• Church Lunch
    Southwestern University

From the first Monday of the fall semester at Southwestern University, murmurs of excitement spread across campus. Often, the source of this joy is two words: church lunch, or “chunch,” as it’s fondly called by students, is a staple of student life. 

“It’s amazing…I build my schedule around it,” Endrea Daniels ’21 gushes. 

But what is it?

Cheryl and Bryan Scott, leaders of the College Ministry at Crestview Baptist Church, can answer that question: church lunch is a free meal for Southwestern students hosted in the gym at Crestview. 

Fittingly, the idea came from within the family. While their youngest daughter was attending college, she mentioned that the local Methodist church was serving lunch to students. This inspired Cheryl to start church lunch at Crestview, for Southwestern students. Bryan adds that they founded the event based on three principles: “Accept them where they are, love them unconditionally, and serve them well.” 

Accept them where they are, love them unconditionally, and serve them well.

Now, from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Mondays, the doors of Crestview Baptist Church are open to serve lunch. Anyone is allowed to come, whether they attend Crestview or not and regardless of religious affiliation. As long the student needs a good meal, they’re welcome. 

And that is exactly what greets you upon entering: a warm welcome. There’s always someone to usher you in with a smile while they hand you a plate and napkin. The inviting atmosphere continues to the friendly faces behind the serving trays, dishing out homecooked food. 

Church Lunch

“Nothing is prepackaged,” Cheryl earnestly states. 

One of Cheryl’s first goals with church lunch was to make sure the food tasted as if it had come straight off the stove. Most of the meals served are recipes from Bryan’s mother, adding to the comforting quality. The menu can vary widely, from spaghetti lasagna to barbeque. But it’s always sure to be delicious because love and care are in every bite.  

Even though only seven people showed up to the first church lunch in 2014 and half were vegan, Cheryl was not discouraged. Instead, she learned how to modify her recipes so that they were more accessible.

Up to 800 SU students, faculty, and staff attend church lunch every Monday.Up to 800 SU students, faculty, and staff attend church lunch every Monday.

Since then, the number of church lunch attendees has ballooned to 800, but Cheryl has remained faithful to her vision. She is still apart of the team of volunteers who cook the food, making sure her standard is met. This consideration goes into the fruit and salad bar as well. The Scotts still handpick the vegetables and fruits, with volunteers spending weekend mornings to prepare the produce.

This attention to detail has impressed many in the Southwestern community, which is why so many are drawn to church lunch. It’s easy to play a game of I Spy, Southwestern edition, between bites. Classmates, alumni, faculty, and administrators have all been known to attend. Family of Southwestern students are encouraged to come if they’re in town, too. 

The main treat of church lunch, of course, is the dessert table.The main treat of church lunch, of course, is the dessert table.

But the main treat of church lunch, of course, is the dessert table. Just take a baggie and stock up for the week on sweets: doughnuts, cupcakes, cookies, cakes, brownies. If it has sugar, it’s there. And if for some reason church lunch is canceled (God forbid), expect the dessert table to appear in McCombs. It’s a sight sure to brighten an otherwise ordinary day. 

And that is the core of church lunch: the desire to brighten a student’s day and to make students feel “that someone loves them enough to make an effort, take the extra step, and do something special for them,” Cheryl describes.

Their generosity has moved students. “We don’t give anything back to the church, and they have the kindness to feed us,” Emily Shipman ’22 says admiringly. 

Katelyn Francis ’21 has also been touched by the Scotts’ giving spirit. She has formed a close bond with the two, claiming them as “second parents.” She suggests that “if you’re missing that little piece of home, church lunch is the place to go.” 

If you’re missing that little piece of home, church lunch is the place to go.

The larger University community, too, has recognized the dedication Crestview has to its students. In January 2019, they were awarded the Martha Diaz Hurtado College Town Award, which “recognizes citizens, organizations, or businesses whose exemplary efforts have enhanced the ‘college town’ environment for Southwestern.” 

Church lunch has become more than just a place to fill our empty bellies. It’s an integral part of the Southwestern community, an element of what makes up the heart of Southwestern.