She is an assistant women’s basketball coach at FHSU.
A free meal is offered at 6:45 p.m. Wednesdays at the church, followed by a worship service at 7:15 p.m. featuring a message from Garrett Kahrs. Attendance runs anywhere from 200 to 500 people, with a typical audience of around 300, said members of the group’s student leadership team.
In addition, “life groups,” which are Bible studies for men, women, and couples, meet during the week.
Encounter is open to any young adult in the area and includes students from FHSU, Hays Academy of Hair Design, and North Central Kansas Technical College, as well as many non-students.
Encounter’s mission, based on I John 4:8, is simply: “Love God; love his people.”
This fall’s student leadership team will include Taylor Bynum, Derby junior; Kelly Wycoff, Scott City graduate student; Matt Wendelberger, Pewaukee, Wis., graduate student; Kelly Griffith, Brush, Colo., senior; and Brett Meyer, Scott City graduate student. The other faculty sponsor is Drew Gannon, instructor of Human Health and Performance and director of FHSU’s Wellness Center.
Wycoff said she began attending Encounter after her roommate invited her. “It has helped me to grow in my faith. It helps me decompress every week … It’s my favorite part of Fort Hays.”
Bynum said, “I grew up in a church, but I never knew what a relationship with Jesus Christ was like. Finding a godly community has helped me grow in my relationship with Jesus.”
Meyer said, “I am here to serve. I think when Jesus came, He came to serve, not be a king. This is a place where I can serve other kids.”
Shortly after the spring 2019 semester ended, members of the group went on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. They also participate in worship nights at Breathe Coffee House and game nights. Guest speakers sometimes include evangelists.
Griffith said, “It’s really cool because it doesn’t matter where you are in your faith or even if you don’t have any faith, you can come here and be served … You could come here if you’re struggling and get prayer and get scripture. There is something for you no matter who you are.”
Those wanting more information are encouraged to follow the group on Facebook.
Nurses Christian Fellowship
Nurses Christian Fellowship was originally established at FHSU in 1948, according to its adviser, Tasha Werth, assistant professor of Nursing. However, after several years of inactivity, she said she resurrected the group in 2017.
The organization meets at 7:30 a.m. Mondays in Stroup Hall on campus. In spring 2019, around 10 nursing students attended the weekly meetings that consist of a message, scripture and prayer.
Werth said members have to be pre-nursing or nursing majors, and the group is open to freshmen.
“The purpose of this organization is to be a fellowship of students and faculty who follow Jesus our Lord and Savior and desire to grow in the grace and knowledge of God’s word, love and purposes in the world,” Werth said. The FHSU chapter is affiliated with the national organization.
Amber Klaus, Hays senior and the group’s president, said meeting on Monday mornings is “a good start to the week. Time with Christ gets us going on a good foot every week.”
This past May seven of the members went to Denver one weekend to volunteer at the Samaritan House homeless shelter.
“It was a good way to bond together before finals and share his love and his word. We have so much to be thankful for and share with others,” said Nicole Dowell, Sterling junior.
Abbie Maxwell, Andale graduate student, added, “It was a good way for us to give back, to give our time to Him and to share with those in need.”
Other activities last school year included Acts of Kindness for those on campus and in the community, including police; Operation Christmas Child; organizing a faculty appreciation breakfast; handing out Blessing Bags; collecting for the Salina Rescue Mission; and helping with Night to Shine, a prom experience for teens and adults with special needs held at a local church.
More information about the group is available through its Facebook page, Tiger Link, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
United Methodist Student Organization
The Rev. Kathy Bannister, one of the sponsors of the United Methodist Student Organization, said the group originally started as the Wesley Foundation and met at the Hays First United Methodist Church, 305 W. Seventh.
The group has been meeting at its current location, the United Methodist Campus Center, 507 Elm, since 1959 and will celebrate its 60th anniversary this fall.
The group meets at 8:30 p.m. Mondays for a business meeting, followed by Bible study. Free meals are provided from 11:15 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesdays and 5:15 to 6:15 p.m. on Thursdays. Worship service follows at 6:15 p.m. Thursdays.
According to its Facebook page, the organization is “a community growing in God’s grace feeding students body, mind and spirit.”
The group had 35 student members in fall 2018. Tigist Bannister, Hays junior and the group’s vice president last year, said there are no membership requirements. “We don’t all come from a strictly United Methodist background,” she added.
The center is available for students to come and use, providing a home away from home, she said. Student officers live at the center.
Kevin Johnston, Garden City, was the group’s president during the 2018-2019 school year and graduated in May with a B.S. in exercise science and massage therapy.
He said six members of the group went to Wichita last year to work with Open Doors, a United Methodist ministry that distributes food to 1,200 families a month.
Other activities included building a float for the 2018 FHSU Homecoming Parade and participation in the First 40 days, which helps freshmen get involved with departments and organizations on campus.
Other student officers from 2018-2019 were Audra Nichols, Kansas City, Kan., senior, who served as secretary, and Cenyeaa Williams, Kansas City, Mo., who served as treasurer. Williams graduated in May with an M.S. in higher education student affairs.
The group’s faculty sponsor is Brett Whitaker, assistant professor of Leadership Studies. More information about the group is available from Rev. Bannister at (785) 639-5673 or email@example.com.
Us 4 U
Us 4 U began in fall 2015 and has five student members. It meets at 5 p.m. the first Tuesday of the month at the in Rarick Hall Room 366 on the FHSU campus. That meeting is followed at 4:30 p.m. by a book/Bible study.
The organization has a “social justice focus,” said Cheryl Duffy, professor of English and one of the group’s sponsors.
The group’s slogan is “Come as you are.”
“Literally everyone is welcome. We are an open and affirming group committed to service. We welcome all gender identities and sexual orientations. We welcome all belief systems. We welcome YOU,” the group’s welcome statement reads.
Membership is open to community members, as well as FHSU students.
Lauren Tucker, Hays graduate student and the group’s president, said, “Being in Western Kansas, having an all-inclusive religious group is vital, and the presence on campus is essential.”
The organization is supported by Trinity Lutheran Church, 2703 Fort, represented by Pastor Marie Sager, and St. John Lutheran Church of Russell, represented by John Dumler, parish ministry associate.
Erica Barwick, Alma, Neb., sophomore, serves as the group’s natural resources officer. “I wanted to be involved in a faith-based organization that was active and involved in things they believed in,” she said.
Last school year the group participated in a holiday meal in collaboration with the Gay Straight Alliance on campus; performed a service day at Jana’s Closet at Trinity Lutheran Church; sponsored the environmental film “Racing Extinction”; participated in Cuddles 4 A Cause with the Western Plains Animal Refuge, with donations going to Nebraska flood victims; and did face painting at the Pink Out FHSU game, with donated funds going to the Cancer Council of Ellis County and the Mayo Clinic for cancer research.
In addition, following the Tree of Life Synagogue bombing in Pittsburgh, Pa., in October 2018, the group set up a table in the Memorial Union and collected letters, cards, and donations “to reach out in love” to the Jewish community in Manhattan, Kan., Duffy said.
Each year the group tries to have a theme, Pastor Sager said. For 2019-2020, “We are looking at poverty issues and conversion therapy and problematic aspects and the harm that can be done,” she said.
Duffy said, “Sometimes in faith-based groups it’s easy to hang out with people who are just like you, but we strive to be open and inclusive and provide a dialogue among diverse peoples.”
More information about the group is available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fellowship of Christian Athletes
Fellowship of Christian Athletes is open to anyone, not just athletes. It meets on Mondays at 7 p.m. at Schmidt/Bickle Indoor Facility on the FHSU campus next to Lewis Field Stadium. There will be fun games/activities and a short message.
For more information, visit the organization's Facebook page, FHSU FCA.