Over the past months, Grove City College’s Chapel Ministries team learned the importance of livestreaming Chapel services, how to connect with students virtually and the magnitude of personal relationships.
This fall, Chapel staff hopes to see things return to as close to normal as possible as they continue to minister to the spiritual wellbeing of students arriving on campus August 24.
“We would like to see in-person worship services resume, as there is something very special about believers gathering to worship the Lord, but we will not risk the safety of our student body to do so,” Zachary Pitcher ’17, Chapel Programming director, said. “Over the summer, we will be thoughtfully and prayerfully evaluating all options for our worship services,” he said.
According to Pitcher, there are no solid plans yet as it will depend on public health restrictions, decisions of the College’s Fall Return Planning Committee and solidarity with what the college decides to do. Some options include having normal, twice-weekly chapel services but at half capacity to ensure social distancing, or livestreaming services and having students participate in small groups, perhaps by residence hall, led by resident assistants.
“The College has some really strong assets: a great Media Services team, quality facilities with plenty of space to spread out if necessary and a great lineup of chapel speakers for the fall. There is a lot of potential,” Pitcher said.
After learning to a new extent the importance of relationships during the pandemic that sent students off campus for much of the spring semester, Elizabeth Messer, Women’s Ministries coordinator, plans to emphasize small groups, discipleship and mentorship relationships right away in the fall. “The relationships already formed at the College became so much more important as our worlds seemingly got smaller,” she said.
Messer runs a female mentorship program that brings in women from the community to minster to Grove City College Students. “All 35 mentors continued to stay in touch with their mentees through personal communication, and some even continued their bible studies through online Zoom meetings,” she said. She is looking for more mentors to volunteer, as 45 rising sophomores and juniors have already expressed interest in participating in a mentorship group or one-on-one relationship.
The men’s mentorship program run by Men’s Ministry Coordinator Eric Phillips also continued virtually.
Another ministry Messer leads is the senior Women’s Bible Study in the spring semester, open to all senior women and hosted by the College’s first lady Brenda (Millican ’80) McNulty. The study only met five times before students had to leave campus. Messer recorded the last three bible lessons and put them along with recordings of the five previous lessons on a podcast called “Elizabeth Messer Shares” on Spotify and anchor.
Also during this time, campus ministries hosted a virtual training for student leaders from ministries such as prison ministry and sorority chaplains. It was led by Randy Veccia, regional director for Campus Crusade, and he provided tools to equip the students to best do online ministry.
Regardless of how Chapel and campus ministries will occur in the fall, there will still be themes for their work. They plan to bring in speakers to talk about thinking through how to live post-coronavirus and how to best live in relationship and community with others. One speaker, Andy Crouch is an author, executive editor of Christianity Today and partner for theology and culture at Praxis and will talk about living post-coronavirus.
“The ministries we do are important for students and blessing our community. Whatever we can do, we will do well, but with the priority to keep people safe,” Pitcher said.