Updated: Aug 18
Sharing a church home with students, complete with responsibility, respect, and family. That is how I would describe the College/High School Ministry at the Norman Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Varied cultural backgrounds and academic constraints are included among the many variables. However, the modest atmosphere at the Norman Church has something students enjoy and the feeling is mutual.
I recall the college ministry in what some may call its infancy around fifteen years ago. That’s when the church youth leaders formally organized a University of Oklahoma Campus Ministry, appropriately named “OASIS.” The Norman group utilized the University facilities and received a bit of funding. Since then, the decentralization of our group has led to a different approach.
Instead of the focus on an organized University student organization, the students now focus on the College/High School Sabbath School. The idea is to provide an atmosphere of learning and encouragement one would find in their home church. By creating an environment of this sort, the students are creating a safe familiar place for incoming students and friends to meet Jesus. The students assemble in the Sabbath School room each week for timely lessons facilitated by Joy Pelfrey and Giovanni Corrodus.
The Norman Church provides opportunities for students to use their talents for the entire church. Many students come to college with impressive skillset from the teaching of their parents and childhood church. Others have much to learn, and Norman is the place to do it. In this modest but growing church, there are plenty of opportunities to contribute.
“When you think of coming to college, you probably think of preparing by finding the best parking spot close to your classes, getting the best seat in the classroom so that the teacher can recognize you, and trying to make friends with the smart kid of the class so they can help you with your homework. But do you think about finding a church near your new school you can attend to while you are there? I certainly wanted to find one. When I came to college, I realized that it was going to be a new chapter of my life, not only in my personal life but also in my spiritual life. I was no longer going to be with my parents or with my own church. My own faith and principles were now going to be just mine and nobody else’s. However, that did not mean I did not need a church and people with whom I could fellowship. Thankfully, I found exactly what I was looking for when I moved to Norman. Transferring to The University of Oklahoma was a challenge for me, but I was able to find comfort in the friends and family of Norman Church. But the best part about Norman Church (besides potlucks, of course!) is the college class.
Philippines, Rwanda, Jamaica, etc. — We have college students from all around the world who are attending schools around the area. I have been blessed listening to and learning about their own cultures and faith experiences. But we are more than just a “college class.” We recognize the need for a sense of community and family that every student who leaves home might have at some point. So we support each other personally, spiritually, and even academically. We will be in the front row recording your school performances, cheering for you on your graduation, and praying for you during finals week. Whether we are hammocking together in the nice weather, being loud at a basketball game, or just enjoying good tacos together, we always will find a way to spend time together and be there for each other. So if you are coming to any schools in the area or just visiting, I invite you to come to join us, I am sure you will be able to find your place in our family too.” Crisbeth Castaneda, OU student originally from Guatemala.
Family is important at the Norman Church. When a student needs help, news travels at the speed of a phone call and someone comes through with a solution. Likewise, the church has been blessed to have students serve the local church and give Norman their “home away from home” dedication.
Students enjoy a fellowship potluck lunch every Sabbath. This gives everyone an added opportunity to chat with one another and more importantly with guests. When young people visit, the students immediately make them feel at home.
Outside the church service, the students gather socially and share experiences and encouragement. When called upon to help with church projects, the students always come through. The organization's culture is collectively positive and service-oriented. Recently the students and older members partnered to sort and package food collected for the local Adventist Community Services. Our students from all over the planet are serving locals in need with enthusiasm and youthful energy.
Despite all the enjoyment shared by the students with the Norman Church, one thing remains a frustration. We know there are Adventist students attending schools nearby, but we cannot reach out to them. Legally the University can no longer share the database that includes personal religious preferences with our church. Therefore, we ask if anyone knows of a local student attending in the Norman area, please contact us with details. Don’t wait for someone else to do it.
Without continuity in worship, the college years can wreak havoc on the spiritual health of a young person. “With such an army of workers as our youth rightly trained might furnish, how soon the message of a crucified, risen, and soon-coming Savior might be carried to the whole world! How soon might the end come—the end of suffering and sorrow and sin!” (Education 271 based on Psalm 110). Let’s raise up an army!
by Mark A. Pelfrey