By Ava Dunwoody | Staff Writer
In the age of virtual meetings, Vertical Ministries’ Monday night Bible study has gone to a livestream — but this time not on Zoom. Its team launched an app in the height of the pandemic to create a new place for students to tune into the weekly studies.
Started in 2009, Vertical Ministries, a non-profit organization separate from Baylor University, hosts a 9 p.m. Bible study with worship every Monday. Orange County, Calif., sophomore Arden Freese serves as an outreach team leader at Vertical and has been going since her freshman year.
“Vertical exists not to be a substitute for church,” Freese said, “but a supplement in addition to church. We exist to dive deeper into the word and to also get students connected to local churches.”
Dale Wallace, executive director of Vertical Ministries, was involved with Vertical before he graduated from Baylor and said it was a place he felt helped shape his spiritual life in college. After celebrating Vertical’s 10-year anniversary last year, Wallace said it has been a “humbling but sweet season” to go from such a “high” into this year.
Wallace said he joked over the summer about creating a “new venue” for Vertical in the form of an app for students’ return to campus. It later became a real idea that is now the free Vertical Ministries Waco app that can be found in app stores.
The app offers access to livestreams, past sermons, a Bible and reading plan, a way to donate, the online merchandise store and connections to church partners around Waco. Wallace said the app is the “new, end all be all resource” for Vertical.
“We are trying to engage students as best we can,” Wallace said. “At the end of the day, everything is so limited when you’re not in the space where it’s happening.”
Through the app and website, Wallace said students are still able to gather in small groups to watch the livestreams. So far, he has seen how through watching at home, students have been able to discuss the Bible study with roommates or friends who wouldn’t normally go to Vertical.
“It may be even more successful than a normal Vertical in some ways,” Wallace said. “It’s creating a conversation with connections and community, which is really what the students need right now — connection. Our hope is … it would be a conversation starter.”
Freese said that her team usually focuses on reaching out to international students and other members of the Baylor community who might not know about Vertical. Due to the pandemic, her team is now adapting to “outreaching to those who are right in front of us.”
“It’s been really cool seeing the Lord move both pre-COVID and in COVID and seeing that no challenge is too big for God, and He is bringing so much out of it,” Freese said. “People are finding the Lord through Vertical because of these one-on-one conversations that are fostered after watching Vertical online.”
Wallace said Vertical is working to be able to host in-person meetings in limited capacity soon, but he doesn’t know when that will be allowed. In the meantime, he said, “this is an opportunity for students to take initiative” in this season and make the most of watching online.
Freese said she encourages students to take advantage of the new app and reach out if they are looking for people to watch the Monday Bible study with. She said students can DM the Vertical Instagram or talk to anyone wearing a Vertical shirt around campus every Monday.
“It’s such a good time to fellowship with everyone and learn with everyone,” Freese said. “I think everyone was worried that that part of it was going to be taken away, but I think the Lord was really faithful because He didn’t take it away. He transformed it.”