Before the reality of daily life and ministry shifted in mid-March, a group of 40 Navigators Collegiate students went on a spring break service trip to Charleston, South Carolina. At the start of the week, Chris Gatlyn (University of Virginia, Navigators Collegiate staff) challenged the students to be fully present by minimizing phone use during the week. He also challenged them to a “No Complain Campaign.” The focus was on thankfulness as they worked to serve and come alongside orphans, the poor, and homeless. There was an environment of unity, encouragement, and unselfishness among the whole team. God used the time to deepen relationships and encourage students in their walk with God.
This time together provided a great foundation for processing the huge changes that were announced while the team was still on the trip. The students were sad, fearful, and disappointed when the University of Virginia announced that all classes would move online after spring break due to the coronavirus.
Chris Gatlyn reflects on the timing of this shift, “It was actually a blessing that this news came out during our trip because we were able to process it with the students in person and encourage them to trust God in the midst of uncertainty. We talked at length about choosing to respond with faith instead of fear and choosing to respond with self-sacrifice instead of self-protection. I encouraged them to ask two questions as they view this challenge. ‘What does this make possible?’ and ‘What new opportunities does this create for you to love people?’”
Now, as face-to-face contact has moved to video chats, ministry to students keeps moving forward. Bible studies, Life-to-Life® discipleship time, and even large group meetings continue—using the technology tools that today’s college students are already familiar with. Students are discovering that they have more time to connect for discipleship as other activities are curtailed.
Putting away cell phones was a great way to focus on community during the spring break trip, but the use of this connective technology that the current generation of college students embraces means that ministry continues!
People may be staying physically apart, but more than ever they’re craving connection, genuine community, answers to their deepest questions, and tangible hope for the future. As we all find new and creative ways to practice Life-to-Life ministry, Navigators are actively leveraging technologies like email, text, video chat, instant messaging, live-streaming, and more to initiate and maintain contact with those God’s called us to serve.
Praise God that ministry continues as Navigators embrace all the tools available to grow disciplemakers. Pray that students would stay connected to God and each other during this unusual season. Pray that we would all respond with faith and courage instead of fear and anxiety.