Orthodox Christian Fellowship is dedicated to being the loving presence of Christ and the Orthodox Christian Church on college campuses. While we offer many national programs, virtual programs, and a wide array of chapter resources, one of the most important figures who plays a key role in bringing about this vision is the local chapter spiritual advisor.
Seeking to support our chapter spiritual advisors in the invaluable work they do, we created a survey to give us a clearer sense of the current health of chapters, as well as places for growth and improvement. Over thirty of our chapter spiritual advisors completed the survey, representing a total of 8 of our 9 OCF regions across North America. The results of the survey gave OCF staff a look at what was growing and thriving while also pointing out where improvement can be brought to elevate the level of ministry being done at all OCF chapters.
As we address those issues in our coming ministry year, we wanted to also share some initial findings and key takeaways as a support to the great work being done by our spiritual advisors.
Don’t do it alone
As campus spiritual advisors, we know you have a ton on your plate. Most of you being parish priests who also have families; it’s no wonder that the majority of you shared that you only wish you had more time. We hear you! Interestingly enough, only four of the over thirty chapters which participated in the survey reported that they also have lay advisor supporting their OCF chapter. For this reason, we recommend our dear spiritual advisors to not do it alone! We encourage you all to find a lay person at your parish or in your area who can serve as a lay advisor and parish liaison for your OCF chapter.
This person can help with communications, outreach, coordination, and many more things in order to free up your time to focus on the pastoral work of being the chapter’s spiritual advisor. Bringing on a teammate will make your time on campus more focused and also expand the potential for the ministry that can be done at your campus. Visit our OCF Advisors training hub to access several videos to help get your new lay advisor started!
Diversify your programming
At OCF, we aim to achieve our mission through our four pillars: Fellowship, Education, Worship, and Service. While many of you shared that the programming at your chapter was consistent, many of you also shared the desire to do more, adding new and diverse kinds of ministry to your regular programming. Because of this, we encourage chapters to implement a plan for the year that would include all four of OCF’s pillars.
Incorporating time for fellowship allows students to grow in their relationships with one another and promotes a stronger community. Incorporating education gives substance to the ministry of your OCF chapter. College is a time when students are learning a ton in the classroom and their experience at OCF should also enlighten them on their faith in God and the Church.
Incorporating worship allows for your chapter to be a holy presence on campus and gives students a harbor of calm in the craziness that is student life. Incorporating service allows for each chapter to be the Church in action on their campus, working to meet the needs of those around them. Service is a great way to work with other student groups on campus in order to not duplicate efforts.
Need ideas of how to better incorporate all four pillars into your programming? Refer to our Chapter Toolkit for help!
Lastly, you all shared your desire to know more about the programs offered by OCF National in order to best take advantage of any resources that are available. The best ways of staying up to date would be to follow our social media accounts on Instagram and Facebook, and to check in on our website regularly for upcoming events. You can also refer to our monthly email newsletter for updates. You can also always get in touch with any of the OCF staff to get an update on what’s happening at OCF.
We hope that spiritual advisors and chapter leaders who are more informed on the offerings and resources produced by OCF National will find the programming support needed to continue to offer the best ministry possible on college campuses.
Having a great conversation at your meetings is more than just having an interesting topic–it takes real leadership to facilitate discussion and make sure everyone’s voice’s are heard. Here are some pointers on leading discussion!
The Invisible Facilitator
Facilitators should not try to correct, teach, inform, and dominate in the discussion. The job of the facilitator is to invisibly direct the discussion to where it is fruitful and all participants are given the chance to speak. This takes some self-restraint (you may have something to say to correct someone…DON’T DO IT), humility (even if you know the “answer,” allow people to come to it on their own), patience (there might be some people who try to dominate, or who are long-winded; don’t cut them off immediately, they might just need a little time), discernment (on the same token, if people go on for too long, you need to discern whether it is harming the rest of the discussion, and find a positive, respectful, but abrupt and definitive way to end their commentary) and much more!
Silence Is Golden
It’s easy to be afraid of awkward silences after you have posed a question. You can surely restate the question in a different way if no one seems to connect, but also remember that silences are important in discussions. People need time to think about what was just posed, and asking them to respond immediately after you state a question is unrealistic. A silence, even up to ten seconds long, will enrich your discussion.
It’s All About the Question
Make sure when you ask a question, it is not leading. In other words don’t ask “So don’t you all think that talk/article/passage was all about…” This kind of question isn’t really a question. You want to broaden the possibilities for response. Often there is not just one right answer. Allow for different perspectives by asking something like, “What did you all think when [speaker] talked about…” or “How do you think [topic] relates to our everyday life?”
Specifically ask the quieter members what they think of the topic; and, as kindly as possible, rein in the unrelentingly verbal members who don’t let others speak. Make sure every participant has an opportunity to be heard.
Summarize as You Go
After discussing, for instance, different ways that a particular topic is applicable to our everyday life, stop and ask the group, “OK, what have we said so far?” Recap and allow time to breathe, to re-gather thoughts, and start thinking again. This is a very important role that the facilitator takes. In a sense you cannot engage in as much depth as the participants because you have to see a few steps ahead, and discern what the most fruitful avenue will be.
Tie It All Together
When the allotted time for the discussion is up (or when people are tired or ready to go), do a full summary of what you covered. “We said…We agreed that… But some of us disagreed with…and said that…” etc. etc. If you can’t remember everything, that’s OK. But it is good to re-cap most of the discussion in order to see the fruits of your labor.
Original by Mike Tishel, adapted by Christina Andresen
“It seems he especially likes to pester young Orthodox Christians with all sorts of what-if’s about dating, relationships, marriage, and monasticism.” What sort of what-if questions are you faced with? How do you handle them?
“The present moment is the place where time and eternity meet and where God enters into our lives.” Where have you seen God entered into your life?
“But the nasty What-If demon twists this necessary and spiritual undertaking into an anxiety-ridden, paralyzing question filling us with guilt, worry, and fear.” Sometimes I worry about what is going to happen for me after graduation. What if I don’t get a job or into law school? It fills me with fear for the future. Does that happen to anyone else? What do you do?
“We can’t confuse his what-if’s with repentance for the past or discernment about the future. Don’t let him convince you that his imaginary situations where he replays your past with anguishing regret are the same as contrition or the images he throws before you with terrorizing anxiety of futures that haven’t happened need to be addressed to find God’s will.” What do you think this section is trying to say?
Sometimes, the article even has questions built in for you!
“Do you say “yes” to Christ in this moment with this breath? Are you listening for His call in your heart right now? Can you see Him in the person or situation that’s right in front of you?” These are perfectly easy questions to discuss with your chapter!
There’s also a whole section of posts on topics like getting more people to come to your meetings, managing chapter funds, working with other religious organizations, and more! Learn from others’ experience what works! Click on the tag Chapter Guide to access these articles!
Don’t see something you want or need?? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions and comments, and we’ll do our best to help you out!