By Mia Agee
Next school year Trevecca’s university chaplain plans to create discipleship groups and boost local church involvement among students post-Covid.
During the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic students could not meet in groups of more than eight people on campus.
“Then you’ve got the added layer of masks. I know we all get used to that, but it’s not normal, and it’s really hard to establish personal connections with people when you can’t see their faces,” said Erik Gernand, university chaplain.
Last summer, Gernand worked with student chaplains to put together student-led groups over specific topics, Bible studies, and accountability groups. Around 15 of those groups existed at the beginning of the last two school years, and though many of them have fizzled out, a few remain, said Gernand.
Gernand hopes to rebuild these groups, involve local pastors in the process, and recruit Trevecca students to co-lead them. He also wants to focus on local church involvement to help students develop a love for the local church.
“I think that’s a primary vision that I’ve got because I can’t mentor every group leader, but every group leader needs a mentor. And those pastors are young and old and perfectly suited to be able to do that, so that’s something I’m going to work really hard on over the summer,” said Gernand.
Some local Nazarene churches who stayed active during the pandemic and have vibrant college ministries are First Church of the Nazarene, Trevecca Community Church, and Concord Community Church.
The Pit is a college and young adult Christian community popular among Trevecca students, and it is run through Highland Park Church of Christ.
The group acts as a “beginning step” for those who are new to the faith or looking around for different churches and small groups, said Cassidy Attig, a junior at Trevecca and attendee of The Pit.
“In college, support is so needed because you go through so many different life-changing things. It’s so nice to have the constant community that you know is going to be there and back you up,” said Attig.
The Belonging Co is another favored church in Nashville with a large young adult ministry, and they kept their doors open for people the entirety of the pandemic.
“As for some other groups I met with, it was really challenging because we weren’t meeting anymore, and during those few months, I was struggling a little bit to just have that community,” said Jenna Gray, a junior at Trevecca attending The Belonging Co.
Gernand believes that if Christians want to have any experience of what it really means to follow Jesus, they need a community of faith.
“You need the grandmas and the babies and the teenagers and the moms and dads. You need those kinds of communities,” Gernand said.
Despite the inability to meet in large groups or see peers’ faces, Gernand says there is a “ray of sun” and not all sense of community was lost during the pandemic. Small groups of students met, studied the Bible, and prayed together in the cafeteria in their own “organic groups,” according to Gernand.
“There’s this inevitability of faithful people who figure out a way to get things done that need to get done. It’s like Covid was this thick slab of concrete over the soil, but the seeds of the kingdom just continue to find ways to make cracks and find their way up into the sun,” said Gernand.