Guest post by Angulus D. Wilson, Ph.D., University Pastor and Dean of Spiritual Formation, and Cindy Jurado Hernandez, M.A., Director of College Hour & Chapel Programs
FPU’s Many Faces of Spiritual Formation
Why is spiritual formation important for FPU students?
Angulus: Spiritual formation is important for FPU students because it transforms the lives and souls of human beings. We believe that through spiritual formation the transformation of a believer’s character will be evidenced by responding to the demands and events of life in the same character and manner as Jesus. “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him” (John 14:21).
What does it add to the educational experience?
Cindy: College Hour adds complexity to the academic journey and gives space beyond the hypothetical and theoretical. Chirp allows students to think practically and deeply about issues that are affecting them directly, such as our anxiety series last year, or our talk on abusive relationships coming up in October. College Hour seeks to be a step on the student’s developmental journey. Our doubt/faith series last year was aimed at getting students to own their own belief system and think more intentionally about who they are. This invites students to have a space to develop beyond theory and begin to be practitioners.
Angulus: Spiritual formation transforms their walk, witness and work. Day in and day out, the student practices not just talking, but living God’s word out loud. Transformed believers live the word of God and thus love God and others the way Jesus loves them. “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (John 15:8).
College Hour is comprised of Chapel and Chirp—what are the goals of each?
(Chapel services take place on Friday and offer a variety of worship activities and formats. Named for our Sunbird identity, “Chirps” are generally on Wednesdays and address specific issues in the style of TED Talks.)
Angulus: College Hour is a wonderful formational opportunity in the lives of our working students. We understand that we live in a complex world with numerous demands. However, because of the importance of spiritual development we see the absolute necessity to have access to resources that strengthen, encourage and equip students for every area of life. Our goal is to provide a communal experience that students can participate.
Cindy: The goal of College Hour, including both Chirp and Chapel, is to create a space where students can come together as an FPU community. Chirp is specifically geared to dealing with topics that are current and relevant to students. Chirps are not just informational for students, but interactive in that they are able to text in or ask questions out loud. Chapels are also meant to bring students together as a community in worship through song and the word. This year we are focusing on the book of John, which keeps in mind the larger theme of recognizing that all things are possible with God. College Hour’s ultimate goal is to be a step on students’ spiritual journey and development. We hope they are equipped, challenged, encouraged and motivated to be fully the being they were created to be.
How are the needs of traditional undergraduates, degree completion and master’s degree students at the main campus and four regional campuses addressed?
Cindy: College Hour’s primary audience is traditional undergraduates, whose demographics are constantly changing. As our population changes, so must College Hour, which is why Chirp was introduced last year to bridge the gap between those who are followers of Jesus and those who are not. Additionally, College Hour must remain open to change and input from students, so this year we implemented a student leadership team to give input, vision and relevance to College Hour. It is essential to College Hour to maintain an interactive relationship with students and to listen to their input and perspective.
Angulus: There is no difference between the needs of the traditional undergraduate student and the degree completion student. We serve them differently, but both are priceless to us. Traditional students demand more time, energy and programs in the communal environment, so we provide residential ministries five days a week. The degree completion community is serviced remotely, technologically and interpersonally through their cohorts. Their needs are met by local churches and pastors, colleagues and community resources. We come along side of these tools to enhance their experience at FPU.
The Office of Spiritual Formation is looking for new and innovative ways to encourage and equip all of FPU. Through an online virtual experience called Manna Moments, we deliver biblical devotions via email and social media for students on the go. For students interested in live interaction, we have developed Manna Moments Live as a new ministry broadcast that can be seen every day on a live social media feed on Facebook. In each of these formats I teach and share from God’s word to encourage students on their daily journey with Christ.
Our newest claim to fame is an outreach at our regional campuses. Community pastors serve as FPU campus pastors for graduate students. Counseling is available, care is provided and chapel and Bible class are staples of the program.
With the lens of Scripture focusing our lives, things take on a clear perspective. Fear about spreading the Gospel is replaced by a fervency to do so. Casual Christianity is replaced by commitment. Making a mere appearance in the world does not suffice; making a difference in the world, just as Jesus did, becomes the primary goal.