If you’ve been around HOPC for any length of time, you know that we have a lot of college students. That’s an understatement. We have A LOT of college students. The first year there were 25, the second 40, and at this point there are around 100 Hillsdale College students who call HOPC their “home church away from home.” Through the course of the school year, at least 10% of the college’s student body will worship with us.
This is why our focus has always included ministering to these students. Unlike many churches, though, we don’t have fancy programs or contemporary rock bands. A local pastor, after hearing how many students attend, asked me how we had so many. I responded, “I put on a robe and we sing psalms and hymns to piano accompaniment.” This pastor thought I was joking. Surely there had to be more! I’ve heard local pastors talking about putting in a coffee shop or increasing the speed of worship all with an effort to reach the students.
I have an idea: preach the Gospel. Young people are not looking to be entertained. After all, there is plenty of that in their lives already. And, if we’re honest, the church always does a substandard job of entertaining them anyways. What do we have? The truth. How is it conveyed? Through preaching the Word of God. What are we seeking to build? A faithful community of believers who love God and love one another.
Every year we celebrate the students who have sojourned with us. After all, that’s what we all are: pilgrims in this world. Some fellow-travelers walk with us for many years and some for only a few. These students are very important to the life of the church even as the community members are important. As Paul says to the Corinthians, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:12).
It is my prayer that HOPC continues to reflect this truth, that we are members of one another. I am grateful for their being among us and blessing us with their gifts; we need them and they need us.
I reflect on all of this because this week we had our 7th HOPC Senior Dinner. This is something that we started my first year as pastor. It’s not my show, though, it’s my wife’s. She loves to cook and care for the students and so she prepares them a meal that they won’t soon forget. The decorations have been a more recent touch and are due to John and Lici Davis. Every year we tell the students that this is our chance to rejoice with them and to thank them. This year we had 11 students attend the dinner. Pray that the Lord would bless them as they take finals and prepare for what’s next in their lives. Pray that the Lord would bring them to places where they can unite with faithful churches and continue to be fed week by week. Pray that some of them would find employment locally and be able to continue their sojourning with us just a bit longer.