Building community among college students

By Noah Jaeger | Jul 9, 2021

Christian Challenge has been reaching college students at Glendale Community College for a number of years, despite various trials. For the last year, Andrew and Caitlin Marchbanks, campus missionaries at Glendale Community College, faced the challenge of a lifetime: building a collegiate community in the midst of COVID-19.

“COVID kicked us off campus,” says Caitlyn Marchbanks. “Campus ministry has been rough.”

However, the Marchbankses have witnessed powerful community and transformation within the last year between their campus ministry at GCC and their regional large group meeting, Collective, which meets at First Southern Baptist Church at Sahuaro Ranch in Glendale, the partnering church for GCC Challenge.

One student leader, Tyrel Milam, experienced the vast difference between secular community on his campus and the community at Challenge with whom he served.

“I am also involved in choir at Glendale Community College, and I hear consistently from my peers about how this last year completely destroyed the choir’s sense of community,” Milam says. “Glendale Challenge has been a blessing in that we have made a large effort to ensure that we stay connected and involved in students’ lives.”

Due to the strong community at GCC Challenge, Milam did not have to rely on his choir for community. Later in the year, Milam eventually saw choir as his mission field and assisted in leading a choir student to Christ.

Another student, who attended Grand Canyon University, struggled with spiritual community on her campus before starting to attend the Collective evening gatherings.

She was frustrated as she realized many of those she spent time with at GCU who called themselves Christians were not following God.

“She was met with a disconnect,” Caitlyn Marchbanks says.

However, at Collective she found a quite different community of Christians — ones who followed God and encouraged her to grow in her faith. As she pressed into her community at Collective, a burden grew for her lost friends at GCU.

“It was incredible to see over the last year and a half how God grew that burden of hers, and to watch her come to the conviction, ‘My friends need the gospel,’” Andrew Marchbanks says. “It’s been really cool to see how every time she has a spiritual conversation with one of them, she asks us to be praying for them.”

Another GCC Challenge student leader who was reserved and lacking passion began seeing a spiritual awakening in his life.

He began taking the mission of God seriously and taking old high school classmates on gospel appointments, a scheduled time to discuss the gospel. At multiple points in student leadership meetings, he even spoke up about the importance of evangelism in their discipleship.

“You could see the Holy Spirit transforming his heart,” Andrew says.

“This was a kid who was quiet and did not show a lot of emotion. So, this [spiritual awakening], coming from him, is really cool,” Caitlin says.

Volunteer campus missionaries partnered with the GCC Challenge ministry because of the incredible community it provided.

“I value having a community that is willing to have deep spiritual discussions, and live life together,” says Adam Smalley, worship leader for Collective and volunteer campus missionary at Arizona Christian University. “I know growing up for me, I didn’t have a whole lot of that, so finding that as a young adult really helped me grow my faith stronger.”

GCC Challenge witnessed God’s power throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the difficulties and frustrations students and campus missionaries faced, community at GCC Challenge and Collective continued through the school year.

 

            Noah Jaeger, a freelance writer and photographer, is a member of Mercy Hill Church in Phoenix and serves on the Christian Challenge staff at Arizona State University’s Downtown Phoenix campus.

 

Next Steps

—Pray for Christian Challenge at Glendale Community College, as well as Christian Challenge ministries across the state. Powerful prayers are the greatest support you can offer their ministry.

—Are you located in the Glendale area and want to contribute to the mission at GCC in practical ways? Email Andrew, andrew@challengeaz.com, or Caitlin, caitlin@challengeaz.com, and ask how you can participate in God’s kingdom work at this college.

—Do you know students headed off to an Arizona college or university this fall? Encourage them to seek out the Christian Challenge chapter on their campus. Find out more at challengeaz.com.

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