By Felicia Taraczkozy, Assistant Online Editor
Life Groups are a campus-life staple at Union University.
For many new freshmen and transfer students, Life Groups are the first extracurricular activity they experience after walking onto campus.
Life Groups typically consist of two leaders and about 12 to 14 students. Groups meet every other week for about an hour, and meetings usually include a time of fun and fellowship, followed by prayer, devotions or discussion.
New students are encouraged to attend the Life Group fair during Focus Week and choose their preferred leaders once they have talked with the leaders and found a team with which they feel comfortable.
Some students rely on the leaders for friendship, guidance through their first semester of college or just a refreshing break of fun and games. No matter the purpose, Life Groups are vitally important to the overall experience.
Those who participate rarely know how much time and preparation goes into their hour-a-week group meetings. Many times, the male and female leaders may not have known each other before they applied for the positions.
Upperclassmen begin the leader application process before spring break and find out who their partners are after the break. Leaders can attend one of several retreats held throughout the spring and as fall semester approaches.
They also have the help of the Life Group support team.
Eight former Life Group leaders on the support team serve the 70 new leaders any way they can, with a goal of fostering accountability and fellowship among leaders.
The Office of Spiritual Life also contributes to Life Group leaders’ success. Keely Hart and Lee Wilson, next year’s directors of discipleship, serve the leaders by encouraging, praying for and training them as well as helping them to plan fun events such as retreats and the relay competition on May 12.
“Lee Wilson and myself will be walking alongside these Life Group leaders as they receive a Life Group from the Lord and as they begin to pour themselves out, and investing in the freshmen and transfer students that are coming in,” said Keely Hart, the university’s new director of discipleship. “We will be pouring into them, encouraging them, making sure they have the things they need in order to do their roles as well, and helping them process through things that come up in their Life Groups, and being a friend.”
A new addition to this year’s structure is that leaders are divided into six family groups. The new family groups provide leaders a close-knit group with which to meet once a month.
The Office of Spiritual Life pairs support team members with specific family groups.
“Family groups came out of a desire to just have a closer group of people within Life Groups that you know well,” Hart said.
Saturday’s event and barbecue dinner provided an opportunity for leaders to get to know others in their family groups a little better before they leave campus for the summer break.
Organizers placed leaders into their six separate families for a campus-wide relay competition. The teams were asked to play tug-of-war and to perform crazy stunts and finished the day with a Life Group tradition, the slip-and-slide event.
After all six teams indulged themselves in multiple trips down the slip-and-slide, everyone dined at Luther Hall, where many of the leaders said goodbye to their partners and friends for the summer.
“We just wanted a way for them to have fun, for them to get to know each other better, to work together and be crazy together,” said Trey Weise, junior philosophy major and Life Group support team member.
As much as the Office of Spiritual Life and Life Group support team strive to encourage and edify leaders, they often leave encouraged, too. Those on the leadership team say they look forward to spending the next semester with the leaders.
“This group is a great group of students,” Hart said. “We have a group of Union students who have dedicated and committed their time, energy, enthusiasm and spirit to students, who, at this very moment, they don’t even know yet. They encourage me in the way they are so eager to serve and love other people.”