It comes as a shock to many devout church goers when they are told that around 70 percent of teens leave the church after they begin their college careers. This is perceived as one of the biggest problems facing the modern evangelical church today – where are all of our young people going?
Church leaders of both churches and college campus ministries try to stem the exodus of young adults from the church, but too often their attempts don’t aid the cure, they feed the disease. Perhaps one exception, though, is the Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) ministry right here at Belhaven University.
RUF is the official campus ministry of the Presbyterian Church of America. It started in the latter part of the 1970’s with several young PCA ministers seeing the need to reach out to young college students and now has ministries on more than 100 college campuses throughout the United States. Each of these are different, but each adheres to the basic goals of RUF: proclaim God’s Word and foster strong Christian community. For those earnestly seeking the truth, in many ways this makes RUF a very approachable and user friendly ministry. As we will see though, this is not taken so far as to dilute their message or potency.
Reverend Seth Starkey, the campus minister for the RUF on Belhaven’s campus, has a passion for RUF and for the students under his care. His bluntness is the first thing I noticed about Seth; after growing up with wishy-washy, people pleasing youth pastors, I am not alone in appreciating his straightforward, no nonsense approach to witnessing to students.
He starts off every RUF function by making things personal and relational. His preaching is directly to the point, and he is not afraid to speak candidly with students. “Don’t come to RUF if all you plan on doing is hiding out with other Christians whom you are comfortable hanging out with,” he said. This might make people uneasy, but that is the point Starkey tries to get across – Christianity is not supposed to be a comfortable or safe topic, genre, or lifestyle.
There are many ways to get involved in Belhaven RUF. Every Tuesday night, RUF meets at 9:00 p.m. in Barber Auditorium. Reverend Starkey, along with Ryan Berkompas and Mary Hope Bray, RUF interns, lead this time of worship, Bible reading, and studying of the Christian faith. Seth also leads a weekly Freshman Bible study every Thursday at 4:00 p.m. in the Cooper Room at the back of the cafeteria.
One of the most important ways RUF reaches students on campus is through their small groups. These gender specific gatherings of five to six students meets once every one to two weeks and serves as a close and personal way to experience Christian community and fellowship. In addition to these group activities, Seth, Ryan, and Hope all try and make it easy to schedule a one on one conversation. All of these combined help make it very easy to be welcomed into the RUF community at Belhaven.
In the first meeting of the Freshman Bible study last week, Seth opened it up by stating “You should always have more questions than you have answers.” Belhaven University Reformed University Fellowship serves students as both a safe place to ask questions and a sincerely honest forum for finding the answers. For more information about RUF at Belhaven, visit http://www.belhavenruf.org or check out their Facebook Page.