Serve to Grow: A Residence Life Spiritual Development Program
Ashley WattsServe to Grow: A Student Spiritual Development ProgramSpiritual development by most definitions is an ongoing, lifelong process. In order to create aneffective program for residential life, we must ask to what end we are hoping to achieve thisgrowth. To answer this question, I first looked to our University‟s mission statement: To educatestudents for Christian service and leadership throughout the world (Abilene Christian University,2011). With that in mind, I feel that a program centered on servant leadership would be mostappropriate to implement in the Residence Life setting.Jesus‟ teaching was clear. Those who desire to be leaders must first humble themselvesand serve. Mark 9: 33-37 is a great example. He had heard the disciples arguing and asked themwhy. In verse 34 it says “But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed amongthemselves who would be the greatest. And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, „Ifanyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.‟ Then He took a little child andset him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them,„Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receivesMe, receives not Me but Him who sent Me‟” (New King James Version). Again in Mark 10: 43-44 he says, “Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among youshall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all” (New KingJames Version).Coordinated by the Hall Directors and Resident Assistants, this program, called Serve toGrow, will challenge students to face the world outside of the four walls of the dormitory roomand encounter God through service to those less fortunate than themselves.Our hope in doing thisis to challenge their assumptions about the world in which they live, ask the hard questions, and
seek truth. Serving in groups will foster community; through discussion within that community,introspection; and through introspection, growth. This echoes the premise of solitude,community and ministry which is prevalent in several pieces literature on spiritual growth anddisciplines (Barton, 2006;Bonhoeffer, 1954; Nouwen, 1981).All development theories point to young adulthood as a critical stage in the lives of allpersons. For traditionally aged students, this is college. Fowler titles the young adult stage offaith the “individuative-reflective” stage, which is telling of the fact that during it “the individualassumes responsibility for his or her own commitments, lifestyle, beliefs, and attitudes”(Chickering, Dalton and Stamm, 2006, pp. 55-56). Fundamental in this stage is the fact that“[w]hat were previously tacit and unexamined convictions and beliefs must now become mattersof more explicit commitment and accountability” (Fowler, 2000, p. 49). Our hope for thisprogram is that it leads students to reflect and examine his or her beliefs.Along with the Director of Residential Life, residential life staff, and campus ministrieswe have identify four areas of spiritual growth that we feel can be impacted through service andbuild around them four community service projects. Matthew 25: 34-40 tells us that if we feedthe hungry, clothe the needy, welcome the stranger or visit the sick and imprisoned that we serveGod. Bearing that in mind, each service projects will center on one of those areas. Two projectswill be completed per semester. Hall Directors, along with their Resident Assistants (RAs) areresponsible for choosing the project date within a certain period and coordinating with theparticipating outside organization.The Hall Director will be present on-site to supervise, as well as participate with the RAsand residents. Along with the service projects will be follow up programming to be completedimmediately at the site and over the course of the week following to be completed at the
dorms.Follow up will include an on-site group discussion led by the Resident Assistants (RAs).Probing questions will be asked in order to get the residents to think about specific aspects ofspirituality related to the service. The group will then come up with a group action plan toimplement what was learned in their everyday life and in addition, an individual reflection foreach student to be completed within a week of the service project. Students will then be given theopportunity to set up peer counseling sessions with their RAs or with campus ministries staff forfurther growth and reflection.The first Server to Grow project will be serving meals at a group shelter for youth. Wefelt it was important for students to be exposed to children and teens who were close to their ownage.The spiritual lesson for this project will surround how we feed ourselves physically andspiritually and the relationship that we have with food as it relates to God. The reflection activitywill deal with how many of us use food to suppress our emotions and how food can serve as abarrier. The idea of fasting will be introduced and students will be challenged to fast and pray fora period of seven days. Resources at the Health and Wellness Center will be made available tostudents seeking further information about proper diet, nutrition and how to have a healthyrelationship with food. Counseling will also be made available. After the seven day period, theresidents will meet with their RA and fellow students to discuss the results. This activity willserve as the foundation for the rest of the program.For the next project, halls can choose between collecting and distributing winter coats fora homeless shelter or helping to build a Habitat for Humanity home. With either project, thespiritual development activity will be about trusting God as our covering, our protector and ourprovider. To further challenge students, we will talk about the ability to be naked and unashamedbefore God because He gives all of those things to us; we are safe to be ourselves and completely
vulnerable with Him because he already know everything about us. As a group, the students willdiscuss areas that they need to trust God with more. Again, students will be asked to fast andpray for seven days and come back together to talk about what changes have occurred in theirlives through the fasting.Our first semester spring project will be to reach out to sick by visiting children inhospitals around the metro area. Students will read, sing, perform skits and just spend time withthe children. This activity‟s focus will be God our healer. Instead of having the students focus onthemselves in the reflection, they will be discussing areas of the world that need healing. In theirtime of fasting and prayer, they will be asked to first seek God about for what or whom theyshould pray and then to fast and pray for them for seven days. God may lay the same cause ontheir hearts for the entire period or it may change from day to day. Regardless, we will all bepraying for a hurt and dying world. As a group, the students will discuss the different causes lainon their hearts during that week.Finally, the last project of the year will be an outreach at a nearby juvenile detentionfacility. Here residents will learn about Jesus, our savior and deliverer. Students will be pairedone on one with a juvenile and spend a few hours with him or her getting to know them and theirstory and showing Christ‟s love to them. Jesus came to set the captives free. His last dying actwas to pardon a thief. In their quiet time residents will be challenged to fast and pray aboutunrepented sin in their lives for seven days. When they come together after that week, it is ourhope that some of them have experienced a new freedom and are unburdened about some thingsin their life.Woven throughout the Serve to Grow program is the idea of solitude, community andministry,always startingwith ministry, which trickles down and touches the other areas. Though
our ministry activities focus on group acts of community service it does not only includeorganized activities. Our hope is that these outings will inspire random acts of kindness and abuild a sense of community among residents that will extend into times of corporate worship,church attendance, praying with others and group Bible study. Silence and solitude are part ofthe reflections done with every event, but it is also everything we do alone to develop ourspirituality, including silence, prayer, reading scripture, and worship.In order to prepare our Resident Assistants to lead such a program, the Hall Directors willbe doing a shorter intensive version of this program with the RAs during the summer months.RAs will be exposed to the curriculum and participate in similar projects. Having answered thequestions themselves, they will be able to better guide residents through the process. Throughoutthe year, RAs will have the continued support of their Hall Directors in executing these projects.Furthermore, with each lesson, the Health and Wellness Center, as well as University Ministrieswill be made available to students seeking further support or guidance. RAs are also equippedwith the tools to be able to know when it is appropriate to refer a resident to one of those offices.Serve to Grow will replace our current resident community outreach program; however,group meetings will not take the place of hall socials and other fun, relaxing activities. It is ourhope that these programs strengthen students spiritually and show them how rewarding servicecan be. To this affect, students will be taking the Faith Maturity Scale test at the beginning andend of the year. In addition, students will be given a general survey on their experience withServe to Grow.ReferencesAbilene Christian University. Mission Statement.Retrieved March 1, 2011 fromhttp://www.acu.edu/aboutacu/mission.html.
Barton, R. H. (2006). Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation.Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.Bonhoeffer, D. (1954). Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community. SanFrancisco: Harper.Chickering, A.W., Dalton, J.C., and Stamm, L. (2006).Encouraging Authenticity & Spiritualityin Higher Education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Fowler, J. W. (2000).Becoming Adult, Becoming Christian: Adult Development and ChristianFaith.San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Nouwen, H. J. (1981). The Way of the Heart: Connecting With God Through Prayer, Wisdom,and Silence. New York: Ballantine.