A Familiar Stranger on Campus

A Familiar Stranger on Campus

Laughlin meets with students on the Spiritual Development team.

Every now and then faculty members leave or move to other departments. New people take their place, and often we see new faces on campus. But Southwestern’s new vice president for spiritual development isn’t quite what you’d expect.

Meet Pastor Russ Laughlin. He’s never worked for Southwestern before, but that doesn’t mean he’s a stranger.

From youth Bible studies to activities with the local high schools and grade schools, Laughlin has been a committed part of the Keene community for 17 years.

Laughlin found his way to Keene after Pastor Ron Halvorson invited him to be the new youth pastor for the Keene Seventh-day Adventist Church. Now, with his new position in University administration, Pastor Laughlin has yet another opportunity to make a difference in the community.

“I’m excited,” says Laughlin. “Well, I should say nervously excited. I love the faculty here and we’ve got a good student body. This is a neat opportunity for me and a great challenge.”

Opinions of Southwestern’s new VP of spiritual development are very positive. With a passion for Christ and a cheery personality, Laughlin is well-loved among both colleagues and students.

“I’ve known him for 17 years,” says William Kilgore, religion professor and the former VP for spiritual development. “I think he will do a great job. He’s a wonderful friend, and I’m so thankful he took the position.”

“It feels like he’s well-connected with the college kids,” adds Kaylin Thurber, a student workers in the spiritual growth development office. “I enjoy working with him because he’s always upbeat and happy. He has a gift for helping people connect with God.”

Laughlin’s new position is a unique one. On one hand, Pastor Laughlin says that some of his work overlaps with that of Chaplain Islem Mattey. It involves a bit of chaplaincy, but also has an administrative side to it as well.

When it comes to working with students in his office, he sees himself as a team player. “Chaplain Mattey is the immediate supervisor, but we work together,” he says. “It’s less of being the boss. My role is to equip Chaplain Mattey to support the student workers.”

His goal, Laughlin states, is to actively involve the Southwestern family and to help develop responsible Christian leaders. Spiritual growth is what he’s aiming for.

“But spiritual growth is not easily perceived,” he adds. “All we can really do is aim for a constant, growing relationship with Jesus.”

Ministry in this day and age isn’t easy. With so many things to distract us, a job such as this can be daunting.

“Satan is attacking,” says Pastor Laughlin. “But it’s amazing to see God’s influence.”

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