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Chapel Fridays add to freshman experience

Sept. 2, 2003

By Liz Groh, reporter

University Ministries has instituted the Chapel Fridays program with the intention of offering freshman the opportunity to discuss the week's Chapel sessions and apply it to their own lives in a small group setting.

For the first six weeks of the semester, all freshmen will meet in alphabetically assigned small groups in locations all over campus. The meeting places include North Russell Residence Hall, Tidwell Bible Building, Seventh and James Baptist Church, Armstrong Browning Library, the Wesley Foundation and the Catholic Student Center.

University Ministries hopes the small groups will provide a unique and comfortable setting conducive to the discussion of important life issues.

At 10 a.m. Friday, 19 freshmen found their way to North Russell for the first small group Chapel Fridays session.

Kristen Richardson, director of recruitment at George W. Truett Theological Seminary, is one of the many staff volunteers leading Chapel Fridays groups. She quickly made it clear that her goal was to make the students comfortable.

Richardson said the purpose of the program is to help freshmen feel a sense of community and to ease the stress and confusion of the transition to college. The groups also to give students an opportunity to network and form new relationships.

After going around the room and introducing themselves, students were asked to describe their feelings about the first week of school. Richardson encouraged students to say whatever was on their minds and slowly they opened up.

The students expressed feelings of homesickness and frustration with schoolwork. Adjusting to residence hall living, compromising with roommates and even parallel parking difficulties were brought up and discussed.

The atmosphere of the meeting fostered all kinds of comments and observations from the students.

Christina Merced, a Waco freshman, shared her desire to possibly join an intramural soccer team.

'I like running and kicking things,' Merced said.

Another student confessed that she struggles to find enough time to eat in her hectic schedule.

After everyone had a chance to share with the group, the students divided into groups of five. They were encouraged to get to know one another and talk about hopes and fears.

Trent Agnew, a Marble Falls freshman, hopes to, 'get plugged in with all the right people and find a good church ... find a balance.'

The small group setting of the Chapel Fridays program allowed freshmen to vent their emotions, form relationships and seek out support in adjusting to life at Baylor. The attitude of the leader greatly contributed to the effectiveness of the meeting by helping the students feel comfortable and open.

Richardson closed the meeting by reminding the students to 'find time to get to know people.'

She gave out her e-mail address and both home and office phone numbers.

After the first six weeks, students participating in Chapel Fridays will choose one of three groups to participate in for the rest of the semester. Students may join a small group Bible study called a journey group, a service team working to help the Waco community, or a Christianity discussion group.