Church Planting Field Trip

What a beautiful day in Athens, Ohio! Sunshine… temperatures nearly thirty degrees warmer than yesterday in Kent… a campus full of students, back from their Winter Break for their first week of classes… and an opportunity to help support the newest church in the H2O Network. What more could a man ask for? I’m only in town for about twenty-four hours; still, I’m so glad I get to play at least a small part in this week’s “Church Planting Field Trip.”

Our church leadership team in Kent figured this trip would be an instructional experience because we’re getting ready to send a team from H2O Church at Kent State University to start, or “plant,” a new church at Youngstown State University within the next year. And how better to learn the ropes than to watch those who are a year ahead of us in the process?!? So we brought a team of eleven people from Kent: a mixture of staff who are hoping to move to Youngstown, staff who are planning to stay in Kent, and students who are just eager to help make connections with other students. And we arrived today just in time to get some lunch in one of Ohio University’s large dining halls, and then follow up with a tour of the campus with some of the staff from H2O Athens.

After we got our bearings (and then got some coffee), we split into two teams for a quick scavenger hunt. It may sound kind of frivolous, but the scavenger hunt really helped to further familiarize ourselves with the campus and make some connections with OU students. Following that, we broke into six different groups to do spiritual interest surveys throughout campus. And even though it took us a little while to find our groove, we eventually ended up having a bunch of really interesting conversations.

Church Planting Field Trip to Athens - Tour of Ohio University

I was particularly struck by a conversation that I had with a woman named Eesha towards the end of the afternoon. When I asked if she had time to stop and answer a few questions, she responded with great warmth and kindness. But very early in the survey, she told me that she strongly identified as an atheist. As we went on, I learned that she went to thirteen years of Catholic school, but she said that she believed Jesus was just an ordinary man with good intentions whose words were amplified and blown out of proportion by his followers. We clearly had different spiritual views. Still, the more we talked, the more I liked Eesha. And it seemed like the feelings may have been reciprocal.

After we finished the last question, she said she thought it was really cool that we were conducting such surveys. She appreciated the opportunity to share her perspective. She said it felt good to have someone listen to her. And when I asked if she might like to seek out our church-planting friends at H2O Athens and continue such conversations, she responded enthusiastically. I don’t know what might eventually come of our conversation, but it felt like something meaningful happened.

Church Planting Field Trip to Athens - Tour of Ohio University

The whole experience has made me more excited for collegiate ministry. I’m excited to keep praying for the work at H2O Athens. I’m eager to see what will happen next with our team headed to Youngstown State University. And I’m excited to get back to Kent and start our own new semester next week.

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