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February 12, 2021

Christian Union Caritas Launches Small Groups  

By Anne Kerhoulas, Staff Writer 

In the midst of long-distance community and ministry, Christian Union Caritas has found an opportunity to launch a new initiative to help Stanford University students stay connected to one another and deepen relationships. Small groups have been something that Senior Ministry Fellow Justin Woyak, Princeton '07, has wanted to start for a few semesters, but the time never seemed right. But with students feeling disconnected from each other due to the COVID-19 pandemic, small groups have become a new focal point for the CU Caritas community.

 

stanford Stanford University photo by Noah Negishi on UnsplashWith the leadership of the executive team, small groups have been formed out of existing Bible courses as a secondary place for students to be accountable to one another, spend time in scripture and prayer, and develop deeper friendships. Each group has three or four students that meet together weekly for an hour or more and are led by Woyak or one of the student executive members.


Christian Union Bible courses are providing a jumping-off point for this depth of community. Though each course varies depending on grade and instructor, typically, Bible courses focus on teaching scripture and building community within the course. Students grow close together in the span of their four years together, but deep friendships within the community usually form outside of Bible course, where there is more space to share life together, have more personal conversations, and develop deeper friendships. Small groups are picking up where Bible courses leave off, providing a space for these relationships to flourish. Woyak says, “I always say that these guys will be in your wedding. The friendships you form here can be lifelong.”


Grad student Isaiah Drummond ’20, co-president of CU Caritas, helped launch the small groups.


“What encourages me the most throughout the entire process is that we are planting seeds that will flourish beautifully for years to come,” he said. “While Bible courses are enriching in their own right, there is something special about purposefully connecting with a small group of friends to openly talk about life, read the Word, and pray for one another. I believe that these small groups need not dissipate once the quarter or year ends; on the contrary, I desire for my personal small groups to continue throughout my adult life since they are with some of my closest brothers in the faith. I think that this is a great step especially for graduating students as they prepare to exit their university.”


Because the executive team and Woyak want these small groups to cultivate a spiritual friendship, groups are reading through 1 Peter together when they meet. Peter was most likely the primary source for the Gospel of Mark, the book Bible courses are studying this fall. Reading 1 Peter provides a wonderful opportunity for students to see scripture testifying to itself and have their study of the Gospel of Mark supplemented. These groups are also committed to praying for one another, their school, and our nation. 


Drummond, the former Executive Vice President of Associated Students at Stanford University, participates in two small groups and reflects, “I could not be happier with the progress thus far. Each group has a different flavor to it, yet both feel essential to my continued maturation as a Christian. In one group, I paired myself with two of my friends who are pursuing very similar career plans to myself. As we are all going into consulting and possibly politics, we were aware that it would be hard at times to know who to turn to on spiritual matters. With this in mind, our group has really become more than just a prayer group and is now of a constant source of Christian encouragement as we navigate an overly secular field going forward.”

In spite of a radically different year of ministry, Woyak says that these times have been an incredibly fruitful way for the CU Caritas community to stay connected, pray, and dig into the Word together.

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