Faith Formation

By Lauren Jefferson | June 1st, 2018

A student prepares to offer ashes during an Ash Wednesday service in Lehman Auditorium. (Photo by Andrew Strack)

Faculty and staff focus on how to better mentor young people in lives of faith.

MOST FOLKS IN THE AUDIENCE at EMU’s May 10 spring faculty-staff conference left the morning assembly with a better understanding of how assistant baseball coach Adam Posey ’15 works with his pitchers during bullpen sessions. A straight talker with an evangelical flair that betrays his Southern Baptist roots, Posey shared some eye-opening positive and negative experiences from his student years at EMU, and urged the gathered community to answer the call to “meet students where they are.”

He ended with four practical questions related to faith formation – picture Posey saying “Go get ‘em,” as EMU faculty and staff collectively trotted to the mound:

Recognize and build on your strengths as related to faith formation. Evaluate and understand your weaknesses. Ask how you can more effectively merge your calling with your work. And finally, how can you better mentor young people to lives of faith?

Titled “Journey Companions: Fostering Faith Formation at EMU,” the day’s worship, panel discussions and workshops was designed to “feed us, but also leave us hungry for more,” said Professor Marti Eads, who chaired the planning committee with Campus Pastor Brian Martin Burkholder.

“Undergraduate students in our 2014 faith mentoring survey expressed eagerness to hear more from faculty and staff about their personal faith journeys and how they navigated doubt, challenge and opportunity,” said Burkholder. “Today we can hear from each other about how we’re doing that in our work on campus and how we might do more in the future.”

The focus also related to an objective in the university’s Strategic Plan 2017-22: “to nurture spiritual growth and enhance formational engagement among faculty, staff and students.”

As the community develops more opportunities to meet student needs, one popular event will continue: chapel services hosted by academic departments.

EMU’s professors tend to be “down-to-earth and open people, but there’s a clear difference between a classroom and a chapel,” said junior English and writing major Josh Holsapple. “Having that extra layer of chapel is important to integrating faith in life and work.”

Psychology professor Ryan Thompson spoke this spring in a STEM chapel about how his faith intersects with his work. He is a former Christian Church youth pastor who began a master’s degree in counseling at Richmont Graduate University, affiliated with the evangelical church, and then finished that degree and a doctorate in psychology at Quaker-rooted George Fox University. Now, he recognizes a rooted affinity to Anabaptist teachings “which I’ve come to realize I’ve followed for longer than I knew it existed.”

Just as his immersion in various “denominational streams has shaped my relationship with Christ and made it more full,” Thompson told students and his colleagues, “likewise, the science and art of psychology has contributed to my understanding of what it means to be made in the image of God. My faith informs my work. My work informs my faith. I don’t know any other way to do it.”

Psychology major Lydia Musselman appreciated the opportunity to learn how deeply Thompson’s faith has intertwined with his profession. “Hearing a professor’s personal story and reflection opens doors to conversation and deeper relationship, and gives hope to those struggling with our faith journey,” she said.