Thrive Helps Create New Campus Ministry in DeKalb

October 02, 2013

When I arrived at St. Paul's three years ago the leadership team was anxious that I do something to connect with the community of Northern Illinois University. St. Paul's had historically had a long history of student ministry, but in recent years that had dwindled to almost nothing. Our building is conveniently located on six acres stretching the block between Greek Row and the northern end of NIU's campus. We are a pedestrian highway, but we felt very much like an island no one wanted to visit. There had been a few efforts to connect with the hundreds of students who daily walk through our property, but they asked too much of a population who knew too little about church, and what they did know was mostly not positive! I have to admit that initially I too was stumped as to how to "set sail" from St. Paul's-island and into the lives of students streaming around our property.

When the invitation to participate in Thrive was made available last fall we jumped at the opportunity to learn how to be the radically hospitable congregation we wanted to be and knew God was calling us to be! Within just two cohort meetings our team came up with an idea to meet our neighbors (NIU students) at their point of greatest need. We had offered Ashes on the Go for three years in a row, and while many students didn't want ashes they did appreciate us reaching out and often had other prayer requests. With finals looming we knew that students would be under a lot of stress, so the idea for Prayers2pass was born: go outside the week before finals, talk to people, offer to pray for and with them, give them a drink and a snack for the road.

It was so wildly successful that we decided to host a welcome week edition at the start of the fall semester and expand the effort to two days at two locations around campus, partnering with our friends at Grace Place Campus Ministry at NIU. After each event we come back and tell the story in worship and we as a congregation we pray over the requests received. The change in people's enthusiasm for other ministries has been remarkable. We are now consciously thinking about how best to serve our neighbor in other ministries as well. We no longer say, "How could we possibly do this?" Instead we say, "How could we not?!" I don't think we would have come up with this idea and seen it through we had not been participating in Thrive. It's a stretch to break out of the limestone walls and be vulnerable with perfect strangers. But when we did we found Jesus, and I venture to say our neighbors are now seeing the Christ light in us too.

--The Rev. Stacy Walker-Frontjes, rector, St. Paul's Episcopal Church, DeKalb