Jan 26, 2010

Taking on-campus traditions off-campus

by Abby Armbruster

Prayer groups are a weekly dorm tradition. Starting last semester, some students have offered to be off-campus prayer leaders, with as many as 15 to 20 people per prayer group.

“The idea came about when the (Commuter Affairs) office first started,” Director of Commuter Affairs Larry Provost said. Commuter Affairs, which began in August 2008, has been reaching out to different apartment complexes in Lynchburg to spread the word about off-campus groups.

The goal of the groups was simple, according to Campus Pastor Chris Deitsch.

“I want to get Liberty students connected,” Deitsch said.
Last semester, there were 21 groups, but this spring, that number has jumped to 40 groups. Prayer leaders offer both co-ed and single gender groups. Every group is teaching something different than the next, according to Deitsch.

Off-campus ministry prepares the off-campus prayer leaders for leaving Liberty, so they can go into a local church and start making an impact immediately, Deitsch said.

“In an off-campus group, everyone that goes wants to be there and to engage and grow together,” off-campus prayer leader senior Nathan Wilber said.

Topics in Wilber’s group usually revolve around what it means to be a Christian in the world today, Wilber said.

“Sometimes we go for two hours just talking about God, and sometimes we’ll spend an hour in prayer and worship,” he said.
Fellow off-campus leader Amber Dubberke, senior, has been taking a different approach to leading her group about the same topic. Her group will go through ‘Living Beyond Yourself: Exploring the Fruit of the Spirit’ by Beth Moore.

“Basically, we are talking about who we should be as Christians and how that will determine how successful we are at what we do in life,” Dubberke said.

Wilber also said that off-campus groups encourage Christians to join in fellowship with one another, just like an active church.
Prayer groups are something Dubberke looks forward to every week, she said.

“As a senior who lived on campus for three years and is probably leaving Lynchburg at the end of (this semester), this year is a transition time (for me),” Dubberke said. “So, my off-campus group is a great place for me to keep in close community with other Christians.”

Graduate student Kasey Horvath and senior Katie Showalter lead together in a co-ed group with about 15 people in attendance each week. The engaged couple said that the off-campus opportunity is helping them in their respective fields of study, Pastoral Leadership and Women’s Ministry.

“Leading a prayer group has given us hands on experience and preparation for wherever God leads us (to do) after Liberty University,” Horvath said.

Horvath and Showalter feel that the community aspect of prayer groups is needed for those who live off-campus more so than those on campus.

“Often times when one moves off campus it is easy to become disconnected from the body of Christ,” Horvath said. “As Christians we need to be in community, (because) we are commanded by Christ to love one another and you cannot love your brothers and sisters in Christ if you never interact with them.”

The fellowship created in the groups can extend to the apartment complex, according to Provost.

“It’s a great way to encourage sharing the light to the whole apartment complex,” Provost said.

While prayer leaders on campus must attend a class every week, off-campus leaders visit with Provost and Deitsch every couple of weeks.

“It’s harder to get plugged in than people give them credit (for),” Deitsch said.

The greatest thing that Provost has seen is “victory.” Off-campus prayer leaders agree.

“Prayer groups create dynamic opportunities for students to love one another through service, prayer, and edification,” Horvath said.

“I would recommend (that) anybody who lives off-campus find one near them and engage in it,” Wilber said. “It’s really important for us to meet up with each other and fellowship together.”

The Office of Student Leadership (OSL) is always accepting applications for off-campus prayer leaders, according to Deitsch. A meeting will be held for prospective off campus leaders in the OSL meeting room at 8 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 26. E-mail
offcampusprayergroups@liberty.edu for more information.

Contact Abby Armbruster at
aarmbruster@liberty.edu.


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