“What college students are craving is something genuine,” says Anna Joy Blackmon, a campus ministries student leader. “Everyone is just craving something real.”
Many of the students at PBA, a nondenominational Christian college in Florida, were raised in the church and believe that they’ve got “the whole Jesus thing” pretty figured out. Others—such as those who came to the school simply because they were offered a scholarship—don’t care about faith at all.
It’s those opposing (but equally apathetic) attitudes that have been the challenge for the school’s campus ministry staff. The way that they’ve found to break through is with authentic and sincere relationships.
Two years ago, the school started a program called Point 58, in which a student chaplain is placed on every floor of every resident hall with the sole task of ministering to other students on the floor. They minister through friendship. In a hectic time in life where things move at breakneck pace, it’s important to have a friend who will ask you the hard questions and listen to your hard answers. “We just want a person to laugh with and a shoulder to cry on,” Christian Dzadek, coordinator of student missions, says www.pba.edu/CM/index.htm.
The staff says response to the program has been unexpectedly positive. Although they had to practically force students to be Point Leaders during the program’s first year, they had more applicants than they knew what to do with the second year. The program, the staff says, is particularly effective because it allows for constant and ongoing relationships. Sometimes it takes an entire semester for Point Leaders to break down walls with certain students on their floors. The investment is definitely worth it.
Another of their key programs is a class called “Overcoming Obstacles,” led by Peggy Padden, a secretary for the school. The class is for people who want to work through their personal baggage. Students come with family problems, addictions, eating disorders, substance abuse programs and lots of other afflictions.
Padden says the program helps students “take ownership of their own life and let God change them and make them whole through Jesus Christ.” They feel safe and comfortable enough to be vulnerable.
When a student gets in trouble with the school, they are required to attend the “Overcoming Obstacles” class instead of being kicked out. “We’re a Christian university. Why kick a student out if we can avoid it?” asks Mark Kaprive, director of campus ministries.
While Kaprive and his team organize a number of ministry opportunities on campus, one of the most exciting is their new surf ministry. Last spring they recognized that the school had a large number of surfers on campus, and they decided to put them to good use. Like the other PBA ministries, the surf ministry is all about relationships. The members build relationships with non-Christian surfers, teach local kids to surf and do what needs to be done to communicate God’s love.
Through everything that they do, the campus ministry staff understands that God won’t matter to people until people understand that they matter to God.
“Jesus just hung out with people, and that was Him discipling them,” Dzadek says. “The essence of discipleship is not so much Bible study, but hanging out with people who need Jesus. Just being around makes a difference. Just being a friend is more than it sounds like—it’s huge.”