November 17, 2016 | 11 a.m.
By Monique Kleinhuizen '08, GS'16, new media strategist
Classes, Chapel, campus jobs, and co-curriculars are staples of most Bethel students’ schedules. With two new Campus Ministries-sponsored small group options launching for returning students this fall, the hope is that every student will now have an on-campus discipleship option that fits their schedule and personality.
While groups already exist in residence halls, the Campus Ministries team recognizes that some students gravitate toward different areas of campus. “We ask students, ‘where is your living room?’ and let them self-select where they feel most comfortable,” says Assistant Campus Pastor for Discipleship Jason Steffenhagen. The groups are part of a wider effort toward creating spaces where students can process life and grapple with the big questions that often come out of the vocational decisions, academic study, and self-awareness that come with the college experience. “Our whole approach to discipleship is encouraging students to ‘do life together’ with the hope that they’ll own their own faith.”
Mighty Men and Rooted Women are student-led, and there’s no specific curriculum. This year, the men have chosen to use the “Promise Principle” tool for study, where they each read a passage of Scripture each week and discuss a truth, promise, or command they’re taking from the chapter. They then pray for each other. “It’s really biblically-based—students are solidly in the Word—and there’s great accountability,” says Steffenhagen. The women have chosen to focus on their identity in Christ, taking a topical approach to the first year of Rooted Women. The key is consistency, so groups meet every week and even though there’s a large-group introduction to each meeting, smaller discussion groups stay the same.
“We’re hoping to create a culture of consistent discipleship in students’ daily lives—not just spiritual highs and lows,” says Steffenhagen. While it’s easy to bring a high-energy, inspiring speaker to campus, to Steffenhagen and his team, it’s more important to engage students in multifaceted community and discipleship. So this year, they’ve also revamped the Chapel lineup, weaving in worship styles and topics that challenge and inspire all parts of the diverse student body—and the rest of the campus community. “We’re constantly asking ourselves, ‘how is what we’re doing moving people toward consistent community engagement?’’’
While community building begins the minute students move to Bethel’s campus during Welcome Week, there’s also been an intentional move toward expanding offerings so students can continue their growth until they graduate. Mighty Men and Rooted Women—designed for upperclassmen—take place in larger, neutral campus locations, more fitting for commuters and students who prefer to connect outside of their residences. They’re also designed with more mature students in mind.
“In students’ first year on campus, there’s a lot of identity-seeking and culture questions going on. Students are asking, ‘Where do I fit in? Who am I?’” says Steffenhagen. “There are also a lot of major faith questions that sometimes don’t get asked until junior or senior year. We’re making space for that.
“We’re not forcing the culture into our ideological box, but fitting the culture. Now that we have Brushaber Commons (BC), there are a lot of students who just enjoy being around each other there. We asked, ‘How can we create intimate community within a large, open space like the BC?’” says Steffenhagen. “We’re allowing space for students to process—intentionally creating some disequilibrium. Our culture is so fast. We’re all socially connected but relationally void, and we need to slow down and listen to one another. We’re creating pathways and avenues for our students to become relationally healthy.”
Christ-centered dialogue is established during students’ first year on campus with student-led, residence hall-based “Shift” discipleship groups. SmallGroup, which launched in fall 2015 for upperclassmen, is a similar gender-specific, student-led study. Mighty Men, Rooted Women, and SmallGroup will happen simultaneously—9-10 p.m. on Thursdays—in the Dining Center, Seminary Chapel, and residence halls, respectively. The hope is that “students can self-select where they most comfortably ‘do life’ with others,” says Steffenhagen.
Find out more about Campus Ministries and spiritual growth opportunities for Bethel students.