A community that invests in students: a staff perspective
by Kelly Covington, Office of Student Development
As employees of NNU, we have unique opportunities to walk alongside students as they begin a journey of academics, independence, and owning their own faith. Many seek the guidance and council of the support staff as friendships are developed during interactions with finances, registering or just walking by their desk as they go to class. As support staff, we see the excitement of starting college, the stress from exams and papers as well as the tears from homesickness, broken relationships and weariness. We listen and reach out with a hug, a cup of coffee, homemade cookies or a note because we care deeply.
I have on more than one occasion comforted a student crying in the restroom and the result has been great conversations over coffee and watching her gain confidence in herself; an added blessing is the friendship that develops through this.
One of the opportunities that came up about six years ago was the ABIDE groups, which consisted of 3-4 students and an employee.These accountability groups were made up of students that chose to be a part of the group and dedicated time to be there. The groups would meet either once a month, bi-weekly, or whatever the group decided, for one hour. The purpose of the group was to begin the discipline of listening for what God was saying.
I have had a few groups during this time and find that meeting with them is a highlight of my week. It has been amazing to see where God has taken these girls and myself.
Our times together are spent sharing what happening in each others lives, and each girl has the chance to share what is on her heart. This is a place of honesty and openness, knowing that there is no judgement and what is shared is handled with respect and in confidence. Many times the encouragement of the others brings healing and courage to push forward as well as bringing clarity to the situation.
I love the depth these girls have and how they continue to push towards truth, not settling for pat answers but wanting to know how to purposely walk with Christ. They have challenged me so many times to re-examine why I believe what I believe and to be transparent in my own walk.
I remember a time when I came to the meeting after receiving some bad news and telling the girls I had nothing to offer that morning. I was overwhelmed as I watched these girls step up and begin to speak words of encouragement and wisdom and then to have them pray for me, what a mighty testimony of their hearts and maturity.
Our times together have also been spent sharing a homemade meal or special treat brought in to bless them or a Sonic run. There have been times of just goofing off and laughing together.
One of the other benefits of doing an ABIDE group is the random visits from them. They will stop by my desk to ask for prayer because of a test, paper or difficult situation they are walking through. They also come by to share their excitement over passing that test and turning in the paper on time or some funny thing that just happened. The sweetest times are when they stop by just to say hi or because they need a hug. These are my girls and I love sharing this time together.
I still have contact with a few from my original group. My current group is entering their last year here and our third year together. It will be different because one is studying abroad at Oxford for a semester and a couple others will be student teaching each semester, but we are still continuing to pray for each other and share life together.
This is but one example of how the support staff at NNU ministers to our students. Many times the impact of what we do goes unnoticed by the masses, but talk with the students and they will share that without the support of these people many of them could not have made it. It’s what we do everyday and it is what energizes us, gives us purpose and blesses us just as much if not more than it blesses the students.