By Hannah Stafford, Staff Writer
The three missions-based student centers on West College Street are all a part of Asbury’s goal to create an environment of “spiritual vitality.” But two of these centers report that attendance to events is on the decline.
World Gospel Mission, One Mission Society and the Salvation Army Student Fellowship offer students a “home” for fellowship and Bible study as well as opportunities for national and international mission trips. WGM has seen a gradual decrease in student attendance to its weekly Sunday night service, Global Café, over the last four years and then a significant drop since the fall 2013 semester. Since then, the average attendance for Global Café has dropped from about 85 students to about 55. Jonathan Powers, the director of WGM, believes this is mostly due to the abundance of activities offered to students.
“There are so many things going on and it’s a very limited pool that you’re drawing from,” he said. “Just from talking to people, it seems to me that students just have so many options to get involved with stuff that they simply can’t commit to something else.”
OMS director Dave Sherwood also cited other groups and programs as the primary reason for the slight decrease in their attendance over the last few years. While the decline at OMS is not as significant as WGM’s, numbers for the weekly Sunday night service have dropped from an average of 16 per night to 10.
“The number of students and number of programs seems a little out of balance,” he said.
It is not just the regular Sunday night services that have been affected by this. WGM’s annual Spring Break mission trip dropped from 12 participants in 2014 to four in 2015 and OMS’s group trip spring 2015 trip to Ecuador had to be cancelled.
Other possible reasons for the smaller attendance are the recent reduction in the Z.T. Bistro’s hours on Sunday evenings— which conflict with Global Café—and a smaller student cabinet for OMS.
On the other hand, both groups have noticed an increase in individualized mission events, such as WGM’s Via, as well as generally more positive response for OMS’s upcoming mission work. They have also had a very good number of students reserving the buildings for private movie nights. Overall, while some numbers have been a bit discouraging, both groups are incredibly optimistic about the future and in seeing where God leads them next.
“The mission organizations that are here on campus provide opportunities for students to participate in the global mission of reaching the world for Christ…”
In contrast, the SASF has seen an increase in student attendance at sponsored activities.
“Based on the folks that we see around here this year, Salvationists and non-Salvationists, it’s evident that our facility is becoming more popular among students,” said center director Major Earl Fitzgerald. “I don’t have exact numbers, but I feel that the center is doing very well. I think our coffee bar might have helped.”
He went on to say that the annual SASF costume party was larger this year than ever before and that there has been a significant increase in students reserving the center for private parties.
Each student center, while describing the organization as a tight-knit family, expressed a sincere gratitude for the amount of support they have received from Asbury University and also for the student body itself. They each value and appreciate the others and are working hard to see how to improve in the future and reach more students with the message of missions.
“The mission organizations that are here on campus provide opportunities for students to participate in the global mission of reaching the world for Christ which I think is the single most important task of believers,” said Sherwood.