Pictured above: South Hall West Complex Res Staff, 2013-14
One of my greatest experiences from my undergraduate education at Indiana Wesleyan University was serving as a Residence Hall Chaplain. The job description essentially boiled down to hanging out with a bunch of guys in the dorm, be available for any needs that may arise, and help oversee the spiritual health of the residence hall. It was like being a pastor for the dorm.
I had the honor and privilege of ministering alongside an amazing community of some of the godliest men I know in South Hall West Complex’s Resident Staff in 2013-2014, as pictured above. One of the biggest responsibilities to working on any college res life staff is to create community. Nearly 9 times out of 10, people will say they miss their college days because of the deep sense community that took place through late night study sessions, Taco Bell runs at 2:00 in the morning, and, of course, the dorm life. Therefore, as resident staff, we had to always be thinking of creative ways to help people get out of the isolation of their dorm rooms and drowning away in school work and remind them that they’re amongst friends; that they’re valued; that they belong.
One of those ways was The Community Cart.
Every Thursday night at 10:00 pm, some members of our resident staff would get some kind of delectable sugary treat that had absolutely zero nutritional value whatsoever, load it up on a pale-tan cart, and begin parading down the hallway heralding at the top of our lungs, “COMMUNITY CART!!! COMMUNITY CART!!! COMMUNITY CAAAAAART!!!”
Doors would open instantaneously, and we would obnoxiously knock on all the closed doors as we passed by, screaming “COMMUNITY CART!!!” all the louder. (It was an introvert’s nightmare, I have no doubt.)
Although the interactions were pretty brief, and most people left the comfort of their rooms just because they were getting free snacks, the goal was to open doors that would normally remain closed. Sure, there were always the guys who ate up the dorm life and were 100% all in to what we did. But this was a chance for us to reach out to those guys who may view themselves as marginalized and remind them that they are seen, they are known, they are valued, and they certainly still belong. Even if it was mostly done through sugary goods and screaming “COMMUNITY CART!!!”
What is the local church’s Community Cart? What are innovative ways for us to constantly remind people that they belong? How are you going to invite someone to participate in the church’s communal life beyond them simply attending a weekend service? How can we move people from being attenders of a church to belongers of a church? On a more personal note, who is that person you constantly interact with who is just desperate for someone to at least ask them how their day is going?
Regardless of what you do, don’t underestimate the power of your invitation to belonging. It goes further than you think.