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Sliding Door Moments

Freshman year seemed to be going fine for Peyton Gallagher ’21—but then, in an instant, things changed. During what felt like the worst year of his life, Gallagher leaned on the community he found at Bethel. The people around him made a significant difference, and now he wants to be that difference for others.

By Cherie Suonvieri '15, content specialist

April 18, 2019 | 8:50 a.m.

Peyton Gallagher, Business Major

Peyton Gallagher '21 is a business major with a minor in biblical and theological studies.

As a sophomore in high school, Peyton Gallagher ’21 sat in the upper balcony of Benson Great Hall. He listened as a Bethel student shared a message with the community. Gallagher remembers being awestruck by this student’s opportunity to stand in front of his peers and professors and talk about what was on his heart—and he knew that he wanted to be able to do that someday, too.

“Little did I know that moment would lead me here,” Gallagher said from the stage in Benson during Chapel last fall. As a sophomore at Bethel, he was sharing a message with the community on the relationship between identity and faith.

In less than two years at Bethel, Gallagher has stepped out in humble but prominent leadership within the community. He’s a pitcher for the Royals baseball team, and he serves as the director of Bethel Student Government’s Student Ministries. He’s also the business manager for The Clarion, Bethel’s student newspaper. But getting to this point took time and involved facing some personal challenges, all of which shaped him into the person he is today. 

When Gallagher decided to come to Bethel, there was no grand epiphany or lightbulb moment. The Wayzata High School pitcher was looking for opportunities to continue playing baseball, and he knew a former teammate who played for Bethel. When Gallagher visited campus, he felt like his personality was a good fit for the community—so in fall 2017, he became a Royal. 

Not long into his first semester, though, Gallagher’s life changed. A breakup with his girlfriend of two years sent him spiraling into a period of depression. He found it difficult to get out of bed in the morning, and he was missing classes. He describes that year as the worst of his life. Still, he was able to lean on those around him for support.

“There’s no way that I would have been able to go through that alone,” Gallagher says, “and that 100% speaks to the community Bethel has.” His friends recognized that he was struggling and set time aside to be with him. His parents called to check in with him daily. And when the staff in the Office of Christian Formation and Church Relations became aware of the situation, they continually reached out to check in. It didn’t happen overnight, but Gallagher’s support system made a critical difference as he navigated the ups and downs.

“So often, people [at Bethel] choose to walk through that door, enter into your life, and care about you—whether you’re best friends with them or don’t even know them.”

— Peyton Gallagher '21

To Gallagher, it’s the little moments at Bethel that speak to the character of the community. He describes “sliding door moments” in which a person might walk by another person and see that they’re struggling. The onlooker has the option to either walk through the door and talk to them, or walk away and let the door close.

“So often, people choose to walk through that door, enter into your life, and care about you—whether you’re best friends with them or don’t even know them,” Gallagher says. “Even with all the bad days I’ve had and will have, I know that I have a lot of people here who will choose to walk through that door." 

During that first year, Gallagher grew to better understand his faith as well. “Freshman year was really hard,” he says. “It challenged me in so many ways, but being at Bethel has encouraged me in my faith because it has pointed me back to the one thing that actually sustains my life.” 

At Bethel, a discipleship experience isn’t exactly required—but the opportunities for mentorship, fellowship, and deep theological conversations are everywhere. “Bethel creates such a great space for you to engage in your faith, but it makes you choose that,” Gallagher says. “They always have doors open for you. And I think that’s ultimately what pushed me to step through those doors and actually engage.” 

Some of those opportunities are through Student Ministries, which works closely with the Office of Christian Formation and Church Relations. The student-led organization plans faith-based events and engages in outreach through email devotions, podcasts, and visiting residence halls to pray for students. Gallagher joined Student Ministries in fall 2018, and he works specifically with the outreach team, a group of eight which focuses on spreading the word about events and understanding the needs of students in order to serve them better.

Peyton Gallagher, director of Student Ministries

Peyton Gallagher ’21 serves as a director of Student Ministries.

The people around Gallagher at Bethel made a difference in his personal life trajectory—and he wants to be able to effect change for others, too. “Peyton is a visionary leader,” says Laurel Bunker, associate vice president for Christian Formation and Church Relations. “He is a big idea person and has a deep desire to institute change and to see people's lives impacted in extraordinary ways.” 

While Gallagher doesn’t know for certain what his path will like look post-graduation, his dream job is to work for a nonprofit organization that helps impoverished communities sustain themselves through empowering community members. “I don’t think I will be able to work a 9-to-5 desk job,” he says, “but I hope to be able to do some sort of work that makes a difference in people’s lives, whatever that may look like.”
Pastor Laurel Bunker

Faith at Bethel

From Chapel and Vespers to mission trips and small groups, the opportunities for spiritual growth at Bethel are many—and those are just the organized events. We can’t put a number on the conversations that take place organically in a professor’s office or over coffee in Brushaber Commons.

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