Why Different is Better Than Canceled at VSU Wesley Foundation

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How does a campus ministry help meet the needs of about 150 college students each week when you’re in a pandemic? That was the question posed to the Rev. C.J. Harp, executive director and campus minister of the Valdosta State University Wesley Foundation.

“Like other ministry leaders across the country, the VSU Wesley Foundation tried to balance the physical health concerns with the spiritual and emotional needs of students. Once the university decided to bring students back to campus for the fall semester, we decided to embrace the mantra “different is better than canceled” for our ministry,” Harp said. “Like the “different” classroom experience, we adjusted our Wednesday night on-campus worship service so students could socially distance themselves with masks. Our worship team has worn masks for the entire school year, and I have preached in a mask.”

Instead of canceling Freshley, the VSU Wesley Foundation’s freshmen ministry, they moved it outside for the fall semester. “We realized that this particular freshman class had so much of their high school senior year canceled, so we wanted to make sure we did everything possible to offer them a great first-year experience,” Harp said.

The VSU Wesley Foundation continued its one-on-one discipleship with student leaders. It also facilitated a panel discussion on mental health to help address and alleviate the upsurge of mental health issues caused by the pandemic. Harp stated, “The panel addressed destigmatizing mental health, anxiety, depression, emotional health, suicide awareness, and being a good friend towards those who struggle with mental health issues.”

In 2015, the Wesley Foundation constructed the Discipleship House on VSU’s campus thanks to in-kind donations, contributions from United Methodist churches, and a loan from the Georgia United Methodist Foundation. The facility features four three-bedroom apartments and spaces for hosting small and large gatherings.

“Although the Discipleship House mostly served as a “bubble” for our resident community, we were able to hold a few small ministry events in the Community Room during the spring semester,” Harp said. “We remain grateful to GUMF for the loan and support in helping us construct the Discipleship House, which continues to feed our culture of discipleship and helps students come to know Jesus and walk more like Jesus in the world.”