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College ministries strive to get students involved in church

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College ministries strive to get students involved in church

Students worship at The Bridge, a college worship service affiliated with First Baptist Church, Oct. 23, 2018.

Students worship at The Bridge, a college worship service affiliated with First Baptist Church, Oct. 23, 2018.

Bradley Wilson

Students worship at The Bridge, a college worship service affiliated with First Baptist Church, Oct. 23, 2018.

Bradley Wilson

Bradley Wilson

Students worship at The Bridge, a college worship service affiliated with First Baptist Church, Oct. 23, 2018.

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The annual Interfaith Involvement Fair gives churches across town an opportunity to meet with students on campus. But this fair isn’t the only way churches try to get in touch with students. Each church has a different method to reach and to interact with students with the same goal of sharing what Christ has done. Local programs for college students try to connect with students and to share their values and ideas, keeping students involved in church.

guitar player

Bradley Wilson
Pierson Farnell at The Bridge, a college worship service affiliated with First Baptist Church, Oct. 23, 2018.

The Bridge at First Baptist Church

The biggest drop off when it comes to church attendance and people claiming to be Christians happens right between high school and college,” Andrew Reilly, college pastor at The Bridge, said. “For the most part, parents make their high school kids go to any kind of student ministry. Students haven’t really made their faith their own so when they get to college they begin to question their faith and sometimes that leads them to stop going to church. So I believe that one of the biggest roles of the church, one of the biggest reasons we should have a college ministry, is to answer the questions that college students have.”

According to Reilly, The Bridge is on campus every Tuesday to promote a weekly service and to hand out water bottles or hot chocolate. They host big events at the beginning of the semester so people hear about them, see what their goal is and why they do it.

“We focus heavily on events that are not just for Christians but for anyone who wants to participate,” Reilly said. “They’re not always at our church. They’re usually around the city. What that does is give an opportunity for members of our church to invite non-Christians to a place where it’s not necessarily a Bible teaching, but it’s an opportunity to hang out and have intentional conversations with people who may not be plugged into a church.”

Reilly said college is a place where sin is extremely acceptable so it is important to give students a community where they can fight the temptations of college together and move closer to what honors God instead of moving toward what our culture says is acceptable.

“It’s not about convincing students to go to church,” Colton Boyd, mathematics senior, said. “It’s about trying to present the gospel in a way that they can understand it while also showing them God’s love and what that offers them.”

Our Redeemer Lutheran Church

According to Michaela Seeliger, director of Christian education at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, there’s not a single student on campus who doesn’t need to hear the gospel. It’s the mission of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church to make disciples of Jesus Christ and to teach people about the gospel. One way they reach out to students is with their “comfort dog ministry.”

“We have a golden retriever named Elijah and he has been trained to comfort people,” Seeliger said. “There’s been different times where we come on campus and Elijah comes with us and students can pet him and play with him. When we’re there, that’s an opportunity to talk about our church, talk about the gospel, invite people to come and then pray with students and answer questions. It’s a good door for us to get on campus and get to talk to students.”

According to Seeliger, college ministry is also a great place for different opportunities. Our Redeemer gives students majoring in music a chance to perform with the music ministry and two students even direct the choir there. Seeliger said church is also a good way to meet adults who are in occupations that the students are studying.

“Sometimes it’s easy to get caught in a ‘college bubble’ where you’re just friends with your classmates,” Seeliger said. “This is a chance to connect with people outside of MSU. We have students who have found members of our church who are in a profession that they themselves are working toward. We have a couple students who major in nursing, and there are so many doctors and nurses here at our congregation where the students are able to talk to them and learn from them. That’s a chance for them to grow in that professional community as well their faith community.”

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Bradley Wilson
Ryan Hammett speaking at a college worship service affiliated with Grace Church, Oct. 23, 2018.

Grace Church

Grace Church hosts a Bible study every week. According to Curtis Lindsey, college and young adults pastor at Grace Church, Tuesday night studies usually bring in about 50 students, but numbers aren’t everything in their ministry.

“We really don’t count,” Lindsey said. “Obviously I want to make sure we have enough chairs for everybody when they show up, but we don’t make value judgments on what we do by the number of students who are there. Numbers are not important. They’re not but they are. Because if there are no students then there is no ministry, but when we stand before the Lord one day He’s not going ask ‘How many people came to LateNight?’ He’s going to ask ‘How are you faithful in doing the ministry I gave you to do?’ and that ministry may only have one and I am going to be faithful to what he’s given me in that context. That’s what drives us, not just saying that we have ‘x’ number of people.”

According to Lindsey, college is the most formative time in a student’s life. College is a time where young adults are exposed to the world in a different way and have to engage the world in different ways because this is when most students are independent for the first time in their lives.

“That’s such an important time in the lives of young people,” Lindsey said. “Think about everything that happens from graduating high school until graduating college. Students have so much more exposure in their life, so much more opportunity for them to reflect on who they are. Also, think about all the major life decisions that are made in that time in somebody’s life. Everything from their vocation to relationships, to where they’re going to live and what they’re going to believe. Never again in your life will so many big decisions be made and, he said, the church can play a role in making those decisions. “We want to have a place to be able to host college ministry where we can provide that unchanging foundation of the Lord and what he’s revealed to us through his word and the work of the Spirit.”

According to Lindsey, his goal is to meet students wherever they are in their walk with Christ and help them advance and continue to grow in their faith. This can range anywhere from sharing the good news of what Jesus has done, serving others and God, helping them get involved in a Bible study to further the learning of God’s word, or asking how he prayed for them. Lindsey emphasized the importance of being gracious to others and avoiding pressuring people into attending church.

“We don’t want to use the ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts’ of the world to put our thumbs on people, to get them to do what we want them to do,” Lindsey said. “So we want to be very gracious. We don’t pressure people into accepting opportunities, so we try not to say things like ‘You’ll want to be there.’ I hope that you want to be there, but I can’t tell you if you’d want to be there. I’m going to let you make up your mind on that. I want you to be there because I want to spend time with you, hang out and encourage you that sort of thing, so we try not to say things like that. We make intentional decisions to orient ourselves in a gracious way toward people.”

Catherine Lovelace, dental hygiene sophomore, said what she loves most about Grace is the inviting atmosphere and how the Bible is taught in a very applicable and useful way.

“Everyone is very intentional, very fun and loving,” Lovelace said. “They dig deep into the Bible and what it really means and I think I’ve grown exponentially in my faith ever since I’ve been there. I think Grace can challenge your faith and make you want to grow more and be closer to Jesus, which is something I think everyone should do.”

Colonial Church

Colonial Church holds a Bible study that usually attracts about 10 to 15 students each week and the smaller atmosphere provides for a more welcoming environment, according to Alondra Escobedo, president of Colonial Church’s college ministry and English senior.

“We just started to become more active,” Escobedo said. “We motivate students to come to Bible study because when our pastor speaks about the Bible he relates it a lot to situations here at school or the struggle of being a college student and I think students really appreciate that. This semester we got a lot of freshmen who don’t know the ins and outs of college so to have the opportunity to fall back on religion when they’re struggling is good for them.”

According to Escobedo, something she has experienced around different churches is that all of them do a good job welcoming new students and making sure they feel comfortable no matter what their background is like.

“That’s something that we do well for the students because religion is a touchy subject for some people,” Escobedo said. “So if you open the door for them and they feel like they can go in without being judged, I think you’ve met your goal.”

Unity Church

According to David Youngblood, senior pastor at Unity Christian Ministries, college is the most transitional time in a young adult’s life. It’s important for them to know that they’re not alone and to have a place like a college ministry to be able to be around people who have gone or still are going through all of the stress of college and to be in a place where they won’t be judged.

“We’re not a traditional church,” Youngblood said. “To come to our church is not about a dress code, so to come in what you have, to be able to just enjoy God and not have a label put on you, that’s what makes us different. We teach from the word of God, we love you like the Bible says to love you and we receive you like the Bible says to receive you.”

DIRECTORY

The Bridge
First Baptist, 1300 8th Street
9:45 a.m. on Sunday, 8 p.m. on Tuesday
Twitter: @TheBridgeWFFBC

Our Redeemer
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, 4605 Cypress Avenue
9:15 a.m. on Sunday

Grace LateNight
Grace Church, 5214 Stone Lake Drive
9:15 a.m. on Sunday, 8 p.m. on Tuesday
Twitter: @GraceCollegeWF

Colonial Church
Prothro-Yeager Room 200
7 p.m. on Tuesday

Unity Christian Ministries
Unity Church, 2800 Hollywood Ave
10 a.m. on Sunday, 7 p.m. on Wednesday

Heritage Church
2216 Southwest Parkway
9 a.m. on Sunday

First Presbyterian Church
3601 Taft Boulevard

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Bradley Wilson, Adviser

Bradley Wilson is the adviser for The Wichitan. An associate professor of mass communication, he also teaches the media reporting and writing class and...

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