Wesley Foundation update: Here's what students are really up to

Wesley Foundation update: Here's what students are really up to

Since the first Wesley Foundation was founded 95 years ago at the University of Illinois, these United Methodist campus ministries have been reaching students all over the world.

Wesley Foundations claim ancestry in the founding "Holy Club" of the Methodist movement during the 1700s. Today, a Wesley Foundation is a ministry sponsored in full or in part by The United Methodist Church on a non-church owned and operated campus.

The Holston Conference has five Wesley Foundations: at Radford University, in Radford, Va.; the University of Virginia’s College at Wise; East Tennessee State University, in Johnson City, Tenn.; the University of Tennessee in Knoxville; and The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Here are updates on each of these ministries.

University of Virginia's College at Wise

Director Beth Tipton said they began the school year with record attendance.

“Our regular weekly meeting had an average attendance of 69 students after the first quarter of the academic year. We kicked off the dinners this year in August with our annual 'Buffalo Bash,' where we had a record 185 in attendance.”

In addition to their weekly gathering, the foundation hosts Bible studies, chapel services, fellowship activities, and even intramural sports teams.

“Each of these activities draws a unique crowd so we are reaching far more than simply those who join us for Tuesday evenings, " Tipton said. Along with programming, the Wesley Foundation also offers its building to other student groups.

“By allowing these groups to use space that is available in our building, we can reach out to students who normally would not enter our premises.”

Tipton said their primary goal is “to offer Christ to students, faculty and staff, in diverse and meaningful ways.”

She said as the foundation develops a worship space, students are in need of 100 copies of New International Version pew Bibles, an altar table and a cross.

The Foudation also seeks local church groups to prepare and serve meals, as well as Food City and Wal-Mart gift cards in any amount to help cover the rising costs of food.

To make a donation or offer to help with meals, contact Tipton at (276) 328-6826 (Office) or by e-mail at btipton@uvawise.edu.

Radford University

This fall, Director Martee Buchanan said the Foundation has served approximately 350 students, including students who attend regularly as well as those who only attend special events.

“Our worship and programs will offer them Christ by providing a warm, comfortable space for fellowship and worship," Buchanan said. She encourages students to “plan and implement activities that offer Christ to others.”

The foundation practices environmental stewardship by eliminating disposable dinnerware at Wednesday night programs and offering the monthly newsletter as an e-mail, Buchanan said.

Students participated in the Harvest of Hope College weekend which included hunger awareness sessions, "green" activities and training, and gleaning apples to feed the hungry.

Buchanan said the students are expanding a tutoring program for children in kindergarten through second grade, as well as developing relationships with older adults confined to their homes. For 18 years, students have had an ministry with developmentally challenged adults.

“The adults are very familiar with our center, and even though the students change, they feel at home when they come here.”

Buchanan said they need support through prayer and donations of toilet paper, paper towels, and sugar. They also need sponsorships for programs ($30/ week) and meals ($50/week).

Contact Buchanan at (540) 639-4415 or by e-mail at weslyfdn@radford.edu.

East Tennessee State University

Director Jerry Everley said he sees about 80 to 90 regulars, with an additional 60 to 100 more students who come for special activities.

This year, the Foundation built its second Habitat House in partnership with the ETSU community. They also completed a successful lunch and auction fundraiser that brings alumni, students, and several local supporters together.

The foundation continues to have “overflowing attendance and enthusiasm," Everley said. Students become invovled in missions through the foundation. The hope is that the resulting spiritual growth will move students to participate in weekly Bible study.

Everley encourages all college students to “check out their campus Wesley Foundations."

The ETSU Foundation welcomes support of any kind but requests grocery gift cards. The Foundation also seeks classes and groups from area churches who will periodically prepare meals for Tuesday night programs, Everley said.

Contact Everley at (423) 929-2121 or by email at wesleyetsu@juno.com.

University of Tennessee in Knoxville

Director Tim Kobler said there are 77 students on the roster. For each one, Kobler hopes to "develop and nurture a vital relationship with Christ and with one another through a variety of activities.”

The Foundation aims to expand participation in community service, Kobler said. “As we learn about how our faith and life are connected, we will begin to discover how our faith is not compartmentalized, but a dynamic part of our whole life.”

Mission and service trips during this academic year will include a Harvest of Hope weekend organized by the Society of St. Andrew and a seminar organized by the General Board of Church and Society.

Students are also raising funds to repair and renovate the Foundation by selling the Bob Parrott book on the history of the UTK Wesley Foundation, "The Shining of Light." A former Wesley Foundation director, Parrott is donating proceeds his book to the building project. The book is available at the Wesley Foundation web site.

Kobler encourages church groups to donate “goodie bags” for their students during finals week.

Contact Kobler at (865) 522-2728 ) or by e-mail at wesleyfoundation@bellsouth.net

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Director Keith Moore, said, “During the week the Wesley center has contact with approximately 90-100 students during four main programming events. This week we had 70 students show up for Souper Thursday alone.”

Moore said they are emphasizing worship this year with their “Wesley @Worship” program.

“First-Centenary United Methodist Church has been gracious enough to share their new Oak Street Center with us. It is a very technically advanced facility dedicated to contemporary worship. The sky is the limit but we have a long way to climb.”

Moore said the greatest gift churches offer is prayer, but providing food and labor are always needed. “We always need volunteers to bring lunches on Wednesdays and other skilled people to help out with the occasional maintenance issue.”

Moore is thankful for the support his ministry has already received in the form of grants. “Thanks to several capital grants the building’s condition is much improved. We are now looking to increase our programming funds with donations of scholarships for our retreats and mission trips.”

Scholarships for trips may range from $70 to $250 per student, he said.

For more information about making a donation, providing lunches or maintenance help, contact Moore at (423) 266-3691 or by e-mail at keith_moore@wesleyutc.com.

Read more about the Holston Conference Wesley Foundations in the Jan. 12, 2007, edition of The Call .