Discovering the Soul of Leadership at Geneva College - Geneva College, a Christian College in Pennsylvania (PA)

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February 4, 2019

Discovering the Soul of Leadership at Geneva College

by Jen Pelling

“This is not a social club.”

Every Tuesday night, CCO staff person Caleb Musselman stands in front of 100 Geneva College student-athletes at their weekly fellowship gathering and makes this announcement. His message is intentional, its repetition underlining the priorities of athlete ministry at Geneva College.

These students aren’t gathered to be entertained, or to talk about Jesus and hang out. Athlete ministry is designed for something more.

And this begins with choosing student leaders.

DeVaughn Johns and Geneva students prayLeaders represent the 14 sports teams on campus, one representative from each team—unless the team is large, like football, which has four reps. Each leader reaches out to their teammates, leading Bible studies or choosing a few players to disciple one-on-one. They also contribute to the overall ministry, including the Tuesday night gathering.

But leaders aren’t chosen for their charisma in front of a crowd. The first priority is something else entirely.

“The number one thing I’m looking for is an athlete who exhibits a deep care for his or her teammates,” Caleb says. “Because the number one thing we’re trying to build is a community of people who care for one another.”

Why is this important? Because, as Caleb has seen again and again, students come to Geneva—a Christian college in western Pennsylvania—with extensive knowledge about God, but it can be a shallow “knowing” that doesn’t bring healing or change. This pretense gets challenged in community.

“These students know so much about Jesus, but they love themselves more”, Caleb says. “Faith is not just about knowing what you’re supposed to know, but surrendering what you’re supposed to surrender.”

Take DeVaughn, a leader from the men’s soccer team. He is less likely to speak up in a group setting than he is to listen carefully to what others have to say. While DeVaughn isn’t a natural “up-front” leader, his ministry is highly effective.

As an upperclassman, DeVaughn chose to live in a freshman dorm so he could help his young teammates adjust to college. He has become a bridge between older and younger players. If Caleb wants to get a sense of the soccer team dynamic or is concerned about a particular player, “I turn straight to DeVaughn, because I know he’s paying attention to his teammates.”

Sydney, student leader at Geneva College

Sydney, another student leader, didn’t consider herself a Christian when she first arrived at Geneva. But she fell in love with the community she found in the athlete fellowship group.

“My very first week of college, my teammate MK basically made all of our volleyball team go,” she says. “This ministry has shown me that it’s okay to be vulnerable with those I’m in community with and that weakness is not a bad thing. It’s shown me that God is so much greater than—well, anything.”

Now Sydney does call herself a Christian, and she is the one who invites her teammates to check out what this great God is doing.

In dorm rooms, Bible studies, accountability groups, and one-on-one meetings, leaders like DeVaughn and Sydney are investing in the next generation of student leaders. They are surrendering their lives before the Lord. And they are building communities that will thrive after they graduate, places where they will continue to find healing and purpose in Jesus—the leader of all servant leaders, God’s word made flesh.

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Reprinted by permission of CCO, the Coalition for Christian Outreach.

Geneva College is supporting students who wish to attend CCO's annual Jubilee Conference with discounted registration fees. You can help, too. Join us by giving to send students Jubilee 2019