October 22, 2014

Small Groups Are Big Deal on Campus

Small groups at Southwestern are getting big. The Spiritual Development department draws the line between a small group and a worship service.

“We try to create a spiritual atmosphere on this campus,” says Hannah Marchok, student chaplain. “Friday Night Vespers helps make spirituality important to the campus as a whole, but small groups are different. They help make spirituality important to people on a personal level.”

It’s important to distinguish between the two because the two services have very different goals.

Small groups usually have from three to eight people, according to Jenaro Gonzalez, small group coordinator. This allows the groups to achieve a more personal environment.

“With a big group you can’t have a discussion, there’s no intimacy,” says Gonzalez. “It’s easy to talk among friends, or relations. You can share things from your life openly.”

“Small groups create an atmosphere to get to know each person,” said Chaplain Islem Mattey. “You can pray, get to know each other and walk with each other in their spiritual walk.”

That, in a nutshell, is the purpose of a small group. It’s intended to make people feel comfortable enough to share and discuss important things in life.

Worships are intended to help students feel at home, and to bring the campus together.

“Friday Night Worship is a type of church for the college students,” said Marchok.  “It’s like a campus congregation. People come from different places and are members at different churches, but Friday Night Worship kind of serves as a church. It gives students a feeling of belonging.”

“There are crossover elements in the two groups,” said Mattey. “People might share a testimony in both, the difference is that in a small group everyone has the opportunity to talk. Both worship and small groups uplifting, but in different ways.”

This year there are 18 small groups on campus. Different factors, such as location or subject matter, determine how big a group will be.

One growing group is M.U.S.E-I.C., May U See Eternity In Christ; Estephanie Phelps and Perla Castillo lead it out. They meet at the rotunda and sing together. It’s location in the center of campus, and the fact that it involves singing, gets people’s attention.

If a group gets too large, Spiritual Development will categorize it as a worship service because it no longer fits small group requirements.

“We don’t want it big because people get nervous to talk in a large group of people,” said Gonzalez. “When it gets too big the group works more like two separate groups: those who talk and those who listen.”

If a student is interested in starting a small group they can visit the Spiritual Development website at http://spirituallife.site.swau.edu/ under the ministries tab, or drop by the Spiritual Development office. Students receive worship credit for being in a small group.

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