By Kylie Stamper
At 8 p.m. every Sunday, Mossman 108 is occupied by about 15 students. As you walk in the room, you hear quiet conversations and maybe a few jokes here and there. It is just a casual time to hang out. This gathering is known as The Venue and these students are gathered for one reason: God.
The Venue is a laid back church-like service for students by students. There are no staff members or faculty in the room. It’s just a handful of students who share a time of fellowship among each other.
Hayley Weston, communication senior, said “The Venue is a place where college students here at Southwestern can go and worship together and just learn more about God but in a place where it feels like home to them. It’s more of a relaxed environment where we can actually be together.”
The Venue, in its third year, is led by Jordan Barrett, sports management senior. “I started it two years ago after I did an internship as a youth intern in Oklahoma. I did some training and just felt like God was laying it on my heart to start something that people who maybe didn’t go to church regularly or didn’t go to church at all could come and relax and we could just talk about Jesus. Just to provide a different kind of platform or avenue for people to come to know Jesus,” said Barrett.
The Venue has a different atmosphere. Sure, it’s in a classroom, but that classroom is filled with students who are there to help their friends. “I can ask questions and not feel like I’m going to be scolded for not knowing the answer,” said Weston. “I feel like they’re talking to me and they’re not talking over me.”
Carlene Dick, psychology freshman, said “It’s for people who maybe don’t have time in the mornings to go to church, or maybe don’t feel comfortable leaving campus to go to a church, or maybe if they just want to know people on campus, they can go there.”
Dick has a special connection with The Venue. It started last year when she was a prospective student hosted by a former discipleship member during the Explore More Day. “She took me to The Venue and I loved it and I pretty much decided right there, while I was at The Venue, ‘I am going to come to Southwestern,’” said Dick.
The Venue incorporates several aspects used in traditional church services like a message, prayer time and even music. Music varies from week to week ranging from a YouTube video during the prayer to live worship time with Kyle Kilgore, communication senior, and Hunter Rockhill, music senior.
In addition to music, Barrett leads a prayer time at the beginning and the end of the hour. Sometimes he suggests a moment of silence before his prayer and ends with his words and other times it is just one prayer out loud.
Barrett’s messages are the majority of the gathering. The messages are written and delivered by Barrett and incorporate scriptures, insight, and teachings. He said, “In my sermons, the main idea is just to give back to Jesus and what he’s done for us. That’s what motivated me every day. Whatever point I make, if I can point the reason back to the cross, I feel like that’s the main reason that I do what I do.”
Dick said, “He hits it every time. I always walk out of there really uplifted and motivated. What I really like about his messages is they are really relatable and he relates to us and they’re very memorable.”
Dick shared her favorite line from a message. “‘A prayer without hallow is hollow.’ I can just remember that and I remember the stories that he tells and I’m always eager to listen to him. Whenever he gets up there and talks, he keeps my attention.”
After Barrett graduates in December, The Venue will be under new leadership. He said, “There are people who go to The Venue now that feel maybe a calling to the ministry in some aspect. So my hope is that, after I leave, they can fill that speaking role. I’m sure under someone else it will look different, which I think is cool.”
The Venue is an open, welcoming environment. It is a safe place where people of all backgrounds can go. If you have it all figured out, go check it out.
If you are still trying to move forward or if you need help with your journey in the church, go check it out. Even if you don’t go to church and want to see what it’s all about, go.
Barrett said, “Anyone who wants to come check it out, I would be more than happy.”
Kylie Stamper is a freshman majoring in communication. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.