PHILADELPHIA (BRN) – Between March 5-9, Baptist Campus Ministries (BCM) at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, had the privilege to partner with NewLife from PennWest California (Cal U) – formerly known as California University of Pennsylvania – and Penn State University (PSU). Six students (5 from CalU and 1 from PSU), along with Eric Reiber and Austin Burton, PSU campus ministers, joined us at Drexel for several ministry experiences.
The students joined us on Sunday, March 5, for a two-hour prayer walk through the campus. We stopped at several locations and prayed for specific things. We prayed for Drexel’s presence within the city of Philadelphia, students finding jobs and co-ops, for the gospel to be present in each dormitory and on each sports team. We prayed for the Christian faculty, staff, administration and graduate students to use their positions within the university for God’s glory. We asked God to give Christian students the opportunity to share their faith with their peers. We begged God to protect students from emotional and physical trauma and to keep them alive. It was a great moment hearing students from other campuses lift up my campus in their prayers.
Later that evening, we enjoyed eating pizza together as Eric Reiber trained the visiting students and several Drexel students on how to share their testimonies. Using Paul’s testimony in the Book of Acts, Eric outlined the three pieces of a Christian’s salvation story: life before Jesus, coming to faith in Jesus and life with Jesus; which fit in perfectly with our Sunday Bible Study series through the Book of Acts. This training came in handy for the last partnering event of the week.
The students came back to campus on Wednesday and we spent four hours at the Drexel Dragon statue with an outreach table doing a spiritual visual survey called Soularium. Soularium is a great tool to start spiritual conversations with students. It consists of 50 interesting pictures and you ask the participant five questions. They then choose 1-3 pictures from the group in order to answer the questions. The five questions are:
- Which 3 pictures describe your life right now?
- Which 3 pictures describe what you want (or wish) to be true about your life?
- When someone talks to you about God, what kind of image comes to mind?
- What picture would best describe your spiritual journey up to this point?
- What picture would best describe what you hope will be true of your spiritual life?
Using the images to answer these questions helps the participants respond. It is often easier to pick from a set of images and then explain why you chose that image than to form the words from scratch. For instance, if you were to ask a Drexel student what they thought about God, the most popular answer would be, “Ummm …. I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about God much.”
But asking them to pick an already present image gives them a handle to start the conversation. At any point the Christian student conducting the conversation has the ability to ask follow-up questions, share their personal testimony, or present the gospel. The more experienced a person is with Soularium, the easier it becomes to transition the survey and the spiritual conversations into gospel presentations.
Over the course of four hours, 12 of us passed out 240 granola bars and 200 water bottles to attract attention to the Soularium survey. We conducted at least 60 surveys. Over twelve of those surveys produced deeper spiritual conversations than just the original five questions. Several Christian students spent time praying with the participants. I was able to reconnect with at least two Christian students who used to attend Bible studies on campus but had been absent for a significant amount of time.
Another graduate student involved in our ministry took a packet of the Soularium pictures to use during a youth outreach event with her local church. Edison, a freshman international student from Nigeria, who has been faithfully involved in the Sunday night Bible Study series, not only participated in Soularium by taking the survey but afterwards started conversations with his friends passing by using the pictures. This was one of the first times he had engaged his classmates in spiritual conversations on campus.
Finally, I had the privilege of taking the Muslim faculty adviser for the Muslim Student Association through the five-question survey. She is a good friend of mine. I have known her since she was a student leader at Drexel. Now she is in the administration of the graduate student program in the school of business and serves as a voice for Muslim students on campus. She came to the table because I had invited her earlier in the day. Soularium allowed us to have a significant discussion comparing and contrasting our images of God within Christianity and Islam. It was her birthday, and she chose to share some of her time on her birthday talking to me about religion. I pray that this conversation continues along with all the others started on this day.
Although no one made a commitment to Christ, several Christian students grew in their willingness to publicly engage in conversations around the gospel. Additionally, a few Christian students were re-engaged by their fellow believers, many Drexel students are more aware that Christianity is present on campus, others found someone who was willing to pray with them, dozens were challenged to think about God during a day they otherwise wouldn’t have and some conversations were started. We want to thank the Baptist Resource Network (BRN) for the evangelism grant that allowed us to purchase the pizza, water bottles, granola bars and extra copies of Soularium in order to facilitate these events.