The piles of pizza boxes were gone and so was the annual pancake feed. One of the normal ways of attracting college students to an event — food — just didn’t work last year during heavy COVID protocols at Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas.
No one was allowed to gather in large groups and sharing food “college style” was definitely out of the question.
The restrictions didn’t stop FHSU Christian Challenge, though. They figured out a way and got down to the heart of why college students really gather — to socialize and be with friends.
Their ability to fluidly change with the circumstances while still serving the college community was just one of the reasons it was named FHSU “2021 Student Organization of the Year.”
The award was given out by the FHSU student government association. They honored Christian Challenge out of 180-plus clubs and organizations on campus for their ability to change the way “groups typically gather and worship” while still managing to engage with just as many students as usual.
“Although some of their traditional events were not able to take place,” the Student Government Association stated, “they were able to adapt and explore new territory in programming and engagement events. The group created their own conferences and retreats when everything else was being canceled around them.”
Business as usual
Carin Cochran, FHSU Christian Challenge director, and her team were surprised and thankful by the recognition. For them, it was business as usual: figure out how to help college students evangelize and disciple their peers in an ever-changing world. This meant emphasizing small group gatherings, not just for Bible studies, but for everything. Many of their activities also moved outside.
The team got creative in their outreach on campus. Instead of hosting the annual pancake social at the beginning of the school year, they had a game night on the quad. The outdoor games and activities were spread out, allowing students to socially distance but still interact.
FHSU Christian Challenge transitioned from a weekly large group gathering to a monthly outdoor meeting. Small groups — already a foundation for the organization — became even more important as students developed a strong community through prayer and discipleship.
“We found what is true in non-COVID years was true during COVID — personal invitation is the way students are going to come,” Cochran said. “That’s what works and people respond — whether it is a campus event or going to church — to being invited and wanted.”
“Thank you for the support that we get from the convention and churches,” Cochran said. “There are no lone rangers out here doing ministry. This is a team sport. It takes all of us across our two-state area to reach this generation. I’m so thankful for everyone stepping up to collaborate.”
Cochran asks for continued prayer for the FHSU Christian Challenge ministry:
- Pray that they continue to find favor with FHSU and are able to continue working on campus.
- Pray that those who do not know Jesus as their Savior will have an opportunity to hear and understand. Pray that student leaders will learn how to share their stories and disciple others.
- Pray for opportunities to strengthen community through small groups and discipleship. Pray for these future leaders to be obedient and humble as they embark on a journey to serve Christ through their various professions.
EDITOR’S NOTE — This article was written by Sue Sprenkle for the Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists, where it was originally published.