Every Tuesday, students gather for faith

 

Every Tuesday night, on the corner of 8th and Broad, hundreds of students gather with one common interest — faith.

Young Adults stand and listen to the band play at the start of Portico at First Baptist Church, The Rock on Tuesday night.
Photo by Lauren Roberts

From football players to music majors to mathematical geniuses, a wide variety of students attend the weekly gathering. This isn’t the usual university sanctioned club or event, but no one would be able to tell by the number and diversity of students that attend. Even though this weekly event isn’t held on or near campus, it is consistently drawing students back from week-to-week.

“Portico is a ministry for college, or college-aged, students through First Baptist Church. It is open to anyone and is somewhere people can come and not worry about being judged based on how they look or what they believe, but can just relax and have a good time with other people in similar stages of life,” Garrett Ferris, a junior in sociology, said.

Portico started in the fall of 2009 at The Hill, a building on the campus of First Baptist Church, and fewer than 20 students were in attendance. Four years and a couple venue changes later, anywhere from 150-300 college students attend Portico, Tuesday evenings at 8 p.m. now at The Rock also on the First Baptist Church campus.

Ferris, worship leader at Portico since December of 2011, said, “Ever since then I have seen it grow and progress into the awesome event that it has turned into today. Portico has greatly affected my life, in the most positive way. It has brought me to new friendships and has also strengthened the ones that I already had.”

He added that he thought friendship and fellowship were huge reasons for Portico’s success, noting that being able to gather with hundreds of other students with the same goals is “awesome.” After he graduates he said he wants to take the teaching he has received from Brady Sharp (college minister), and the friendships that he has built and make them last.

Ryan Reed Freshman, Mechanical Engineering. Kyle Mobley(Left) talk to friends before Portico starts at First Baptist Church, The Rock Tuesday night.
Photo by Lauren Roberts

After graduating from high school, and in some cases moving away from a hometown, state, or even country, finding friends, a group of people, or a place to lay down roots, can prove to be an extremely difficult task, especially for college students, the returning members tell prospects. With Portico, students have found help.

“Truth is: college is rough. Everyone is trying to figure out what to do and who to be. Portico showed me I that I am not alone in life. I made friends who pushed me, challenged me and held me accountable. Portico has been the place that I can consistently come to and find peace, rest, friendships, and encouragement when life starts to get difficult, and even in the good times,” Alyssa Campbell, a junior in psychology, said.

Campbell has been attending Portico for four years, since the group’s inception, and serves as a worship leader every week.

“I absolutely love being able to come and worship my God freely with hundreds of other college students who love Christ and are passionate about worshipping and serving Him,” she said.

Campbell added that Portico is important to her because it has allowed her to find a place that she can serve, grow, and learn how to do things that she desires to do with her entire life. It’s not just a place to hangout, but also a place to gain experience in things that she was not getting anywhere else.

“Portico has helped me because it is a place that I can go and be surrounded by people who encourage me and lift me up,” Leland Wetzel, a senior in mass communication, said.

With the success that Portico had on Tuesday nights, the leaders said they decided to make this ministry grow, creating Portico Sundays, an 11 a.m. service that includes a free lunch and time of fellowship and learning in The Rock.

Drew Hill, a senior in exercise physiology, serves as a table group leader at Portico Sundays and said Portico has been a great source of accountability for him and gives him the chance to take a little break from studying and to focus on his faith.

The free meal on Sundays often draws students, but may not be the reason they stay.

“The inviting, fun, lively atmosphere of friendship and fellowship with both the large and small groups would make any day great,” Jacob Smith, a sophomore in mass communication, said. “It is a very comforting and enjoyable group to be a part of and the leadership of both our college pastor Brady Sharp and each individual table group leader, especially my own mentor, are relationships that I would never want to give up on. I learn new things every week under their teaching.”

Even if it is something they weren’t necessarily looking for, Portico has played a major role in the lives of students, and redirected the lives of others.

“If I had not come to Portico, I probably would not be connected in a church right now and not leading worship for one of First Baptist’s campuses. The interns and people of this college group just straight up loved on me regardless of where I came from or what my past was. Brady took me in and showed me what it truly means to be a man, and a man of God. I am thankful every day for the opportunities and friendships that have come from Portico,” Ferris said.