College students are often challenged to experience new things and to question everything they previously thought or believed. This can sometimes come as a culture shock to students, who may begin questioning their religious faith.
“College is a time when you make a lot of big decisions,” said Jen Johnson, campus staff member for Student Mobilization.
At K-State, there are many services and programs on campus both for students who are looking to examine their faith and for those who are confident in their beliefs.
“There are a lot of great campus ministries,” Johnson said. “College is a great place to explore your faith and see all that’s available.”
Currently, K-State lists 31 student religious groups in its campus directory, ranging in size and affiliation, though most are Christian groups. One of the largest groups is Christian Challenge.
“I think one of the big reasons people come around here is to be known, to be loved and experience a sense of community,” said Dave Gevock, associate director of Christian Challenge. “There’s a lot of students who have a spiritual hunger to have their faith challenged and grow.”
Christian Challenge started as the Baptist Student Union in 1972 because it is affiliated with the Baptist church. However, the name changed so that students of all denominations could join. The group as it is known today has been at K-State since 1995.
Each campus ministry group can provide students with a different experience. This helps create an atmosphere where as many students as possible can explore and find the right organization for them.
“I tried a few other ministries when I came to college,” said Sydney Brown, junior in elementary education. “I tried Navigators and Icthus. But I just felt at home [at Christian Challenge], even though it was so big. I feel that everyone made you feel welcomed.”
Christian Challenge meets every Thursday. Students gather to hear a worship band and a message for the evening. Typically, the hall is packed on Thursday nights.
In order to satisfy the need for small groups, several students have become “life leaders.” These leaders can meet with smaller groups of people to answers questions and discuss faith.
“I have a roommate whose sister is a life leader,” said Zach Zambrano, freshman in animal sciences and industry. “I’ve just come to know them so well. If I need a prayer for something, they’re always often willing to talk to people.”
Student Mobilization, commonly known as StuMo, is one of the largest campus ministry groups. The group has been at K-State for seven years, and meets in the Union Ballroom every Thursday at 8:30 p.m. At meetings, like Christian Challenge, the group has a worship band play, then has a message.
“I think a lot of students like that it’s non-threatening here,” Johnson said. “Students build relationships here.”
Some students begin to search for their spiritual home right away when coming to college, and campus ministry groups, including StuMo, can help students do that.
“I really haven’t tried other groups. I just got so involved here,” said Haley Wiechman, sophomore in marketing. “We have freshman Bible studies and upperclassman Bible studies. Right now, my Bible study is going over 1st Peter.”
While some campus ministries are designed to help students worship and grow in their faith, other students are looking for guidance in finding their religion. As college students gain independence, they also gain the opportunity to question their own religion and their choices for following certain religions.
Blair Diel, senior in social work, is one such example. Diel said she was never very religious in high school. After coming to StuMo and participating in their winter conference, Diel decided to commit her life to God.
“I never really questioned whether God was real or not,” Diel said. “I think that it’s the culture and that the Bible is so easy to obtain. I’ve looked at what other religions study and believe and have found that God is true.”
K-State religious organizations expand beyond Christian organizations. Individuals for Freethought is an organization that encourages individuals to talk about topics that would not be normally acceptable to talk about in a religious setting.
“We try to provide a place for atheists, agnostics, non-religious or even religious to talk about controversial things, so they won’t feel like they’re in the minority for once,” said Daniel Rymph, senior in computer science and president of IF.
For people who have questions about their current religion or who are looking for non-denominational guidance, IF aims to provide assistance and support.
“This can also be a community to those who have lost their religion,” Rymph said. “It can be jarring to lose that sense of community, so we’re looking to replace that feeling. We’re here to say, ‘You’re not the only one who thinks that.’”
Individuals for Freethought meets every week to talk about various topics, ranging from current events to other controversial topics chosen by the members.
Whether students have strong beliefs or not, K-State has a wide variety of resources for students who seek religious or spiritual aid. K-State’s directory of campus religious groups is available at k-state.edu/directories/relig.html.