Welcome! (And Welcome Back!)–Building Community @ ONU

This week, I read an excellent blog post by my colleague (and fellow Garrett-Evangelical grad!) Dr. Jeremiah Gibbs, who is the chaplain at the University of Indianapolis– To a New College Freshman: An Open Letter from the University Chaplain.  It’s a great introduction for new college students about how to grow both intellectually and spiritually during the college years.  I highly recommend it to all college students, and for parents, ready his Open Letter to Parents as well.

The campus here at ONU is definitely alive with the many students who have returned this year, along with the new freshman who are wandering around–sometimes quite literally wandering!  What a joy to see all the smiles and hugs, and to be on the receiving end of many smiles and hugs myself, as we all ask those obligatory questions at the beginning of the fall semester:

1.  How was your summer?  (The answer is usually “Too short.”)

2.  What classes do you have this semester?  

Both questions get at some basic information–what have you been up to, and what are your plans for the immediate future–but both questions are also essential to building community, which is the topic of our first Chapel Worship series of the year.  Community-building requires that we get to know one another.  As a religious life staff, we often accomplish this through what are known as one-to-one meetings, or in short hand, “121s.”  121s are usually short (no more than 30 minutes), and involve the staff member briefly introducing him/herself, then listening as the person with whom they are meeting talks about him/herself.  The purpose of the 121 is to find out what interests a person, and how we can best help that person fit into the many vital ministries and organizations we have in religious life.  Often, a 121 will end with one of our staff members suggesting that the person they’ve been meeting with meet another staff member, or one of our religious life organization leaders.  In this way, we not only build a network, but we build a community. 

A community not only knows one another, but cares for one another.  At our retreat this summer, I challenged the staff to help me create a community in Chapel where everyone feels like they belong, and people feel noticed and cared for.  If you attend Chapel Worship, it is my hope that if you are not in attendance one week, someone will notice, and will tell you that you were missed.  This isn’t just a gimmick to boost our attendance numbers, but a way of connecting that says that we care for each other.  If you’re in my circle of friends and I notice that you’re not there, I should care about that, and reach out to you.  Imagine if that kind of movement spread across campus, and became a part of our campus culture?  

It is my hope and prayer that this year brings us all many great opportunities for growth and service together.  If you are new to campus, please make sure to introduce yourself to me, friend me on Facebook, follow on Twitter or Instagram.  If you’re returning, stop by and say hello, and let’s get reacquainted after the too-short summer!  And if you ever find yourself needing someone to talk to about anything, know that I am always there for you.  

Have a great year, Polar Bears!