1972-1982: In late August of 1972, a man named Ed Tubbs moved into an apartment building on Buchtel Ave. because he felt called to reach college students for Christ. That fall Ed started a discipleship group with just a handful of people, only three of which were actually students at Akron. Those three students were Bob Schneider (who would go on to be a pastor at The Chapel for 37 years), Dave Belden, and Dan Davidson. The group focused on Bible study, scripture memory, and evangelism in Bulger Hall. That year a number of people gave their lives to Christ, and this small fledgling group of believers, who shared a heart to reach the campus, was the beginning of what we now know as Campus Focus.
By the fall of 1973 Ed gave the ministry its first official name which was Students for Christ. They had weekly rallies on campus which included music, sharing of testimonies and a challenge from Ed from the scriptures. Over the next few years as attendance grew, bible studies were added and they would meet both on campus and in nearby apartments. Although not officially a ministry of the Chapel, all of the key leaders in this ministry attended the Chapel on Sunday mornings, and over time many of the students started attending as well.
1976-1982: In July of 1976, then Sr. Pastor Dave Burnham brought Wes Hartzfeld on staff to enfold and officially make Students For Christ a ministry of the Chapel. Ed graciously handed the ministry to Wes and he moved to Marshal to start a new college ministry there. During this era, the college ministry continued to have weekly meetings on campus in the Union (with around 100 people in attendance) and small groups for discipleship led by students. They also began taking trips over Christmas break to a Campus Crusade conference in Chicago, and over spring break to Florida for beach evangelism. Wes led the ministry until 1982 when Pastor Burnham asked him to begin doing pastoral counseling at The Chapel (a role he would do for the next 31 years).
1982-1993: Over the next decade, the ministry went through a season of many transitions with six different leaders over a 10–year span. Despite the challenges the ministry faced through those transitions, God continued to move and many of those students are key leaders of churches today.
It was during this era when a group of leaders, who wanted to see a renewed focus on the campus, officially changed the name to Campus Focus. The first official CF shirts were dark green sweatshirts with a map of Akron on them. There was a magnifying glass on the map highlighting the U of A, signifying their commitment to the campus.
1993-2004: In the summer of 1993, then Sr. Pastor Knute Larson hired Kevin Delaney to lead the charge and give some stability and renewed leadership to the ministry. That fall, there were about 50 students in the ministry (mostly Chapel kids) that met at 10:40 on Sunday mornings in the Memorial Chapel for a time of fellowship. A year later in 1994 Kevin launched “The Gathering” which was a time of teaching and worship for college students. This was designed to be a place where they could both train up believers and be an easy place for them to invite their friends.
In 1995 as The Gathering started to gain momentum, The Chapel bought an old Christian Science church building (built in 1915) which was located next to the Chapel and renovated it into (what is now known as) the auditorium for the college ministry.
Under Kevin’s leadership they started promoting on campus however they could, doing basketball outreach ministries and getting involved in intramurals. They also started leading bible studies in fraternities and took over an AIA bible study for student athletes. Kevin hired an intern in 1998 named Brian Kunkler to lead the athlete study.
During this era Campus Focus took a winter ski trip to Peak and Peak (which started prior to Kevin) and started doing spring break trips to Florida again. The spring break trip was mostly service–oriented in nature and was designed to be an easy invite for new students and fraternity members who were looking for service hours. Eventually, the trip grew large enough that they moved from staying at a local church to a nearby Boy Scout camp in Jupiter, FL.
In the fall of 1997, an intern named Mike Arnold had the vision to revamp their fall retreat. They moved it to a camp in PA and named it Woodfest. The early years of Woodfest involved team–based competitions, sporting events during the day, and a skit competition on Saturday night. The first trip had about 60 people.
On September 16th, 2001, following the 9/11 attacks, Campus Focus hit a then record attendance of 301 students, almost 100 more than usual. U of A President Luis Proenza asked Campus Focus to lead a candlelight service on campus. In the fall of 2002, Kevin Delaney stepped down and handed the ministry to Mike Arnold. Mike moved The Gathering service from Sunday mornings to Thursday nights, thinking it would be a better time slot to reach new students. After 2 years of faithful leadership Mike moved on and handed things off to Brian Kunkler.
2004- 2015: After a few years of experimental programming changes, Campus Focus hit its stride and started a season of steady growth. Under Brian’s leadership the small groups ministry really started to take off and The Gathering service continued to grow. CF’s trips also underwent some changes during this era. In 2006, following Hurricane Katrina, the spring break trip shifted from the Boy Scout camp to Mississippi for relief work. Later that fall, the Woodfest trip started to take off with the addition of whitewater rafting and other various adventure trips. The winter ski trip ended in 2005 and for the next two years Campus Focus attended the Passion Conference. In 2008 the staff decided to head back down to the Boy Scout camp for a brand new winter trip called “Latitude Adjustment” (the name would later be changed to Breakaway). The first trip had 80 students and they covered the spiritual disciplines.
In the fall of 2009, Campus Focus grew so big that The Gathering service met in the main worship center for the first four weeks of the semester. A year later, in 2010, they would permanently make the move to the worship center. In the fall of 2011, the Thursday night Gathering service merged with the then Sunday night Chapel service and continued to grow. With both college students and adults in attendance, The Gathering service launched new missional initiatives to both local refugees and the Middlebury neighborhood.
In December 2014, Brian stepped down to pastor a sister church of The Chapel in Highland Square and handed the ministry to then assistant college pastor Kevin Poest. Kevin started as an intern in 2005 and first got connected to CF as a student through the athlete bible study lead by Brian back in 2001. Under the direction of new Sr. Pastor Tim Armstrong, the college service moved back to Thursday nights in January of 2015. In April of 2015, Campus Focus cast a vision for the Acts 2 Internship as a way to help manage the increasing number of students and to better reach the campus. That May a group of college students prayed over two houses asking for God’s favor. That fall, the houses were donated to the ministry as a part of that Acts 2 initiative.
Present Day: Campus Focus currently meets in the main worship center of The Chapel. It has over 350 college students in weekly attendance on Thursday nights and 300+ spread over 17 small groups that meet throughout the week. In the 2016–17 school year, Woodfest and Breakaway both had approximately 225 students in attendance.
For over 45 years and through various leaders, God has continued to faithfully use The Chapel to reach college students for Christ. God has used this ministry to grow up pastors, missionaries, Christian school teachers, and lay leaders. We have also sent out a countless number of Christ–centered men and women into the business world to be salt and light and to spread the Good News of Christ wherever they go. The vision God gave Ed Tubbs for this ministry is the same vision we share today: reaching students for Christ. We are grateful to God for His continued faithfulness to this ministry, for the men and women who have come before us, and for allowing us to play a small part in what He has been doing on this campus for over 45 years.