After one semester as co-campus pastors, LaKendra Hardware and Gwen Gustafson-Zook, are not done teaming up — but this time, the job titles are shifted.
When Bob Yoder, the previous campus pastor, left in December to work at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, the college brought in two interim pastors, Hardware (who is widely known as Dr. LaKendra) and Gustafson-Zook.
Over the summer, Hardware took on a new role in Student Life, becoming the associate director for diversity, equity and inclusion. While Hardware will continue to aid in chapel planning and other pastoral work, Gustafson-Zook is assuming more direct oversight as campus pastor.
Another new development is a revision in the role of ministry leaders on campus. Traditionally, ministry leaders were primarily present in the residence halls to help “foster a vibrant Christian community of hospitality and dialogue,” as the job description said.
When asked about the revision, Gustafson-Zook said, “The Student Ministry Team (the revised team) was developed in the hope of responding to the varied spiritual needs of the Goshen College community. As the makeup of our community changes, we felt it was important to create a nimble structure that takes advantage of our diversity and our varied strengths.”
That leads to the Student Ministry Team’s hope to “L.E.A.D” the campus. The acronym stands for: “Live, Engage, Act, and Develop.”
On a bulletin board by Java Junction, the team’s mission is stated: “SMT members seek to foster a vibrant community of faith, hospitality and engagement at Goshen College. As faith leaders, SMT members provide presence and programming in subgroups designated as L.E.A.D.”
A sophomore social work major and theater minor, Madeline Smith Kauffman, member of the student ministry team, said, “Live will continue to work to have a faith presence with student life; Engage will do more of the worship planning; Act is more of a faith and social justice group; and then Develop is more creative as it is to develop new things for faith on campus.”
Already, team members have made strides to make sure they L.E.A.D , by promoting their Bible study, and making their hearts open to ensure that not only Kratz-Miller-Yoder dorm students are accounted for but commuters and others as well — surely showing unity of the community.
All of them are working on different projects to try to keep growing the faith on campus — for example, the “Act” subgroup is planning on things like a vigil book to add forms of expression or prayer to help students acknowledge difficult times in their lives.
The team itself is diverse.
For example, a junior, Nasim Fatemeh Rasoulipour, who is Muslim and from Iran, is a member of the ministry team. She described the differences between the approach taken this year and last year
“The biggest thing you would see is that the ML’s are not assigned to each floor, but more around campus,” she said. “The other thing is the discussion about religion and the emphasis of faith. And that’s one of the reasons I could be a part of the team, as I am not a Christian.”
Gustafson-Zook said, “The goal is to be able to reach out to everybody on campus and distribute the ministry around the campus.”
Over this year, the team plans to numerous opportunities for people to “engage their faith,” as Gustafson-Zook phrased it, with chapels, worship nights, table grace, Taize, Bible studies, contemplative prayer, service opportunities and more.
“Members of the Student Ministry Team are involved in all of this and much more,” Gustafson-Zook said.