Eighty-four percent of the university’s students self-identify as Christians, 14 percent as beginner Christians and two percent as nonbelievers, according to the Reveal Assessment survey of the student population conducted fall 2013.
About 48 percent of the student body participated in the assessment, campus pastor Arthur Wilson said.
While Wilson said he believes chapel is vital for Christianity when it comes to fellowship, having the opportunity to be mentored by mature followers of God is “the way people truly mature into followers of Jesus Christ.”
“Jesus molded his disciples this way,” Wilson said. “As campus ministries, we wanted to set up the stage and create an opportunity for students to build those types of relationships with caring adults [and] mature followers here on campus.”
To appeal to this type of spiritual growth, the campus ministries committee came up with the idea to launch a voluntary small group opportunity for students.
Earlier this semester, students were asked open-endedly in a survey who they would enjoy leading small groups if they were to participate in the experience.
“We gave them no names,” Wilson said. “We didn’t have a list of popular people and have them fill in the bubbles. It was completely up to them.”
The committee’s commitment was to meet with every single one of the suggested facilitators. The past three weeks, the university has been having one-on-one conversations with faculty, staff, and area pastors – over 50 people – concerning their vision.
“Overwhelmingly, the feedback we’ve gotten from the majority has been very positive,” Wilson said. “Not only do we see small groups as a value, [the potential facilitators] see it as well.”
Although certain individuals are “in high demand,” Wilson said the facilitators’ names will not be announced until late this semester.
The program will be held the first eight weeks of the spring semester and offered at 11 a.m. on Fridays during the usual Divine Hours spot. Core chapel credit will be given to those who participate, but the committee is still deciding if it will replace Divine Hours or coincide with it.
“The reason for having it the eight weeks at the beginning is because we want to make sure students are fully committed to participating in the process,” Wilson said.
After the initial eight weeks, however, Wilson said he hopes that every small group does not end.
“We hope that facilitators have opportunities to connect and build relationships with students,” Wilson said. “This is something time has shown really produces faithful followers of Christ.”
It is a challenge to influence that type of commitment, Wilson said, because part of the spiritual formation program at the university is earning chapel credit.
“Chapel credit is important,” Wilson said, “and it’s bait, no doubt about that. But here’s the thing. Any person – no matter who you are – desires to be in relationship with others. And we believe very firmly in the power of relationships. … People have motives for many different things, but I believe that God has a motive too.”