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Campus Ministries Launches SmallGroup

Campus Ministries Launches SmallGroup

SmallGroup, Bible studies in residence halls for returning students, will begin this fall at Bethel. (Photo credit: Nathan Klok ’17)

One of the cornerstones of the Bethel undergraduate student experience is—and has always been—spiritual formation. One space where that formation happens is in student-led “Shift” Bible studies in first-year residence halls on Wednesday evenings. Shift is often mentioned as one of the most impactful and memorable parts of a student’s first year at Bethel.

This year, similar small groups will also be offered for returning students, providing an opportunity for discussion and study within residential areas for sophomores, juniors, and seniors. “All students are trying to figure out who they are, what they believe, and what their calling is in life,” says Assistant Campus Pastor for Discipleship Jason Steffenhagen. “They’re asking a lot of questions. Are we providing a place where they can continue to ask those questions? I think we’ve been missing an important developmental space for students. Students get ‘talked at’ all day. This is the one space where they can talk to each other.”

Steffenhagen says the new program—dubbed, simply, SmallGroup—was developed out of a desire for students of all ages to further their spiritual development on campus. He worked with Assistant Dean for Residence Life John Farris and resident directors to dream about the future and lay the groundwork for more robust ministry offerings for returning students. On housing applications in spring 2015, more than 400 students indicated they’d be interested in a Bible study for upperclassmen. Of those 400, one in four said they’d be interested in leading one.

SmallGroup will be offered in every upperclassmen residence hall—North Woods and Waters, Arden Village East and West, Heritage Hall, and Lissner Hall—at 10 p.m. on Thursday evenings during the school year. They’ll be gender-specific and led by students who live in each residence space. “This is a model of ‘doing life with others,’” says Steffenhagen. “The students live in the space they’re going to be leading.”

While there won’t be a set curriculum, groups will have access to Chapel-based discussion questions and a system of accountability and support from both the Office of Campus Ministries and student leaders trained to suggest materials and guide discussions.

Makayla Jorgensen ’16—a Missional Ministries and Communication Studies double-major—will be the SmallGroup student lead for North Woods, North Waters, and Heritage. For Jorgensen, the spiritual connection and relationships she’s built at Bethel have been the core of her student experience, and she wants to help other students have the same quality of relationships and spiritual development. “There have been many impactful outlets I have engaged with at Bethel, but the community I am a part of has been one of the biggest influences during these past three years,” she says. “I have learned that what you are doing is not the important piece—it’s about your heart posture and the people you are doing life with on a daily basis. There are awesome pockets of people to connect with at Bethel, and that has made all the difference in my experience at school.” 

She continues: “We are called to live out the gospel by discerning God's voice together as a community, and by joining Him where He is at work in our everyday context. What better way is there to learn who God is and live out the kingdom in community than by getting into Scripture with a group of friends in your own dorm? My hope and prayer is that SmallGroup will be an encouragement for students to connect with others who are like-minded in wanting to learn more about Jesus and practice living out His example together.”

Read more about student spiritual development at Bethel