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A Safe Space to Explore Faith

January 10, 2024
Agape and Ecclesia, a Resonate Global Mission partner campus ministry at Loyola University in Chicago, created Explore groups to provide a safe space for students to ask questions about faith and the gospel.
Agape and Ecclesia, a Resonate Global Mission partner campus ministry at Loyola University in Chicago, created Explore groups to provide a safe space for students to ask questions about faith and the gospel.

How do you share your faith with students from another faith background or who might not have faith?

At Agape and Ecclesia, a Resonate Global Mission partner at Loyola University in Chicago, the answer isn’t a Bible study—it’s a new Explore groups ministry.

Week after week, students trickle into a room on Loyola University’s campus. They shrug off their coats, grab a snack, and settle down into couches and chairs as laughter and chatter fill the air. In the midst of a busy week of full classloads, papers, homework, and extracurricular commitments, they can take some time to pause and breathe.

One minute students might be discussing a silly question like “How would you survive in a zombie apocalypse?” And the next minute someone might ask, “What do you believe is the meaning of life?” Sometimes the students also read and discuss a Bible verse.

Loyola is a Roman Catholic university, but not every student there is Christian. Students might come from different denominations of Christianity. Some students are nominally Catholic and might not know much about the Bible. Some students aren’t religious at all, or they just aren’t sure what they believe.

“We were trying to brainstorm a space to engage with students who aren’t Christians and not necessarily make it a Bible study—but something kind of less threatening,” said Dennis Hong, a Resonate partner campus minister on Loyola’s campus.

That’s one of the reasons why Explore groups have become so popular with students at Loyola.

Explore groups have become a safe space for students from all kinds of backgrounds to come together and ask questions, share what they believe, and talk about their uncertainties. And Hong hopes that these groups will be a first step for students who aren’t Christians to learn about the gospel and follow Christ.

A Safe Space for Students

“I believe the Explore group to be one of the most effective approaches to ministry,” said Paul Kalapala, a fourth-year student studying biology and business administration at Loyola.

Kalapala has been actively involved with Agape and Ecclesia throughout his university experience. This year he’s been working alongside Hong to lead Explore groups as a way to share his faith and build friendships with other students on campus.

“We create a space for students to listen, ask questions, and share their perspectives on God and faith. Not only that, but as each member shares, they are always treated with dignity and respect, even if other members of the group disagree with them,” shared Kalapala.

One of Kalapala’s favorite gatherings, he said, was a meeting where they all discussed, “What’s your faith background?”

“Although the question may seem simple on the surface, it struck at the heart of why people had the current faith views that they had. It was a vulnerable time for many of us as we shared both the highlights of our faith as well as some of the difficult experiences we’ve had,” said Kalapala.

Seeing Growth

While Explore groups is a new ministry, Hong said he is already seeing God at work through the relationships that are forming and the conversations within the group.

“We’ve been able to build deeper relationships by supporting one another through difficulties in everyday life,” said Hong. “It can go the other way too. Even recently, many of the members repeatedly reached out and checked on me as my family was going through some difficulty.”

Students are starting to bring their friends to Explore groups, and members occasionally meet for other activities or might grab lunch or dinner with one another. Additionally, for some students Explore groups have become a door to Agape and Ecclesia’s other events, such as Sunday worship services, volunteering, and other gatherings.

“One of our goals,” said Hong, “is to open the door to these relationships where they can become part of our community and see Jesus through our community.”

“I think that in this day and age relationships are the road to evangelism,” he added. “Show the gospel through how you live your life and how you treat people.”

“Please pray for all the people we’re meeting and are going to meet,” shared Hong. “Pray that these Explore groups will continue to be safe places where people from all backgrounds can gather, share what they believe, build relationships, and explore faith.

“Pray too for members of Explore groups who aren’t Christians—that their hearts may be moved to know Jesus more. Pray also for wisdom, love, and empowerment for leaders. We want to share the truth, but we don’t want to do that unwisely.”