By Gwen Sisson, Starkville District News
Photo right: A group posed for the camera during a Wesley Foundation gathering at Mississippi State University. Photo courtesy MSU Wesley Foundation.
Photo below right: MUW Wesley: Mississippi University for Women Wesley Foundation hosted a Stop Hunger Now Packing event. Photo courtesy MUW Wesley Foundation.
College is an incredibly formative time in the life of a student, and Wesley Foundations play a vital role in campus life.
Hugh Griffith, director of the Wesley Foundation at Mississippi State University, said college students are going to grow and develop in some way -- positively or negatively -- during their college experience, so it is urgent and crucial that students grow and develop in good and godly ways.
"College students are 'good soil,' to borrow the image from Jesus' parable in Matthew 13, Griffith said. "There's urgency in the fact not only good seed grows in good soil, but whatever is planted in good soil will grow and bear fruit, whether the fruit is desirable or not. Wesley Foundation sows good seed -- Kingdom seed -- Gospel seed -- in the good soil of college students."
Gail Griffith, Wesley Foundation director at the Mississippi University for Women (and Hugh's sister) said college students are making some huge decisions that could/will effect the rest of their lives.
"They are making career decisions, choosing lifetime friends, and many times deciding who to marry," Gail Griffith said. "Of course, another decision is what role their faith will play in their life. It is important for a Christian presence to be on the college campuses to support and encourage students and to disciple them in their faith."
Hugh Griffith said his personal mission for student ministry is discipleship. Gail agrees. She said her personal mission is "to build relationships with students and disciple them so they in turn can build relationships and disciple other students."
"The bottom line is discipleship," Hugh Griffith said. "Starting wherever students are, we strive to help them grow in their knowing and their following of Jesus."
This brother-sister team is passionate and "on-fire" for college students in Mississippi.
Hugh Griffith said the campus ministry of Wesley Foundations are an important ministry for the Methodist Church because "campus ministry serves students when they are away from home and no longer receiving the ministry of their home church like they did during their growing up days."
"College students are searching, and they are moldable," Gail Griffith said. "If we don't reach them while they are in college, we might not have another chance. While our priority is that they have a relationship with Jesus Christ, the United Methodist Church must have a strong presence on the college campuses, or there will be a negative impact on the church."
Starkville District Superintendent Rev. Dr. Embra Jackson said he is thrilled to have two Wesley Foundations in the Starkville District -- one at Mississippi State, lead by Hugh Griffith, and one at the Mississippi University for Women, lead by Gail Griffith.
"Both of these persons are gifted in regard to working with college students," Jackson said. "They have both helped guide the students toward having a personal relationship with God over many years. They have also helped guide some of these students toward becoming ministers. In addition, the Wesley Foundation students are engaged in missions on a regular basis. We are indeed blessed by our Wesley Foundations."
Wesley Foundations throughout the state need new partnerships with churches and individuals to provide funding to sustain the ministry they are doing and to support them as they strive to reach more students with more ministry. It's a little-known statistic that Wesley Foundations are not fully funded by the Annual Conference.
"We're so grateful for the funds we receive from the mission shares," Hugh Griffith said. "At MSU Wesley, the mission shares account for just 28 percent of our annual budget, leaving about $150,000 to be received from Friends-of-Wesley who know about our ministry and believe in what we're doing. So if individuals, churches, Sunday school classes, circles or men's groups are interested in supporting us, we would love for you to become a new Friend-of-Wesley or a Campus-Church Partner!"
For more information about how you can impact Wesley Foundations, go to www.mississippi-umc.org/higheredcampusministry. For more information about MSU Wesley, contact Hugh Griffith at firstname.lastname@example.org or MUW Wesley, contact Gail Griffith at email@example.com.