On a Tuesday night in the St. Thomas More Newman Center, three students sit in a circle made of couches with Bibles on their laps, reading from the light of a standing lamp.
That night, sophomore John Fanta, first-year Brennan Vote and junior Jonah Beacom read from the second and third chapters of John, including John 3:16, which Fanta joked was “the most used verse in the NFL.”
The students are three of more than 275 students involved in 47 Bible studies hosted by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students. In the last month alone, FOCUS added 17 Bible study groups, with five to seven students per group, composed strictly of students new to Bible study. Last year, there were 215 students involved in the FOCUS Bible studies at the University of South Dakota.
Tony Menke, a full-time missionary and team director with FOCUS, leads Fanta, Vote and Beacom’s Bible study group. Since the rise in interest, Menke and the other missionaries have rushed to find students to lead the groups.
“The response that we had was something that shocked us,” Menke said.
Menke said other universities in the region, such as South Dakota State University, have also seen a boost in Bible study interest and attendance.
“We feel blessed in how big we are and how fast we’ve grown,” Menke said.
For the three students, the group is a chance to discuss ideas in an intimate setting.
“You get to hear what everyone thinks as opposed to the loudest person,” Vote said.
For Fanta, it’s more than simple scripture reading.
“It’s a good place where you can talk to other guys about what they’re doing in their life and know you’re not alone in the things you’re struggling with,” Fanta said. “It’s a good way to know the Bible better.”
Fanta, Vote and Beacom’s group normally has around seven males who attend the group. For them, they said each has their own reason for showing interest in Bible studies — from students who want to revisit their Catholic faith to those wishing to connect with their peers.
“I was a transfer student, so I was trying to meet new people,” Beacom said.
Menke said while the studies are connected to the Catholic church, the studies are open to students of all faith.
For the boys’ group, it’s something they plan on continuing to attend and would recommend to anyone interested.
“Being in a Bible study is a good idea for anyone who wants to grow in their Christian faith,” Vote said.
(University of South Dakota student athletes come together Monday evening at the Newman Center for a Bible study. Amber Bock / The Volante)