By Beth Douglass, SPU senior
In September, we looked at the different ways that faculty and staff members minister to students at SPU. But adults are not the only ones who do the ministering. This month, we're taking a look at how students on campus minister to one another.
During the first weekend of his freshman year, Seattle Pacific University junior Mark Ableidinger remembers walking down the hallway when his Student Ministry Coordinator (SMC), then-sophomore Chris Kyle, invited him in his room to watch football.
"I think SMCs are really important for freshmen," says Ableidinger, who lived in SPU residence halls for two years. "As a freshman, when you don't have a lot of friends yet, they're there to hang out with you."
The opportunity for students to help minister to their peers is one of the core parts of the SMC program. Each residence hall floor has one SMC — usually a sophomore — to mentor or support his or her floormates.
"They are charged with the spiritual formation on the floor," says Deb Nondorf, minister of Christian community formation and SMC staff advisor. The students host Bible studies, plan events or small groups, and meet with other students one-on-one.
Throughout the year, Ableidinger met with Kyle to talk in the campus coffee shop or for dinner in the cafeteria. He also joined a weekly small group and attended quarterly worship events Kyle organized for the men on their floor.
SMCs minister not only through words, but also through life, Ableidinger says. Adult mentors are helpful, but an SMC actually lives with the other students on their floor, he says.
"He's just one of those people who's a good friend to everyone."
Students also have the chance to minister to one another — and to others — by taking part in different volunteer opportunities.
For the past two years, SPU junior Tanisha Hanson has volunteered weekly at Seattle's Union Gospel Mission (UGM).
It started during her freshman year, when her roommate invited Hanson to come along one Monday night. They held babies, told stories, and did art projects with toddlers. Hanson has been going back ever since.
Women and children stay at UGM anywhere from 6 to 12 months, often right after leaving situations of domestic abuse or substance abuse.
"It was so unfair to me that these kids had to suffer because someone else made a bad decision," she said.
Last year, Hanson served as team leader for the UGM trips. This year, she will supervise the new UGM leader — as well as leaders for SPU's 11 other weekly volunteer sites — in her position as coordinator for the Urban Involvement program.
Urban Involvement's student leaders meet together as a group every week. It's a place for support and encouragement, but also offers the students a chance to learn more about each other's ministries.
"I wanted to get involved because it became a place where I could talk about the issues I was seeing," Hanson says.
Sometimes students are upset with God because of all the injustice they see in the world. They discuss these questions and work towards realizing how God is already at work, even if they can't immediately see it.
Still, Hanson has watched many students' faith grow as a result of their volunteer encounters. "It's so beautiful what I get to experience," she says. "I know it is God working."
Last year, junior Brian McConkey played bass guitar for group, one of SPU's weekly worship services. This year, he is group's coordinator, leading a team of the 12 other students on staff.
Their Wednesday night service is designed to minister to students. This includes songs, prayer, Scripture reading, art, and time for quiet reflection.
"We try to provide a place where students can come to forget about stress and anxiety and focus on God and how they interact with God," he says.
McConkey grew up attending church. Though he is thankful for that experience, McConkey said he also now sees how students develop views and beliefs nearly identical to their parents and pastors. Part of his journey at SPU has been discovering what he believes about various issues.
"I love seeing students being challenged at SPU," McConkey says. "It is so good for me and other students to learn to wrestle with those things and allow our own faith and beliefs to surface."
From formal programs to informal gatherings, ministry is a central aspect to SPU's culture. And there are some innovative ways ministry continues to develop on campus. In part three of our series, "Being Faithful," In the Loop talks with Stephen Newby, director of University Ministries and the Center for Worship, about where he sees ministry headed at SPU. Look for the interview in November 2010.
Read part one of "Being Faithful": How SPU Ministers to Students
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