Semester-long ministry begins with leader prep

By Ben Hamilton, Staff Writer

Life Group leaders already are preparing this spring to be ready for the fall semester.

Life Groups are part of a ministry the Office of Spiritual Life began at Union more than a decade ago. The goal is to create a sense of belonging and community for students in their first semester.

Life Group leaders seek to encourage new students by providing uplifting friendships in the first few weeks of college.

The Office of Spiritual Life makes a specific effort to begin training its leaders now so that they can begin ministering to students as soon as they arrive in August.

“Training really begins at the Spring Retreat,” said Lee Wilson, director of discipleship for the Office of Spiritual Life. “It provides the Life Group leaders a time to build a community together and allows them to begin searching out who might be a good partner for them.”

Organizers held the retreat the weekend after spring break, and since then the 70 leaders were paired into 35 groups, allowing them to plan events together and develop a strong bond before serving in the fall semester.

These groups plan games and outings with their Life Groups to build relationships outside the classroom.

“Something we stress is that the unity and community built among Life Groups is one that is based on the Gospel,” Wilson said. “It’s a crucial part of the ministry, and we focus heavily on that point during the retreat in the spring.”

Molly King, sophomore sociology major and Life Group leader, is returning after her experience being a leader in fall 2011.

“I have found training in the spring to be really helpful (because) I am able to get to know the other leaders and begin to get really excited about working with the new students next semester,” King said.

In addition to planning this semester, Life Group leaders also come several days before Focus, Union’s orientation, to make last-minute preparations.

Attending Focus also allows them to help Focus leaders and get to know students.

Wilson said hosting a retreat during the spring semester allows the leaders to learn about the ministry without cramming the sessions in the days right before Focus week.

“It’s not necessarily better to do it in the spring,” Wilson said. “It’s just different, and we have found that it works well to grow and foster a strong community within the ministry early on.”

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The Cardinal & Cream is a student publication of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Our staff ranges from freshmen to seniors and includes a variety of majors — including journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing, digital media studies, graphic design and art majors.