"Hopefully True Spin is just the conversation
starter; I hope they go and discuss it after
It's Tuesday night and students are arriving at Ram Hall. Some carry journals and Bibles, while others simply carry the questions on their hearts.
They come to hear words that may be encouraging, surprising, or, at times, difficult to accept. They come to sing songs of praise and worship, to share their struggles and fears, to study and learn about faith, life, saving grace and hope from a singular authority: the Holy Bible.
In a world where many college students look to pop culture and the media for answers to life's issues, biblical guidance is necessary to bring it all into perspective. Enter: True Spin.
True Spin is University of Mobile's campus Bible study in Ram Hall, where about 300 students and faculty gather every Tuesday night to study the Bible and examine topics through a biblical lens.
The study is about taking an introspective look at your faith and the culture around you, and injecting a God-breathed, biblical worldview into it, according to Neal Ledbetter, director of campus life.
Ledbetter started True Spin in 2003 as a place for students who have genuine questions about the Bible and Christianity to find answers in a supportive environment. No question is off limits, and the answers are honest, biblically based and thought-provoking.
Student Government Association President Kris McAuley, a senior communication major, said, "It's instruction; it's applicable and relevant to what I face as a college student. It's something you can apply and carry out in your everyday life."
True Spin also incorporates a time of student-led worship, ranging from contemporary songs to ancient hymns. Many Christian recording artists have also led the studnets in worship over the years, including Phil Wickham, Charlie Hall, Gungor, All Sons & Daughters, NeedToBreathe, and Chris & Conrad.
The opportunity to help lead worship through music is part of what attracts Olivia Maddox, a junior human performance and exercise science major.
"It is an opportunity for me to get close to people on campus, build relationships through that, and hear really good teaching," Maddox said.
The content is extremely intentional, and Ledbetter chooses relevant topics that are personal practical and engaging. A group of 15 to 20 students provide him with feedback as he develops topics, helping him hone in on the heart of the issue and find out what students are really asking questions about in their own lives.
A new way students can engage in the discussion is through their call phones. By texting a number projected on-screen, students can anonymously ask questions they're struggling with as Ledbetter answers on the spot. When True Spin began in 2003, it was small enough that a student could simply interject to ask questions. As Ledbetter explains, "The text-on is to keep it feeling as though there's a small, personal nature to it."
Ledbetter wants these nights to be a catalyst for discussion that continues on long after the night is over: "Hopefully True Spin is just the conversation starter; I hope they go and discuss it after the fact."
Indeed, these series do spark discussion and resonate with students in a practical way. After Ledbetter's series "Perfect," McAuley viewed his faith in a new light, saying, "For me, the story of Jesus has become so much more effective realizing that I'm not perfect and I don't have to be perfect in order for Him to come to me. God came to me in my sin, not in my perfection."
Maddox had a similar experience, recalling a concept that resonated with her: "It's how you respond to failure that's important."
The newest series dives into "Christian Campus Problems," which Ledbetter sums up as "The mile-wide and inch-deep theology" that many students have.
"We're talking about basic theology and basic biblical belief, but repackaging it in a different way," he said. Many major issues covered include the nature of worship, evangelism and church.
True Spin also provides many opportunities for students to get plugged in to leadership and service, whether it's helping with set-up and tear-down, special events, music, or production elements such as sound, lights, media and video.
As the new UMobile Center for Leadership grows, President Mark Foley and Ledbetter want to bring in communicators who can show students how to use their influence now and after they graduate.
Former Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice was the first in the Influence Lecture Series, when she fielded students' questions in an exclusive UMobile student event in Ram Hall prior to the university's Leadership Banquet that raises scholarship funds.
Guest speakers this spring semester included Jon Acuff, author of "Stuff Christians Like" and "Quitter;" and Mike Foster, author of "Gracenomics" and founder of People of the Second Chance.
Whether it's influence, Christian campus problems, or perfection, True Spin's ultimate goal remains the same: to tackle the tough issues that college students wrestle with - not with canned "status quo" answers, but with a reasoned study of the scriptures.
D.J. Giaritelli, a junior communication major from Portland, OR, sees True Spin as "broken people coming to a common place, and hearing how they can grow in their faith."
Ultimately, Ledbetter desires one thing from True Spin: "I want the students to connect with the content. At the end of the day, I want them to own their faith and apply it."