I’ve been in Ellensburg for under 72 hours, and I’ve already spent the night on a friend’s couch, watched a movie past midnight with a group of people – twice – and had way too much popcorn, helped hoards of freshmen move into their dorms, and ate, played Spikeball, and hung up a hammock in a tree on campus during a University-wide barbecue.
I think “whirlwind” properly sums up how it’s felt these past three days, but that’s why I moved here and I’m ready for more times just like this throughout the year!
Unfortunately, freshmen move-in didn’t go exactly how we’d hoped. We viewed it as more than just an opportunity to be able to serve new students and their families, but also to connect with freshmen and invite them into a supportive community before the pervasive party culture surrounds them.
In theory, it’s great, but it didn’t really pan out in practice. There were hundreds of people running around like crazy, a ton of other volunteers carrying stuff from cars to rooms, and parents saying goodbye to their child for the first time.
It didn’t create an environment to actually talk and hang out with students in the midst of all the chaos, so there weren’t very many connections made.
Lucky for us – on more than one level – there was a free barbecue for everyone after move-in was done. It was there that we were able to meet people and actually have conversations with them. After sitting on the grass and waving away bees for an hour, it was decided that it was a perfect time to go run and grab the Spikeball net from Jacob and Jessica’s house.
It was an immediate hit as a few other people joined in to play, and many more people looked on with a curious look on their face. If it weren’t for a mandatory new student orientation event that evening, we probably could have played and met people there for a couple more hours.
As I write this, I’m realizing that pursuing conversations with people is great, but it’s much more effective to attract others to you by doing something out of the ordinary. By hanging up a hammock in the tree, it caused everyone in the courtyard to look at us and what we’re doing, even prompting a girl just walking by to climb up and lay down in it for a little while. By playing Spikeball – something that’s completely foreign to the majority of people – it draws attention and people naturally want to learn the rules and see if they can play.
As a collegiate church, doing something that no one else is doing will cause people to notice you, watch you, and ultimately join you. This is true for hammocks, Spikeball, and lifestyles. As Christians, we’re called to live a life that’s much different than the cultural norm, and people should notice. In ministry, we need to constantly be asking ourselves, “Am I living in such a way that gets people’s attention and draws them in, or am I keeping my faith private so that people have to actually ask me to find out what I believe?”