By Karoline Chapman
In a time when more than half of all college students report feeling lonely, creating opportunities for young adults to experience life-giving community and fellowship is crucial. Recognizing the need to nurture faith and friendships, the Wesley Foundation at Texas A&M is changing lives on campus and beyond.
“We are a ministry not just for students but of students,” says Reverend Katy Haislet, whose full-time appointment is with the Wesley Foundation. “We’re helping students learn how to be in ministry so that after graduation, they can go on to serve in the churches they join as adults. As they prepare for the next chapter, I often tell my seniors that they will probably have to start church small groups for people their age at their future church because there are not necessarily many young people in the United Methodist Church. I’m confident they can and will because by the time our students have graduated, they have often led multiple bible studies, served on the Wesley board and participated in the administrative committee.”
Wesley has “weekly rhythms” that provide times of worship and Bible study for young men and women throughout the week. Church members cook dinner for the students each Sunday, followed by student-led worship and testimonials. Spiritual retreats and mission trip opportunities are also provided.
“Wesley is a home away from home,” says Rev. Haislet. “In most spiritual settings, people attend for a few hours weekly. But by providing multiple events weekly, our students understand that faith is not dualistic. Christianity is an identity that should permeate their whole life; that’s not something that happens by investing in their faith for just one hour a week.”
Students at Wesley are not only active within the ministry, but they are innovating creative ways to serve God with their gifts. About 10 years ago, a group of musically-gifted students in the ministry saw a chance to create disciples through music, and a fantastic bluegrass praise band was formed.
“Some band members have grown up in the church, and others have never been until joining Wesley; they come from various denominations. But they all connect through the shared love of music.” shares Rev. Haislet.
The bluegrass band leads worship at local churches and has even gone on a tour in West Texas, where members piled in a bus, pulled along a trailer and were able to lead worship in five different settings. One student who attended a trip with the bluegrass band shares that the experience profoundly impacted him.
“I made many of my closest friends [on a trip with the bluegrass band] and found that I enjoyed running the sound board for the band. After returning to College Station for the Fall 2022 semester, I applied to be Assistant Tech chair and was elected. Now, I get to serve during worship services by doing behind-the-scenes stuff. I also started co-leading a community group, which I never thought I would do. I think it’s amazing that I found a place where I could serve others through serving God,” shares James Hingle, current junior at A&M.
Other students like James are finding invaluable relationships with God and fellow Believers through Wesley. Students who come to Wesley, whether they are first-year or fourth-year students, craving friends, or seeking God, they tend to find all that and much more on the other side of Wesley’s doors.
“We have one student who grew up Christian but had a crisis of faith while finishing high school at home amid the pandemic, leading him to become agnostic,” says Rev. Haislet. “When he got to A&M, he felt extremely isolated and shared that he found himself praying to God in his dorm room to help him find friends and not be lonely. Not long after, one of his high school friends who grew up Methodist invited him to come to Wesley. Once he came, he never looked back.” For A&M students, whether attending on campus or remotely, it is never too late to visit the Wesley Foundation, where authentic relationships with God and people are cultivated.