“STAND” right up to get some cookies!


Leigh Swartzfager

Members of Cal U's S.T.A.N.D. organization offering free cookies to visitors in the Natali Student Center during back-to-school week, 2019

STAND Campus Ministries kicked off the new semester with a 15-year-old ritual that will never grow old: a cookie table in the Natali Student Center, specifically to welcome Vulcans back to campus and start out the year with a little fun. “It’s also a way to get students to learn about STAND, and to invite them to our meetings,” said Peter Ware, STAND’S campus minister and the cookie table organizer. “In STAND, our goal is to help students explore and grow in faith, whether or not they’ve been to church or grew up attending church.”  

The table was located directly inside the main entrance of Natali, in order to tap into the constant stream of students who frequent the student center. It displayed a tempting array of cookies and other confectionaries dominated by chocolate chip cookies, offering oatmeal raisin, lemon, pumpkin, peanut butter, no-bake, cranberry raisin and peanut butter m and m cookies, Mr. Ware’s personal favorite, giving the outgoing STAND participants a chance to interface with other students and tell them about the ministry.  

Amazingly, the cookies were all donated by local churches. Although not all the churches STAND initially contacted decided to participate, a respectable 12 were able to come up with over 300 dozen cookies; the variety and quantity were astonishing. Women active in the church dedicated time to baking cookies, as did the youth group of the Calvary Church of the Nazarene, which helped to introduce them to the idea of college. The idea behind homemade cookies, Mr. Ware said, is to use them as vehicles to transport the care and well wishes of the people who made them to the college students. Where buying plastic-wrapped, last-forever cookies is a fast and easy way to cater such a project, a homemade cookie that someone has volunteered time to make adds a homey touch that STAND hopes will portray the welcoming hospitality of Christianity.  

Participating churches included:  

Gospel Alliance Church 

Calvary Church of the Nazarene 

Full Gospel Church of California 

First Presbyterian of California 

California United Methodist 

First Christian Church of Bentleyville 

Faith City Alliance 

First Presbyterian of Bel Vernon 

Interestingly, the idea for a welcome-back cookie stand was not conceived on campus. Fifteen years ago, Greg and Debbie McKinn were inspired to start a church in the town of California, in addition to the coffee house that they ran, which they used to reach out to students and residents of the town. As a way to expand the ministry, the cookie table brainchild was born to bless the students as they returned each year and welcome all those who were new; now, the tradition is also a way for STAND to reach out and meet new students and spread the message of Christianity.  

Welcoming students back to campus is not STAND’S only outlet. On the first Wednesday of the new semester they hosted Light Up Night, a big kick-off event on the Natali Turf which over 125 students showed up to enjoy. STAND is the largest campus ministry, with approximately 73 students formally signed in. Every Wednesday, they meet in the Vulcan Theatre for the main large group event of the week, where a local pastor or the ministry’s leader gives a message and the group worships through music. The session is designed to be a way in which new students can observe and explore the ministry slowly and gives the unsure time to grow and develop their faith. On October 18th, STAND plans to hold a two-day Unity Retreat for students to get away from campus and recharge. In addition, every Tuesday evening at 3 pm they hold small discussion groups on the Bible for anyone to attend, located in Natali 321.