May 5th 2007 - I wanted to let you know about some changes that are coming to Belmont RUF and ask for your prayers as we adjust. As you know, we have been working with students at Belmont through the ministry of RUF for the last 12 years, but new policies at the school are forcing some changes upon us. I know that word of this has spread, and in an effort to both curb rumors and ask for your prayers I wanted to clarify what is going on.
Last Wednesday afternoon, the Belmont chaplain called to give me a heads up about a meeting scheduled for later that day to announce changes coming to the religious student organizations on campus. He said that the new policies meant that I could no longer preach to students weekly on campus. The administration has decided that having me preach is inconsistent with their desire for all the student organizations to be truly student-led. He said that we had two choices, either we could continue to have large group on campus with guest preachers (or ideally in Belmont's view) different students preaching every week. Or, we would have to move our large group meeting off campus. He said that at most I could only preach once or twice per semester if we had our large group on campus. We were pretty shocked - though in fairness I was told last summer that a move in this direction was coming from the Student Affairs office that would affect all student organizations. At that time I suggested that Belmont might want to consider moving all of the religous student orgs under the chaplain's office so that there could be some freedom given to religious groups to structure themselves in accordance with their convictions about Biblical ministry. I thought this was the direction things were headed, but now I see that I was mistaken. The religious orgs are going to be under the chaplain's office, but there will not be an allowance made for groups such as RUF to continue to have "outside professionals" such as myself in a regular teaching role on campus.
Let me be clear - RUF is not being kicked off of campus (as I've heard some say.) We will remain an officially recognized student organization with freedom to do everything we have always been able to do, except I will no longer be allowed to preach at a weekly large group meeting. Our large group meeting will have to be moved off of campus. We will submit to this. Belmont has the right to structure student orgs in the way they see fit - we operate on campus by their permission. We desire to be for the shalom of Belmont, to make the university a better place, not just to raid it for students to build our ministry, and thus we will seek to work in accordance with Belmont's policies and vision.
But we are saddened by this decision and wish it were otherwise. Our students are quite upset, as you can imagine, and while they had a chance to ask questions and voice their concerns with the chaplain and the student organizations director, they are struggling with this new policy. Our student leaders feel that the administration does not see the leadership role that the students have in RUF. They raised their concern that while the administration says they want student-led orgs, if the students leading decide that they want to have someone preach consistently to them, that is not going to be allowed on campus. Many of the students said they came to RUF because they wanted a group where there was a seminary-trained pastor doing the teaching rather than just their peers. They also pointed out that there are many groups on campus where students do all the teaching already, and that there should be room for groups that have other convictions about what Biblical ministry looks like. But the administration is quite set on this policy and responded to the students' concerns by saying that is not the model that Belmont wants to embrace for religious student organizations. Belmont desires a higher degree of accountability over all the student orgs and this policy is aimed at that, as well as encouraging more student initiative and leadership.
It was quite poignant to have our end-of-the-year cookout at our house in the evening of the day this policy was announced. As part of the evening we had several seniors give testimony to how RUF had impacted them while at Belmont. As one girl gave testimony about how she was converted through RUF it broke my heart to consider that she most likely would have never visited RUF large group initially if she had been required to drive off campus for it. I do think that moving our large group off campus will create a barrier for some students who might have otherwise come to check out RUF. But it will also call our current students to be more proactive in inviting their friends and giving rides to students without cars. God is going to use this to build His kingdom, we can be sure of that.
How can you help?
Please pray for us and our students to embrace this as God's good providence. We want to look for how God can use this to help all of us grow and trust Him more.
Please pray for a place near campus for us to meet for our large group! We can use the 12 South venue that Midtown Fellowship owns and we are grateful for this offer. But we are concerned about whether it is big enough. We had over 80 students in the Fall last year, and the 12 South venue really will hold only about 60 people. Also, it is a little too far for students to walk from campus. We don't know of a better place, but perhaps some of you might have some ideas. If so, we would love to hear them! We are willing to pay some rent for a place, but don't have too much money since we have to raise support for all of our ministry expenses.
Please pray for a continued good relationship between RUF and the administration. We really do desire to serve the university and be a partner with them in seeking to care for and shape students. Pray that this decision would not have a negative affect on our relationship with the administration.
Finally, please pray for wisdom in how to adjust the ministry of RUF to work within this new policy. There are numerous logistic issues to work out and we desire to be able to work through these issues well and in a way that honors both Belmont and the Lord.
Thanks for your prayers and concern - please feel free to contact me if you have questions, or suggestions for a place to meet.
Grace and peace, Rev. Kevin Twit
PS. Summer RUF begins May 30th if you know any college students who be around this summer. Go to our website for more details!