Fellowship was important to Jesus. The gospels make it clear that while large crowds followed Him during His earthly ministry, Jesus specifically called 12 to be closest to Him, “that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach,” Mark 3:14, NKJV. At Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, Tennessee, LifeGroups provide one way for students to follow this example, drawing closer to each other and to Him.
Typically made up of a dozen students or less, approximately 80 campus groups meet together regularly to dig into the Bible, explore challenging topics, pray, and experience life together. As members form friendships with each other, they also find a deeper, personal relationship with Jesus. According to Anna Bennett, associate chaplain, the mission of LifeGroups is to provide opportunities for Southern students to “belong in spiritual, small group communities; behold God intimately and personally; and become changed, transformed, and empowered as disciple- makers of the Great Commission.”
“My LifeGroup is a place where I feel comfortable talking about the Bible and biblical topics,” said Autumn Dunzweiler, junior mass communication major. “One of the special experiences we’ve had as a group was when one of our members got baptized. It was so meaningful for her, but also for us because we all had a part in her decision.”
These student-led groups are as varied and unique as the students who gather together. Some delve into the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation, others focus on gaining a deeper understanding of the men and women God wants them to be; one group of guys meet for an intense mountain bike ride that ends sitting in a circle, unpacking what God is doing in their lives. Other groups, like one for returning student missionaries (SMs), serve a special role for students who may feel different than their peers.
“It can be hard for SMs coming back from a rich mission experience and settling back into ‘normal’ life,” Bennett said. “It helps to be with others who have had similar experiences and to find a sense of belonging.”
People of all ages can benefit from the fellowship of a spiritual small group. As Ellen White said, “The formation of small companies as a basis of Christian effort is a plan that has been presented before me by One who cannot err. If there is a large number in the church, let the members be formed into small companies, to work not only for the church members but for unbelievers also,” Evangelism, p. 115.
While participating in a small group may feel awkward at first, senior social work major Rosaly Ambrose felt God’s assurance that she was in the right place.
“My first LifeGroup meeting, I was nervous and scared to walk in,” she said, “but it just so happened that the topic they were discussing fit my exact situation and left me with an overall feeling of peace, and in that moment, I knew that it wasn’t a mistake joining this group.”
“For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them,” Matthew 18:20.
is the editorial manager at Southern Adventist University, where she graduated in 2005 with a degree in mass communication.
Southern Adventist University | March 2019