28 Apr Small Groups Cultivating Community on Campus
Beginning in the 2019-2020 school year, the University of Valley Forge (UVF) established and instituted – for the first time ever – campus-wide Small Groups. These Small Groups were led by some faculty and staff members, as well as some spiritually-mature students, and were created for students to learn how to abide in Christ with other believers by practicing koinonia, or Spirit-filled, loving community.
UVF’s Spiritual Formations Coordinator Sophia Benco explains that “koinonia only takes place when followers of Jesus band together for a movement out – such as to make disciples. Small Groups are focused on teaching students to care for the needs of others, pray for one another, and read the word of God together. We encourage the students in each group to hold one another accountable to the mission of making disciples, whether this be through discipling their peers, those off-campus, or their family.”
Each Small Group meets five times a semester on Wednesdays during the chapel hour and is composed of anywhere from eight to fifteen students. From a spiritual formations standpoint, Small Group chapels cover the small group context of Abiding in Community. Benco explains that the four contexts of abiding in Christ are large group, small group, one-on-one, and alone with Jesus. This context also happens organically in other places on campus – such as in classes, dorms, athletics, and missions trips – but Small Group chapels are unique because they provide a space for all students to experience discipleship: even those who may not have a community elsewhere.
During this past semester, the groups were separated by gender, but there is the possibility that that may change from year to year. Small Groups were able to meet the first four times during the spring semester, but because of the unexpected and unprecedented nature of change due to COVID-19, Small Groups – like almost everything else in the world – were moved online. These virtual Small Groups were able to meet at least three additional times during the period of online learning, with some meeting even more! Small Group facilitators have remained in contact with their students throughout the situation so every student has had the opportunity to receive support and encouragement while being at home.
The UVF community is excited to see these groups grow and change as students, staff, and faculty prepare for the next school year. Everyone is looking forward to the day when they can meet again face-to-face and enjoy uplifting koinonia in the presence of Jesus.