The last meeting of 2019 for Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) Adventist Christian Fellowship (ACF)* ended in the assigned meeting room. However, after the meeting, the students moved to an open space with chairs and tables where informal conversation happened, as well as spontaneous laughs and bonding among friends and acquaintances. In other words, the students were “hanging out.”
If I were asked when does the most important part of student gatherings happen, I would answer, without hesitation, “when students hang out.” When adults are included in those informal conversations and the titles and awkwardness of formality are dropped, then heartfelt issues and real life conversation may take place. That is often experienced on mission trips. There are no agendas, or phones ringing, or rushing to be somewhere. As a result, people turn to each other for conversation and, not surprisingly, friendship flourishes and intimacy happens. In fact, many in that group had experienced that level of friendship a few months before on a Cuba Mission Trip.
In a goodbye ritual that drags out for minutes, in this case, but for what seemed to be hours, someone shouted, “Wait! We haven’t taken a picture yet.” Intuitively, a student asked a stranger who was also hanging out to take a picture of the ACF group. She graciously stepped up and began to give directions to the group in order to achieve the best possible picture. After many laughs and an acceptable result, the conversation continued. Now, this perfect stranger is at the center. We learned about her life, ethnicity, and academic journey. Shortly after she left, she returned to the group with another student by her side. She introduced him as someone who should be a part of this “religious group.” It turned out that this student grew up in a missionary Christian family, but made bad choices that landed him involved with drugs. In fact, he carries around his neck multiple roundish color-coded keychains that represent a month of sobriety.
At the first ACF meeting of the new year, I was thrilled to see students I did not recognize, pastors who attended the meeting in support of the students, and the two perfect strangers met the prior month in the lobby of MTSU outside the meeting room.
Public Campus Ministries is, arguably, the most strategic mission field. Today’s students will be tomorrow’s leaders, entrepreneurs, and professionals who will direct the affairs of this world and influence many in the United States and the world. Would you consider hanging out with your group of students today? A friendly smile, a plate of food, or even a ride may make the difference for eternity.
*ACF is a student-led small group on public campuses, and registered as a student organization that is supported by local congregations.
is the associate youth director at the Kentucky-Tennessee Conference.
Kentucky-Tennessee | March 2020