By Sophie Whorf, For The Miami Student

Miami students no longer have to leave campus for Sunday morning church. In fact, some may even find themselves attending service in the very same room where they attend class during the week.

On the morning of Valentine’s Day, more than 300 people from the Oxford community gathered in Benton Hall to view a livestream projection of the Crossroads megachurch service, based in Oakley, a neighborhood of Cincinnati.

“I’m from Hamilton and the drive to Oakley would take me about an hour. I loved [Crossroads] so much that the drive didn’t matter to me,” said junior Megan Wise, a volunteer at Crossroads Oxford. “Personally, I just feel a connection with Christ there and it’s been hard for me to find that connection at other [churches].”

For 20 years, Crossroads has drawn people from all over Southwest Ohio to its original site in Oakley. In creative efforts to expand its reach even further, Crossroads has implemented five alternative locations across Ohio, and its most recent opening, the Oxford branch.

Lisa Kuhn, the site director at Crossroads Oxford, said a group of local community members and Miami students came together to bring Oxford a Crossroads site.

“We were going to Crossroads [in Oakley] and were getting sick of the hour drive [one way]. We also wanted to share [Crossroads] with our friends,” said Kuhn.

Similar to Wise, senior Zach Thomas attended Crossroads Oakley during high school, and is now a volunteer at Crossroads Oxford.

“[Crossroads] is the first church that I chose to go to on my own. I appreciated going to church with my family, but it wasn’t the best fit for me,” said Thomas. “I have a big heart for [Crossroads]. When I heard it was coming to Oxford, I wanted to jump in. I met with a few people and expressed how I wanted to get involved.”

Part of the mission behind Crossroads is to spread their hopeful message to as many people as possible, in a manner that is inclusive and nonjudgmental. Brian Tome, the senior pastor of Crossroads Oakley, is one of the key facilitators in manifesting this kind of warm environment.

“When Brian talks, it’s like you’re sitting together around a campfire. It’s very casual and conversation-like,” said Kuhn.

Thomas, too, feels that the genuine nature of Crossroads largely accounts for its broad appeal.

“The culture [at Crossroads] is very inviting and fun. I love that they present the biblical truth in a very engaging, relevant and contemporary way,” said Thomas. “[Crossroads] is about meeting people where they’re at. A lot of people feel comfortable coming there and exploring what this whole relationship with God means.”

Wise agrees that Crossroads has a sort of allure that is especially welcoming.

“I just felt a huge connection with the music, the people and the service as well. Everyone is so welcoming,” said Wise. “It doesn’t matter if you grew up in a Catholic church, or if you are Jewish, or don’t believe at all — you are welcome. I love that aspect of it.”

The commitment shown by the Crossroads staff has certainly paid off, as the rapidly growing megachurch now attracts the largest congregation out of any
church in Cincinnati.

“We’re sacrificial givers, obsessive includers and tireless workers,” said Kuhn.

Despite being located on Miami’s campus, Crossroads Oxford has attracted nearby residents, ranging from off-campus students to local families with young children.

“[Crossroads] is for students and the community. We’re at Benton so some students will think it’s only for students. It is for everyone — young and old. We want anybody, regardless of their background. Wherever you are in your faith, it’s for you,” said Kuhn.

Thomas agrees that Crossroads Oxford strives to be a comfortable space for everyone.

“We don’t want to become a church only for students. Our goal is to have a 50/50 split — 50 percent are students and 50 percent are community members,” said Thomas. “Crossroads appeals to the younger generation or the millennial because of its loud music, but it also has a very strong appeal to all age ranges, which is great.”

Crossroads Oxford has only been up and running for a couple of weeks, and the staff is primarily focused on settling in.

“Right now there isn’t really a master plan,” said Kuhn. “We’re focusing on Sundays, building our service and just getting a
lay of the land.”

Thomas agrees that there is no rush to expand as of now, but anticipates growth in the near future.

“We’re expecting to grow, but at the end of the day, we’re learning a lot and figuring out what the church looks like specific to Oxford,” said Thomas. “Eventually, we’re hoping to outgrow our space, but we’re happy with where we’re at right now.”

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the area of Ohio from which Crossroads church has drawn crowds. It is Southwest Ohio, not Northwest.