They were the words no campus minister ever wants to hear. And April Foat, ministering at Carroll University in Wisconsin, and Alex Holle, serving at both Carroll and Carthage College, found out about this new policy just before the start of the spring semester.
Together with their student leaders, April and Alex had to scramble to rethink their ministry plans. Alex shared that they had already been thinking of having more student-centered large groups. But to have to shift chapter events to be completely student-led wasn’t exactly what they had in mind.
Still trusting in God’s timing and plan, student leaders worked hard creating welcoming spaces for other students to let them know that they weren’t alone on campus. Alex did as much as he could to help behind the scenes and watched the events online—all the while succumbing to a serious case of FOMO.
“Overall attendance was down this semester,” he reflected. “But our leaders showed a lot of faithfulness in leading through it all and [with] a renewed passion to keep things going in-person without staff help.”
After going a semester without large group, Carthage students were determined to bring them back. They invited speakers to teach through Zoom on the armor of God and hosted in-person game nights to build more friendships.
Large groups at Carroll took a different approach with a student sharing his or her testimony each week. “[This] took our large group to a place it hasn’t been in a long time,” said Luke, one of Carroll’s student leaders. “The amount of energy and passion in the room after an inspiring story can only be chalked up as a work of the Holy Spirit.”
As part of this shift, Alex invited Becca, Carroll’s Small Group Coach and an experienced Bible study leader, to facilitate weekly meetings equipping the chapter’s small group leaders to lead other students through the book of Romans.
“Taking over Small Group Prep has helped me become more disciplined in my time spent in the Word,” Becca said. “Knowing that I would have to lead other [leaders] encouraged me to dig deeper into the passages and work to answer my own questions so that I could answer my groups’ questions. It has been very rewarding seeing my own faith grow and being able to help others grow in their faith as well.”
Looking back on this last semester of ministry, Alex said, “I am really proud of the way all our leaders stepped into more responsibility and how God is using them on campus!”
Nathan Peterson is a writer on InterVarsity's Communications Team in Madison, Wisconsin. He formerly was the Urbana 18 writer. When he’s not at work, you can find him working on his book, at the gym, or watching movies at home.