Supporting the spiritual needs of college students requires a lot of dedication at the best of times. This support has become more vital than ever during the COVID-19 crisis—and it has also required a boost in creativity. With much of the Pacific Union College (PUC) student body going remote, the college’s Student Life team found themselves connecting in ways they never expected.
“This school year has been challenging,” said J.R. Rogers, PUC’s acting Vice President of Student Life. “We can’t wait to have the whole PUC family back on campus, but we appreciate the opportunity we’ve been given to innovate and test new ways to meet students where they are, whether they’re back on campus or with us remotely.”
One of the school’s favorite new ways to share spiritual messages has been through regular social media videos from PUC Church Lead Pastor Chanda Nunes and PUC Chaplain Kent Rufo, as well as other Student Life team members. Weekly vespers services and residence hall worship services are also now held both online for students who are remote and in-person for those who are on campus, and PUC’s bi-weekly community services have moved completely online. These programs have integrated live panels and real-time chat to keep students engaged and able to provide instant feedback.
For Pastor Rufo, moving to a virtual presence has meant a departure from his usual personal, face-to-face style of worshiping and connecting with students, who are feeling the pressure of a global pandemic.
“It’s been a difficult time for some students,” said Rufo. “Most don’t want to be in front of a screen all day, and many feel disconnected from important aspects of college life. Some feel more depressed or anxious than before the pandemic.”
Pastor Rufo and PUC’s Campus Ministries team have been busy keeping traditional programs running consistently online, while also exploring new ways to give students a meaningful worship experience through online Bible studies and the weekly social media videos—as well as establishing what a vibrant missions program could look like when so many are away from campus.
“Students have been naturals at using online platforms to connect,” said Rufo. “For example, on Sabbath mornings there are a group of students that meet regularly on Microsoft Teams to study Scripture and to connect with each other.”
Although PUC looks forward to a future without COVID-19, it doesn’t mean that the school will leave behind all of the new ways they have found to serve the spiritual needs of their campus family. The school plans to continue connecting with their students in multiple ways, even when they are back on campus.
By Ashley Eisele