Posted: 8/19/15 at 10:50am. Article by Blake Tommey.
At the Center for Faith and Leadership in Fredericksburg, directors Carey and Gannon Sims have a familiar saying: “Our front door is open to the campus, and our back door opens to the community.”
And while the Center literally faces the campus of the University of Mary Washington and backs up to the larger Fredericksburg community, the location has come to define its very mission as an expression of the Virginia Baptist Kairos Initiative for young adult Christian community.
Through partnerships with local churches, non-profit organizations, public schools, and city officials, the Center for Faith and Leadership is blending campus ministry with Christian community development to transform the lives of young adults in Fredericksburg.
“We have the disadvantage and the advantage of doing ministry at a school that is historically more of a commuter campus,” Gannon explained. “We don’t have the kind of access to students that many other college ministries do. In the absence of a lot of involvement on campus, we were moved to go out and create some initiatives that we could then invite students and young people into.”
In 2013, the Center began partnering with Shiloh Baptist Church (New Site) around issues of homelessness among young adults in Fredericksburg. Among regional school districts, more than 1,000 students qualify as homeless and depend on free and reduced meals through their school’s food program.
During breaks, however, many students fail to make up for those meals on their own, Carey explains. To address the gap, the Center created the Spring Break Food Drive, an annual collaboration of students and community organizations to collect food for young people who miss free and reduced meals during breaks from school.
Through the same partnership, the Center also created an after-school program for high school students who qualify as homeless. Twice a week, the Center facilitates tutoring, mentoring, career building, art, music and nutrition awareness with teenagers who attend school just down the street.
Carey said that both the food drive and the after-school program inspire authentic student involvement and expose college students to a fuller world as they come alongside people in their community.
“The Kairos Initiative is about collaboration around ministry with young adults, which means it’s cross-denominational, cross-cultural and cross-everything for the benefit of those young adults,” Carey said.
In addition to issues of homelessness, the Center is also engaging students in building international relationships through a partnership with the English language school just across the street. Each week, students from the Center plug in as conversation partners with more than 100 international students, ages 18 to 25, who are learning English.
“Our hope is to create something bigger than that small, insular environment that sometimes takes over in college, so our front door is always open to the campus and yet it opens right back out to our community,” Gannon explained. “We want to be an equipping space and a sending place, where students can come and be transformed by the living God, but are then equipped to be sent out and share that good news as well.”