Suppose you’re somewhere between 18 and 25, grew up in the church in your hometown —maybe you were a Sunday worship regular with your family or maybe you were very active in your youth program. What do you do to fill that gap when you’re away from home, attending college — and sometimes when you need your faith the most?
These are the questions Dr. Zhenya Gurina-Rodriguez encountered on a recent visit to the TCU campus. “That evening I heard students saying over and over again how important their faith is to them and how they want to continue to be a part of a local church, just as they were back home,” Zhenya relates. “Wesley Foundation (on the TCU Campus) is awesome and offers a lot of opportunities for the students during the week, but it is not a church on Sunday mornings.”
This encounter set Zhenya to thinking — and praying, she says, that FUMCFW can become the faith community that college students in the metroplex call their new home. “I prayed that in our church these young women and men would grow in their faith and hear God’s call for their lives.”
Fast forward a few weeks (or maybe less; Dr. Z works fast). Our newly created College Ministry, The Shift, is now set up and ready to welcome Fort Worth’s college students on this highly formative part of their faith — and life — journey. Church members Katie Owens and Ted Bauer have stepped up to lead this group, set to meet on Sunday mornings just following the 9:30 am Gathering worship service.
Offering these sleepy collegiates hot coffee and breakfast tacos, free with a college student ID, is sure to help them feel welcome in this special opportunity just for them. They’ll worship together at the 9:30 am Gathering service, and then hang out together afterward upstairs in The Gathering Cafe (Room 350) for some relaxed, unstructured “coffee, culture, and conversation” from10:45 – noon.
Emphasizing her passion for College Ministries, Zhenya remembers her own time of moving away from her parents to another city. She says that she was lucky to find a church there where she met other college students. “That group played such an important part in my faith journey,” she relates.
“In our chats over sandwiches and tea, they challenged me to dig deeper into my own faith, to visit other worship communities, to experience different spiritual practices, etc. We read books, watched movies, ate more sandwiches, and talked for hours.” Zhenya says that it was also in this group where she was first asked to pray out loud (“and we all know how terrifying that can be!”) — and this was the group that supported her when she first answered her call to ministry.
Thrilled beyond words at the opportunity to address this deep need in our community, Zhenya considers our church’s willing response to support this program the answer to her earnest prayer, and she adds her encouragement to the rest of us: “I invite you also to join me, pray, and support our College Ministries to see them emerge, grow, and transform lives!”