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.
We are living in a technological age. Luckily, ministry continues on the internet, and we can be connected to some of the greatest minds in our Church at the click of a button. Sometimes the amount of content out there can seem overwhelming. How do you know where to start? Don’t worry, your Publications Student Leader is here for you to create a curated and highly selective list for your consumption and understanding of Orthodox media. Take your learning outside of your meetings (or use one of these podcasts to get the conversation going at your next meeting), and grow spiritually on the go!
Here is my pick for 5 podcasts that can be found wherever you get your podcasts! for your learning and enjoyment!
We Are Orthodoxy
Christian Gonzales and Steven Christoforou have POWERFUL conversations with young adults and their relationship with the Orthodox Church. If you want to feel joy, sorrow, relief, caring, understanding, and empathy all within the span of an hour-long conversation this is the podcast for you. Hear people talk about real problems that they’re facing and how that has affected them spiritually.
“If you could describe your relationship with the church as a Facebook status, what would it be?
Pop Culture Coffee Hour
What do Star Wars, the Hunger Games, and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before have to do with Orthodoxy? Hear critical analysis mixed with humor and spiritual advice within the context of pop culture. This podcast even features OCF’s own Christina Andresen and a previous SLB Chairman Emma Solak! This podcast is the perfect Orthodox pick-me-up and perfectly fits any commute or long trip that you are on.
“Here is our list of top 5”
Hank Unplugged: Essential Christian Conversations
Hank Hanegraaff, better known as the BIBLE ANSWER MAN. Grab your scuba gear, because Hank dives DEEP in these podcasts. Hear conversations between him and the other Orthodox Titans of our day. There are a lot of podcasts that discuss huge problems. You should definitely plug in to “Hank Unplugged.”
“Dedicated to bringing the most inspirational, influential and inspiring people on the planet directly to you”
Becoming a Healing Presence
Dr. Albert Rossi talks directly to your soul in this podcast. This podcast is more than Chicken Soup for the Soul, its chicken soup, an electric blanket, and a carton of Vick’s vapor-rub, a full spiritual workup. Learn a lot of practical advice too about living your Orthodox life on campus.
The defining quote is the musical interlude which is a recording of Dr. Rossi’s late wife.
The Second Liturgy
The second liturgy is a brand new podcast. It pairs exceptionally well if you have participated or heard about a YES College Day.
“St. John Chrysostom speaks about two tables: the table of the Lord and the table of the poor. There are two tables, one where the Lord is present in the Divine Liturgy, and the Lord has many servers at that table, but He finds very few at His table with the poor.” – Fr. Roberto Ubertino, St. John the Compassionate Mission
Grab some headphones, a cup of coffee, and get listening OCFers!
We asked our students what makes for a great spiritual advisor for their chapters, and here’s what they had to say:
Campus ministry is a priority for you.
Perhaps surprisingly, the number one theme among responses was simply being available, dependable, and enthusiastic about OCF. Students want a spiritual advisor who is a constant presence, who is available for counsel, who is consistent in their participation, and who shows up with enthusiasm and passion.
You know what you’re talking about and how to talk about it.
OCFers are seekers. They want to learn, and their desire for knowledge runs the gamut. They want a spiritual advisor who knows the Bible, the Church Fathers, and current events. They want you to see no topic as off-limits, encourage questions, and be bold in giving answers. They want to be in the presence of wisdom and intelligence–but they also want you to be intentional about your pedagogy. They long for discussion that is engaging and focused, and they know that a spiritual advisor who is a good listener and loves to teach will be able to offer them one.
You’re approachable and welcoming.
Unsurprisingly, college students want to connect with their spiritual advisor. They want to be treated respectfully and without judgement. They want to hang out with you, text you, and hear your story. They expect you to relate to their experience and be knowledgeable about college culture and demographics. They’re hoping you’ll find a place for them in your parish. And they want to bring their friends to OCF and know that new people will be welcomed with open arms.
You genuinely care about the students.
To be a great spiritual advisor, campus ministry can’t simply be another to-do on your checklist or approached like a class you must teach without getting to know the students. Students want to experience your love for them. They want a spiritual advisor who exudes kindness, compassion, understanding, gentleness, humility, and patience. One student used the word “nurturing” to describe this quality–they want you to know them and help them grow as if they are your own children.
Your leadership style is collaborative and communicative.
While a few students expected spiritual advisors to be creative event planners, most simply expected servant leadership that allowed for the students to be co-laborers in the ministry of OCF. They want to have input in the direction of their chapter, and they love spiritual advisors who are willing to serve in whatever manner is needed. And to make that happen, they’re hoping you’ll communicate with them regularly and consistently, listening to their ideas and guiding them to strengthen the whole OCF chapter.
Your own spiritual life is authentic.
Finally, college students want a spiritual advisor who is himself working out his own salvation. They want to be in the presence of someone who is prayerful, faithful, honest, discerning, and spiritually wise. They want to have evidence that you practice what you preach and are striving to live an authentic Christian life.
We are so grateful to the many clergy who serve as spiritual advisors on campuses across the United States and Canada, and we hope that having a student perspective on your work will be a reinvigorating reminder that college students are yearning for meaningful, spiritual relationships and that you can offer them precisely that.
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