By GWEN SISSON
College is a very teachable time in life, and for many students, not only are they discovering new independence and knowledge, they are also making important decisions about their faith.
For students with a faith-based background, college means they are no longer under the direct guidance of their parents and they are making decisions about worship attendance, missions, and walking out their faith in real and personal ways.
College students are also meeting a variety of people, and some that will challenge their faith and beliefs. Campus ministry serves to help college students as they make personal decisions about their faith development.
Michael Ball, director of Mississippi State University’s Baptist Student Union, said the goal of their campus organization is to “know Christ and make Him known.”
“Followers of Jesus Christ are going to be involved in a positive way on campus and within the community,” Ball said. “The students who are (part of this ministry) are here by choice. We help guide people to grow and learn more about Jesus Christ as they are facing some of life’s biggest challenges and questions.”
Ball said students come with a variety of problems, but he hopes that encountering Jesus Christ and learning more about him will assist them as they wrestle with their own spiritual needs.
“Hope in Christ will help with whatever issue, regardless of the circumstances,” Ball said.
With two college students in his own home, Ball hopes all students will desire a balanced life, just as Christ modeled in Luke 2:52 (NIV): “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.”
As a freshman, Ball said students are hungry to build relationships and feel connected to people they trust. For first-year students, Ball said campus ministry works hard to help students make those connections.
“They are learning to do life as a college student, and it is important to make connections with people with similar values,” Ball said.
As the student grows, campus ministry works to continually build accountability and a richer experience through small group studies and missions. As the student moves into their junior and senior years at college, they have developed leadership skills and the desire to help younger students.
Fran Lavelle, MSU’s Catholic Campus minister, said the importance of campus ministry is in keeping students grounded in their faith and their belief in God.
“Chief among the benefits for students with an active spiritual life is the support system that naturally comes with being part of campus ministry,” Lavelle said. “We work hard at creating an environment of hospitality in that everyone who walks through the doors is welcome — just as they are.”
This year marks Lavelle’s 13th year at MSU serving as the campus minister for Catholic students.
“I have seen over the years that we in campus ministry help bridge the gap of the faith of a teenager to the full ownership in faith as an adult,” Lavelle said. “It is not only important work, it is very fulfilling.”
MSU Praise is another campus organization focused on making Christ known. The music ministry is “dedicated to lifting up the name of Jesus Christ through music.”
B.J. LeJune, campus coordinator for MSU Praise, said the organization has the desire to see lives transformed, spirits uplifted, and hearts united in total praise.
“The goal is to lead people into an intimate experience with God through praise and worship,” LeJune said. “To yield to the Spirit, to enhance the connection between God and man, and to let Him know how very much we love him.”
Campus ministry also provides an outlet for missions, within the campus, the community and the nation.
“It is important to encounter and to know Christ, but also to make Him known,” Ball said. “It is not really about the name of the organization, but spreading the love of Christ.”
There are a wide variety of student ministries on the MSU campus with opportunities for community members to make contributions or join the cause to support the faith development of college students. For a complete list, go to http://one.msstate.edu/join/all.php .