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Christian Union: The Magazine
February 11, 2021

Christian Union Bible Courses Are a Virtual Training Ground at Princeton

By Anne Kerhoulas, Staff Writer

Christian Union Nova, the student organization at Princeton University, was forced to get creative as it considered how to manage nearly twenty online Bible courses among only three ministry fellows this fall. Students wanted to stay in their regular Bible courses since they are places of growth, personal sharing, and deep spiritual friendship. In order to care for these students well, while also ensuring that they would receive high-quality instruction as they studied the Gospel of Mark, Christian Union Nova faculty created a new method of teaching. 

cu Princeton fall
Christian Union Nova lost several ministry faculty before the fall semester due to budget shortfalls. Presently, Ministry Fellow Qwynn Gross and Teaching Fellow Cam Garven are responsible for nearly sixteen Nova Bible courses together (a typical load would be three or four courses). To manage this new workload, Gross and Garven have opted to both teach two times per week with multiple Bible courses Zooming in for 30 minutes of teaching on the Gospel of Mark. Ministry faculty then utilize the breakout room feature on Zoom to divide attendees into their typical Bible courses where assistant Bible course leaders (ABCLs) take the reins to facilitate discussion and prayer with their peers. 

“The new format for Bible courses has been successful because Christian Union is committed to raising and strengthening Christian leaders,” said Gross. “In our new construct, students are actively and successfully leading their peers by precept and example: from gathering and building relationships within the freshmen class to leading full discussions after a Bible course presentation; from managing logistics to growing relationships amongst their own peers, our students are demonstrating what it means to be a friend and shepherd, as they each navigate their own academic challenges and spiritual growth.”

As a leadership development organization, Christian Union created the role of ABCL as an essential part of each Bible course. Typically a grade older than the course in which they assist, the ABCL acts as a shepherd, assisting the ministry fellow in meeting one-on-one with students, discipling them, praying together, pursuing a spiritual friendship, and facilitating community connection through fun activities. These ABCL’s also will lead or teach a course if the ministry fellow was sick or unable to attend for some reason. Though the role has always been an integral part of Christian Union’s Bible courses, this unique season of ministry requires that they step up in new ways and grow as leaders in the ministry. 

Training Up the Next Generation

Nova Ministry Director Christopher Heslep says, “With the reality of an online ministry for this year, we wanted to find a way to put more power into the hands of the student leaders to train up the next generation of students. This format has allowed us to focus more directly on leadership development principles for teaching the Word, discipleship, and counseling students through tough times.”

However, this heavier burden that has been placed on student leaders does raise potential future challenges. Typically, ministry faculty bear the weight of teaching and discipling students, but the smaller staff team does not permit nearly as many one-on-one discipleship meetings. 

“One of the greatest challenges of a reduced staff is the uncertainty of how long students are able to bear the full weight of such a dynamic ministry,” Gross says.   

Though the reduced staff certainly poses challenges as the ministry adjusts to a new normal, students are stepping into greater positions of leadership with excitement, and the staff team is thinking creatively about how to best use the resources they have. Certainly, this unusual season of ministry will have its trials for the CU Nova community, but praise God that he is faithful to his people and will provide abundantly for those who seek him.

To learn more about Christian Union's ministry at some of the nation's most influential universities, please click here.