By Kara Witherow, Editor
In Americus and Athens, Macon and Milledgeville and dozens of other cities and towns across North and South Georgia, more than 2,000 college students are nurtured and discipled through their involvement in Wesley Foundation student ministries.
“The purpose of our Wesley Foundations and campus ministries is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world and to cultivate Christian leadership for the church and the world for the years ahead,” said Rev. Cynthia H. Autry, executive director of the Georgia United Methodist Commission on Higher Education and Campus Ministry.
Ministries of the United Methodist Church on college campuses, Wesley Foundations are called to share with campuses and students the transformational nature of Christ in a way that raises up a new generation of thoughtful, articulate Christians who care about making the world a better place.
Rev. Autry believes Wesley Foundations play a critical role in providing opportunities for fellowship, worship, study, service and outreach that can help shape the critical decisions made by students during their formative college years.
“College is a time when students get new information and new possibility and freedom, and it takes a while to sort through all of that and understand what’s really real and what’s really important,” she said. “I see that our Wesley Foundations offer students a place to explore the things that are coming to them and have conversations with people who are centered in their faith. They’re also places where they are not ridiculed when they ask those things. I hope that our campus ministries are a place where that can happen in the context of Christian conversation.”
The Valdosta State University Wesley Foundation ministers to students in a variety of ways, from weekly on-campus worship services, outreach lunches and intramural sports to mission trips, retreats, small-group Bible studies and one-on-one discipleship. They also reach out into the community and give students the opportunity to serve others through local organizations like The Haven, Land of a Thousand Hills and Habitat for Humanity.
“Disciples of Jesus are given the honor to help transform the world for good,” said Wesley Foundation Director Rev. C.J. Harp. “We teach that as we are receiving the love of God through His Spirit that is in us, we in turn pour that love out into the world.”
Wesley Foundations serve as the presence of the Church on the college campus, Rev. Harp said.
And, with three out of every five young Christians (59%) disconnecting either permanently or for an extended period of time from church life after age 15, the college campus is an important place to be.
“It is humbling to serve as a minister of the Gospel on a college campus because every day I see the immediate future of the Church walk through our doors,” Rev. Harp said. “We have been blessed to see students make first-time commitments to Jesus and a community of college students place their trust in God to guide them along the right path for the glory of His name.”
Rev. Autry agrees.
“Campus ministry is one of the very basic ministries of the church in connecting with a whole generation of young people who will not only be disciples, but leaders in the years ahead,” Rev. Autry said. “There is so much potential there and I believe that we need to keep these ministries strong on the campuses so that God can work through us to reach people. I think it’s a very, very important place for our Church to be for the lives of these young people and for the leadership of the Church in the years ahead.”