Dartmouth Christians Unite to Seek the Lord
By Lauren Curiotto, Contributing Writer
Each June, the entire rising junior class returns to Dartmouth College’s campus for what is known as Sophomore Summer. For ten weeks, students have the opportunity to try out new extracurriculars, gain momentum within their major in a more relaxed environment, and build stronger relationships with their classmates. This summer session in scenic Hanover, New Hampshire is a welcome respite from the usual academic rigor. Despite the university’s modest undergraduate population of 6,300 during the academic year, students are often too busy to dedicate as much time as they would like to connect with their peers and venture outside their familiar social circles.
Summer Christian Fellowship (SCF) is an important part of the term for Christians and seekers. With an even smaller student body during the summer, Christian ministries that operate independently during the rest of the academic year unite to build inter-ministry relationships. The joint summer fellowship is entirely student led. This year’s leadership team excitedly took on the responsibility for what upperclassmen described as one of the best opportunities to get to know other Christians on campus.
“I really like the energy that people have during Sophomore Summer,” said Leslie An ’21, a member of the SCF leadership team. “I like to say ‘hi’ to people when I pass by and stop to talk, and that openness is much more prevalent during the summer.”
SCF capitalizes on this openness by garnering the attention of Christians who are too busy with academics to participate during the year and by increasing outreach efforts to non-Christians who are interested in honest dialogue about Christianity.
Paul Leon ’21, a member of the SCF leadership team, said the goal is to “create a hub where people can connect for deeper accountability, be able to share prayer requests on a weekly basis, and really invest in each other spiritually.” He outlined their three major goals for the 2019 Sophomore Summer: to promote bonding and lasting friendships among SCF participants who may not otherwise cross paths; to invest in each other’s faith walks by tackling the basics of Christianity, as well as challenging one another to be spiritually disciplined; and to take advantage of smaller group sizes to experiment with new ideas and formats for events and programs.
The SCF leadership team implemented a plan to provide as many opportunities as possible for everyone to get involved in a way that feels convenient and accessible. Events include Monday night prayer, Thursday night worship, Friday night gatherings, a lunch buddy program, and spontaneous social events. At the halfway point in their academic careers, Sophomore Summer is a crucial time for students to plug in to Christian community and consider how to keep Christ at the center as their plans for the future come into focus.
The 2019 leadership team’s most notable innovation was to experiment with the ministry’s Friday night gatherings. The team quickly determined that this year’s cohort felt most engaged with intimate, participatory discussions, rather than the lecture-style events they normally host in the fall and spring terms.
These discussions generated dynamic exchanges, with the kind of passion that comes from a new believer’s initial encounter with Christ, and challenged more mature Christians to contend with the apologetics aspect of their faith.
SCF has even drawn in students from beyond Dartmouth’s campus boundaries. Leslie An shared about a sophomore from a different university who had recently become active with SCF. After accepting Christ at a local church, this peer from another institution was invited to continue her faith journey by attending SCF events. “She’s new to her faith, and she has so many interesting, raw, starting out questions. It’s really [helping] us to become more apologetic-oriented,” An said. The leadership team noted how inspiring it has been to hear the more mature and theologically versed students step up to help newer Christians navigate this new terrain.
Although each member of the leadership committee joined for a different reason, they share the determination to lead the summer fellowship faithfully. They have transitioned in their college life from underclassmen who have been poured into, to upperclassmen who want to influence the dynamics of their student body. “We are resources,” said An, “and I don’t want to waste that at a time when people are particularly open.”