A couple weeks back I visited a church to share about campus ministry at Penn State Berks. I talked about many things, such as the story of the students picking up trash on campus. Along with that, I talked about how we try to build a friendly community of Christians on campus that is open to all students.
Afterwards a woman in the church approached me, appearing quite concerned. She shared with me that she was a former alcoholic and when she came to know Jesus she began attending a women’s Bible study at her new church. The problem was that the women in the Bible study saw her as a project. She said they were very friendly to her at the study, but they never invited her to anything outside the study. Apparently the women in the study were good friends, often meeting up throughout the week for lunch or shopping. The fact they never invited her to any of these things made her feel like their project.
She wanted to make sure that when new students come to CSF, whether to a social gathering, a worship night or whatever, that we make them feel like friends and not our projects.
It was a good reminder. In the beginning of the year when new freshman join CSF it is vital that the older students do not just welcome them into CSF, but that they take the extra steps to become friends outside of official CSF gatherings. Throughout the year when new students visit CSF gatherings the members of CSF must make sure these students feel like friends and not projects.
I was reflecting on when I was a student at CSF University Park. Honestly, I do not recall one sermon Buzz taught (Buzz, if you’re reading this, sorry). I do remember a few themes, illustrations and points but no concrete sermons. That keeps me honest, as I need to remember that when I teach the students on Thursday night, it is likely that few of them will remember what I talk about in five years (or in five days!). When I was a student, very few people, if any chose to come or not come to CSF because of the campus minister’s sermons. We were part of CSF because of the friendships.
My prayer is that CSF at Berks would be the kind of community that had such a life-changing affect on me when I was in college, a place where all kinds of people are welcomed and accepted as friends.