We were delighted to receive this report about students, faculty and staff gathering in prayer for the campus of Iowa State University. Might God be moving in similar ways on your campus?
During the spring and summer of 2021, Professor Ann Smiley (Kinesiology), Lori Adams (Fellowship of Christian Athletes staff), Chad Britten (InterVarsity Staff) and Dr. Tom Ingebritsen (InterVarsity Staff) were prayer walking on campus. Dr. Smiley shared a vision she had of students and faculty praying and worshiping God together on Central Campus in a green space near the Memorial Union. That vision became a reality after our September 2022 Christian Faculty and Staff Association meeting.
Over the years our Faculty/Staff group has talked about wanting to find ways to better connect with and be a resource for Christian students. For our September 2022 meeting we invited five students from two of the larger campus ministries, Salt Company and Navigators, to join us to brainstorm about this question. Dr. Eric Weber led our conversation.
The most significant thing that came out of that conversation was the students said they would like to pray with faculty. Two days after that September meeting, 30 faculty, staff and students gathered in the green space just north of the Memorial Union to pray for the University. At first, we werenâ€™t sure whether this was going to be a one-off event or would continue. But everyone who attended the gathering said they wanted to continue meetings on Fridays at noon. We continued to meet for weekly prayer throughout the rest of September and into October with typically 20-25 people gathering each time. Then we had to consider what to do as the weather got colder. We decided to meet in a room we reserved in the Memorial Union. We werenâ€™t sure whether people would continue to come but they did. In fact, they continued to come through the rest of the Fall semester. In the Spring we continued to meet in the Memorial Union until the weather warmed up, and then returned to meeting outside.
Structure of the prayer gatherings
The format for our gatherings has been simple. We allow about 10 minutes for folks to arrive at the meeting place. Once everyone is there, one of the faculty or IV staff will greet everyone and welcome newcomers. We remind one another each week how this gathering began and why we are together. Next, we invite each person to share their name and academic major or where they spend time on campus. Sometimes this may include a specific building or campus community. This helps reinforce our intention of praying for the campus and the unique places that the Lord has placed us. We then ask for praise reports or answers to prayers from the weeks before. Often, though not always, one of us will share a devotional thought to focus our hearts and minds. We then invite the group to split up into smaller groups around the room. We make sure each group includes one or two faculty/staff members. The students divide themselves up evenly among the faculty/staff. This gives students a chance to self-select into getting to know faculty and pray with them. We always reintroduce ourselves in small groups.
On good Friday the students decided they wanted to do evangelism on campus during our noon meeting time. They set up tables in two free speech zones, one by the library and the other in green space near the Memorial Union where we usually gather for prayer. One of the students baked cookies. Then they set up a sign that said â€œask a question and get a cookieâ€ to get students who were passing by to stop and engage in a conversation with the Christian students at the tables. Alternatively, a few students did a prayer walk on campus and engaged students they met while walking.
While this was going on the faculty, staff and some of the students stayed behind at the room in the Memorial Union and prayed for the students at the tables and on prayer walks.
During reflections after this it was generally thought this was a good thing, but to beware of mission creep and to keep meeting for prayer as the main thing. At the same time, we want to be open to the moving and leadership of Holy Spirit.
Final meetings of year
As the weather warmed up, we were able to move outside again. At our next-to-last meeting, we commissioned students going on mission trips this summer as well as students going home for the summer. One of our faculty members wrote a liturgy for this purpose.
Our initial vision two years ago was to see students and faculty praying and worshiping God together on Central Campus in a green space near the Memorial Union. At our last meeting, after a time of prayer, we closed the meeting with worship led by one of our graduating seniors. We also prayed over and commissioned our graduating seniors. We parted with the plan (heartily supported by the returning students) to meet again north of the Memorial Union on the first Friday of Fall 2023.
Participants have included ISU students, faculty, and staff as well as staff from two other campus ministries (the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Areopagus). Most of the students came from the SALT company which is the largest campus ministry at ISU with about 1500 students. Many of the students from SALT were small group leaders and were very mature Christians. A smaller number of students came from Navigators and Chi Alpha.
There were a couple of key students from SALT and Navigators that we communicated with and then they communicated with the rest of the students. There were several cases where students invited others to come. The two InterVarsity staff people handled communication with the Christian Faculty and Staff Association group and the staff from Fellowship of Christian Athlete and Areopagus.
Feedback from participants
God answers prayer. For example, after we prayed about it, some of the athletes asked about reading the Bible together. Another example was seeing God answer prayers about the recovery of faculty memberâ€™s wife from a serious illness.
God is bigger than I thought. As students and faculty prayed with students from other groups on campus, they began to appreciate one another more and more. God challenged their perspectives about other groups on campus and united us together in mission.
God is at work in faculty. Students shared how cool it was to pray with faculty, especially when they had taken a class with them. They also were encouraged and appreciative of the unique perspectives Christian faculty could share as they prayed together.