by Brent Kilman
This has been the most difficult year for most of us in many ways. We’ve endured concern about wars and rumors of wars, and viruses and pandemics. We’ve been isolated from family and friends for extended periods of time, some have been sick, or treated ill family members, or lost loved ones in the past year. And yet, if we have eyes to see it, we can still proclaim the goodness of God. As I take time to recount God’s goodness to the ministry of RUF at Rowan University amidst our distress of 2020 I pray it will encourage you and help you to look back at this difficult year and trace God’s sovereign control over all things, and his wise providence of your life and circumstances, and to see his grace to you even in the chaos of this past calendar year. Let’s review God’s goodness to RUF this year:
January 2020 – Students returned to Rowan University for the Spring Semester. RUF added 3 Freshmen to our leadership team and held Large Group ministry once a month where students gathered for fellowship and bible teaching. We started to Study the topic of “Jesus in the Old Testament” and traced Jesus’ words from Luke 24 that all things in the scriptures reveal Jesus. We had 16 students join us for Large Group. We had 3 student led Small Group bible discussions gathering at various days, times and locations around campus to discuss the Bible together. I continued to engage students in fruitful evangelistic conversations on campus and was the speaker at Covenant Presbyterian’s youth retreat at Harvey Cedars.
February 2020 – News of the Coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China sparked concerns that Spring Break trips might be cancelled. We had students planning to visit Europe and China during their breaks. We had our first gender specific events on February 13 with the girls having a “Galentine’s Day” party and guys going bowling together.
March 2020- We had a Leadership Training weekend with Mid-Atlantic region RUF student leaders where our students were trained in studying the Bible, leading Bible Studies, Bible overview, and Gospel foundations. Then the Shutdown came. Spring Break trips were cancelled and students did not return to campus after Spring Break. The U.S. went into shutdown and we learned that Zoom wasn’t just going fast. We began to meet weekly via zoom with about 12 students joining us as we continued to study how the Old Testament points us to Jesus. We were able to continue meeting together and encouraging each other in the scriptures weekly through the end of the semester in May.
May 2020 – RUF graduated three young men from our group that had been significant members over our first 3 years of ministry. Brian is an engineering student and a member of Faith OPC in Pole Tavern, NJ. Brian has been in RUF for 2 1/2 years. He has participated in Bible Studies, Large Group, social and service events. He is a strong believer and capable student of the scriptures. Pray for Brian as he looks for work in engineering. Jimmy has been in RUF 1 year. He has participated in our Bible Studies and Large Groups. He graduated with an accounting degree and is attending Westminster Theological Seminary beginning this fall. Pray for Jimmy as he pursues a pastoral education and call. Zach has been part of RUF for 2 1/2 years since he came to trust in Jesus Christ. He has been on our leadership team and has been a great asset for thinking about evangelistic and apologetic ministry, also serving as President of Ratio Christi, an apologetic driven group on campus. Zach graduated with a degree in philosophy and religion and has returned home to work as he considers his future, possibly including seminary and ministry in some capacity.
June 2020 – Rowan classes concluded and a virtual graduation was held. We had planned to take students to Florida for RUF’s national Summer Conference, and I was slated to teach a seminar of How We Got the Bible. However, Summer Conference was cancelled in May due to the Shut down, so we held a virtual event through May and June with students from around the U.S. and internationally, joining virtually on Zoom for these seminars.
July 2020 – RUF National Campus Minister Training was cancelled and moved to a virtual training. I was able to join area Campus Ministers in State College, PA to pray together and work toward what ministry would look like in a virtual reality. We had seminars on boundaries from Henry Cloud and on our cultural landscape from Andy Crouch.
August 2020 – We began meeting and praying with our student leaders about what our Fall Semester would look like. Given that Rowan had moved all classes to virtual and was prohibiting on campus events we made a concerted effort to care well for those students who were already part of RUF and to pray that others may find us and join us.
September 2020 – Some students returned to live on campus, about 5,000, much reduced from a normal year. We began our Large Group ministry meeting in person at Mercy Hill Church and online via zoom. Small groups also began discussing the gospel of Mark together. We had 4 new Freshman students begin to join us. We shortened our Large Group by taking out music and limiting the teaching to 20 minutes. This allowed us ample time to have physically distanced social events like bonfires, group games, and trivia challenges.
October 2020 – As the weather began to change we had our last bonfire nights and continued to study Romans 1-8 together, focusing on how God brings us his grace and peace through the saving work of Jesus Christ.
November 2020 – We held a hybrid Student Leadership Training where 9 Rowan Students received training in How to Study the Bible and How to Lead Bible Studies. With Final Exams looming and Gen Z (current college generation) in the midst of a mental health crisis, we have held Mental Health nights each semester where we invite licenced mental health counselors to share coping mechanisms for anxiety and depression to help students and to help students help their friends.
December 2020 – We concluded the Fall Semester by bringing in 3 new Freshman students to our leadership team and moving 3 of our founding members to “Senior Advisor” status as they prepare for their final semester of college and graduating into the work force. We made it through the Fall and can look back and see God’s gracious hand at work guiding and leading us through this semester and year. Below you may read some student testimonials of God at work this year and how he has used RUF to bless, challenge, and grow them in their faith in Jesus Christ.
We have to give all glory to God for his work this year. It has not gone according to my plans from December of 2019, but it has gone far better than I could have asked or imagined in March of 2020 or any month since. God continues to work to connect students with Jesus Christ and to equip them to serve him and no pandemic, campus closures, nor anything else in all of God’s creation, can stop his good work. We give thanks for your prayers for us!
“I have been a witness to God’s work these past 4 years that RUF has been on Rowan’s campus, watching it grow from just one-on-one studies with Brent my freshman year to student-lead small groups and a weekly large group my senior year. Being able to have an impact on others through the Lord has a profound effect on one’s own spirit and faith, and RUF has granted me a platform to work in the lives of the students here on campus. As a club leader, being able to help other students, through bible studies on campus, understand the glory of God has helped to grow my own faith to new heights.” – Tanner, Senior
“Through RUF I was able to meet and fellowship with students that I would have never met outside of the club. RUF has also provided me with an opportunity to improve my leadership skills and provided me with training on topics like How To Lead A Bible Study that has given me skills I will continue to use when I graduate in the spring and I look forward to watching the next generation of the club grow.” – Robin, Senior
“RUF has already made a great impact on my life, and I can’t wait for more semesters to come. It has allowed me to be more involved in a Christian community and more mature in my faith. It is full of people who are amazing and kind, and most importantly, so incredibly passionate about RUF and helping the club grow to spread the word more and more. I am so grateful for the time I get to spend in this wonderful community each week.” – Rachel, Sophomore