Legendary Woman: An Interview with Michelle McClain Walters

Legendary Woman: An Interview with Michelle McClain Walters

As more women than ever continue to move into positions of leadership and all women seek their purposes it is important to have role models from Scripture to help inspire and encourage us. Michelle McClain Walters has identified not only role models, but Biblical principles that can be learned from their stories to help women and men discover and walk in God’s calling for their lives. UrbanFaith sat down with Michelle to talk about her new book Legendary Woman: Partnering with God to Become the Heroine of Your Own Story, which captures the wisdom and encouragement we need for this moment. The full interview is linked above and more about the book is below.

In today’s times of women go-getters, entrepreneurs and bosses, Michelle McClain Walters uses her faith and God’s promises to motivate women to their calling! The book highlights the legendary women who aren’t just those in traditional powerhouse positions in business, finance or politics, but also the everyday women — the single mom, the prayer leader, the stay-at-home wife— who choose to say yes to God, are also indeed, legendary. She also shares the twelve characteristics of a legendary woman,and challenges women to identify their defining moments—those moments when your destiny intersects with an epic need within your family, community, nation, or your world—and be willing to say yes to the legendary role God has uniquely fashioned for them. 

Just Pray: An Interview with Pastor John Hannah

Just Pray: An Interview with Pastor John Hannah

Have you ever looked at your life and wondered how your needs would be met this week? Have you been in need of advice and not known where to turn? Have you ever wondered what your purpose is? How can you grow in your relationship with God?

The answer to all these questions is prayer. Many of us want to pray, but struggle to figure out how to pray which is the reason why Pastor John Hannah wrote his book: Just Pray: How a Life of Prayer Grows Unshakeable Faith which is now available everywhere and can be found here. UrbanFaith interviewed Pastor John Hannah about his new book Just Pray: How A Life Of Prayer Grows Unshakeable Faith. The full interview is linked above.

Prayer is a foundational part of every Christian’s life, it is literally the way we communicate with God. As we desire to grow in our relationship with God, we must learn how to pray in ways that are powerful and practical. Pastor Hannah leads prayer calls weekly with thousands of people, has spoken and taught on the subject of prayer for decades, and has decided to share his insights on why and how we can grow in our prayer life as foundational to a life of faith through this book.

About Pastor John Hannah

John F. Hannah is the founder and lead pastor of New Life Covenant Church Southeast. A speaker and author, he has impacted thousands of lives through his ministry and dedication to serve. Through his focused desire to teach people how to grow their relationship with God, Pastor Hannah has become renowned for his commitment to prayer. Because of his heart for people, Hannah has traveled the globe speaking in regions of Jiji, Australia, and South Africa and even shared multiple media and conference platforms with acclaimed faith-based leaders Bishop T.D. Jakes and Steve Harvey. He has been married to Anna Hannah for over twenty-five years.

Mega Move: An Interview with Hillsong Atlanta Pastor Sam Collier

Mega Move: An Interview with Hillsong Atlanta Pastor Sam Collier

Sam Collier just started his tenure as the new lead pastor of Hillsong Church’s Atlanta location and it has come with tremendous interest. Pastor Sam is pursuing many firsts; he is the first African American pastor at a Hillsong Church, he is the first black pastor in the Hillsong global network, and this is his first time as a lead pastor after spending years serving at 20,000+ member North Point Community Church with Pastor Andy Stanley. Hillsong Church is one of the most popular church movements in the world with locations on every continent except Antarctica, music that has influenced a generation, conferences attended by hundreds of thousands, and ministries that reach around the globe. Yet in the midst of racial unrest, a global pandemic, and economic uncertainty, Hillsong church has not had an African American in pastoral leadership…until now. UrbanFaith contributor Maina Mwaura sat down to interview Pastor Sam Collier about his decision, the challenges, and his hopes in his role as the first black pastor in one of the largest most recognized church movements in the world. Full interview is above.

Cooking Up Success In Community: An Interview with Chef Q

Cooking Up Success In Community: An Interview with Chef Q

During the COVID-19 pandemic many people faced homelessness, hunger, and loss as a result of the coronavirus and related shut-downs. But one newly opened restaurant outside Sacramento, California was able not only to survive the pandemic, but thrive and help others survive in the midst of it.

UrbanFaith sat down with Chef Q who is the Executive Chef & Owner of Q1227 restaurant outside of Sacramento as he shared his recipe not only to survive, but thrive as an restauranteur, person of faith, and community catalyst in the midst of the pandemic. His restaurant was able to feed over 40,000 homeless and in need families in 2020 and he has made his restaurant one of the most impactful and successful institutions in his community. The full interview is above.

Stay This Way Forever-An Interview with Linsey Davis

Stay This Way Forever-An Interview with Linsey Davis

As parents or adults with young children in our lives it can often feel like our children’s childhoods are flying by and we want to capture moments and memories as we are experiencing them. We must find intentional balance in how to instill wisdom in the next generation while nurturing creativity and innocence that life can often be challenged as we grow older. UrbanFaith interviewed Linsey Davis, Emmy award winning journalist and children’s book author about her newest book Stay This Way Forever which captures moments of the joys and challenges of kids growing up. The full interview is linked above with excerpts below which have been edited for clarity.

Allen

Welcome to UrbanFaith. We are so glad to have Linsey Davis with us today. She is an amazing Emmy Award-winning news anchor, a mother, and a children’s book author. We are so glad to talk about her book Stay this Way Forever. We will talk about this book and how it’s impacting children, [as well as Linsey’s writing] process. We’re so glad to have you with us today, Linsey. So, my first question for you is, what inspired you to write a children’s book after all of the work that you’ve done in journalism and being successful there? What got you interested in writing a book like this?

 

Linsey

Well, Allen, like you, I have a seven-year-old. And after he was born, I was reading children’s books to him. And I started thinking, you know, I could do this. And ultimately, that could turned into a should because I started thinking about how intentional and deliberate I had to be to find books with characters who look like my son. A lot of times people think that writing children’s books is such a departure from the news industry. At my core, I really consider myself to be a storyteller. And so it’s really kind of more of the same, except that I get to really tell the good news and focus on positivity, letting my creative juices flow in this way, where[as], my day job is often doom and gloom. So, this is kind of a nice release. Additionally, I felt my son wanted to watch me on TV. [But] quite often with the news, I feel like the themes and the storylines are just too heavy for his young mind. [I want] to try to preserve his innocence as much as I can. And so the book was something that I could 100% share with him. He could really be a part of the process, and ultimately we could read the books together. I could kind of guide the inspiration and what was going into his mind–the things that I wanted to instill in him.

Allen

That makes so much sense. You know, as a father–I’ve got three daughters: seven, five months, and  an 11-year-old–and I really relate to the importance of trying to find ways to shape them in positive ways. One of the things you mentioned really sticks out. There’s a lot about creativity there. And then in the beginning of the book, you talked about imagination and trying to encourage that. What are some of the ways that imagination and creativity play a role in the work that you do, or even in writing this?

Linsey

I think being an effective storyteller is all about creative writing and using the language in the most expressive way. My son loves Legos. He likes to kind of create, so we’ll get him a [Lego] set that’s intended to be one thing, and he takes the head from that and the wings from this other thing and comes up with his own creation. And I love that–the idea of thinking outside of the box. Quite often as we become adults, we get kind of pigeon-holed into a certain way of thinking, where for kids, they just are starting from the ground up as far as whatever they can dream they can create and build. I have started being more intentional with my son, and he just got a journal. He had asked me what a diary is. And so I said, “Would you like to kind of write your thoughts down?” He said yes. I think that writing is such a key way for us to express ourselves–whether we’re young or old, or just hoping to remember and hold on to certain moments that we’re going to forget decades from now. We can go back and relive some of those moments and think about how we processed them at the time.

Allen

So that actually gives me a really great segue to another question. I felt like when I was reading this book, I was capturing feelings from raising my girls and from being a child myself, and you did such a good job capturing feelings and memories. Thank you. Were there any particular moments that came to mind for you, or can you talk about some of those memories or feelings that stuck out as you were writing this?

Linsey

So I have a journal, but I do a terrible job at actually keeping up with it and regularly doing entries. So I treated this book as every mom and dad’s thoughts with regard to childhood, and really kind of trying to press the pause button or freeze these moments before they all slip away.

And so yes, in particular, the pitter patter of my son’s feet in the morning before he jumps into bed with us, especially on the weekends. I thought so many times, I’m going to miss this one day when he no longer wants to jump in bed with mom and dad. And with so many of the aspects of childhood, you never know when it’s going to be the last time. When they’re going to cuddle up in your lap and fall asleep or reach for your hand. When you’re walking along, think sometimes they become, you know, too cool.  They’re ready to go off with their friends. But for right now, I’m really cherishing this time. And I think that so many parents will really be able to relate, and it’ll kind of resonate with them about this intimacy and this shared time.

Additionally, when my son was falling asleep, he’d want somebody to be in the room. I would keep my phone with me while the lights were out, and I would try and write down different ideas from the day that I just really wanted to keep with me. And one of those nights, he said, “You know what I’m going to do tomorrow?” And he was telling me about how he was gonna have certain ice cream, and he was gonna have this play date, and he said, “It’s gonna be the best day ever!” And I love that idea.

I really hope that no matter if he’s 30, or 50, or 70, the idea of tomorrow is still so pregnant with possibility and excitement for him. I think that when we stop being excited about the future, it’s a detriment for us. And so I’m hoping that so many of these things–his curiosity, his creativity, his excitement–these are the aspects of childhood that I think that he can take with him into adulthood. He doesn’t have to, you know, kind of put away [those with the] childish things. At some point, when he becomes a man, I hope that he’ll take those with him.

Allen

Absolutely. And one of the other things that you mentioned is everything that’s going on in the world. Now we’ve got kids who have just lived through a pandemic and all of this unrest, and there’s uncertainty. I hear my daughter asking, “Why is this happening? What are we supposed to do?” What are some ways that you can encourage your son or help other parents to encourage their kids as they’re seeing and hearing some of this stuff, whether it’s in class or elsewhere? How can we keep encouraging our kids?

Linsey

Well, if you look at studies, kids are so resilient, right? I think that in some ways, while this has been hard for every age range, I think that the kids are going to be the ones who really snap back, the fastest. And that gives me hope. And so in our household, we really try to be hopeful about the different phases of what we’re going through.

It was my son’s birthday at the end of March, right as everything started shutting down in New York. We were supposed to go to Disney for the first time. And then we’re thinking, well, things are going to be better in September. So we replan the trip, but things were not better at all.

It’s been about really focusing on the positives through it. So we’ve talked about how we’ve gotten to have breakfast and lunch together as a family for almost a year, and we were able to really have this quality time that otherwise, we wouldn’t have. Otherwise, my son would be at school, and then I go to work at a later shift. So we really would only see each other on weekends. This has given us this renewed family time. And I think that there are ways in the midst of the toughest of times to find something that kind of sparkles a little bit in the midst of it. We’ve really tried to hold on to that and be intentional about counting our blessings. Because we know that there are people who do have those empty chairs at their tables. We’ve talked to our son about that–both the good and the bad–and what we have to still be so thankful for. The journal that we just got my son is a gratitude journal. Again, a very intentional way to try to focus on the positives.

Allen

Yeah, those daily devotions can be huge. That’s something I’m leaning into. And we’re trying to be more aware of something that else you talked about in the beginning–the lack of images and that need for your son to see characters that look like him. Why is it important for us to have books that speak to children in their context, especially as African Americans? Why, are books like yours important?

Linsey

Sure. You know, there was an essay that I read years ago called Windows, Mirrors, and Sliding Glass Doors. And the point was that for every children’s book to really be effective, it needs to have a mirror so the child can see themselves reflected in the pages. It needs to have a window also so a child can peer into a world that’s perhaps unfamiliar to their own. And if that window is really transformative, it can serve as a way to transport them into that world that may be unfamiliar.

So initially, I was writing this thinking I needed to have black and brown characters for my son so he sees himself. I was really only thinking about the mirror of it. But then as I started kind of having this shift where I was seeing justice as just as important. The book needs to have the windows because of this climate that we continue to be in, even in the midst of the so-called racial reckoning. And there’s been so much talk about how we’re different.

And people often say that kids don’t see color, but I totally disagree with that. Kids do see color–they just don’t assign a value to it. It’s adults who do. It’s learned behavior that the children get from their parents and their environment, people they’re around. And so I think that it’s just as important that I provide those windows.

In many scenarios, parents really need to examine their own bookshelves and see how diverse their book collection is. If you live in an area that doesn’t have a lot of diversity, or if your school or place of worship is not diverse, I always recommend to parents that they start with their toys and their books. That’s an easy way that you can expose your children to a child who doesn’t necessarily look like them.

Quite often we fear what we don’t know. The more that you have a sense of, “Oh, yes, I’ve seen people who are that color before,” or “I’ve seen people who have that belief before that religion,” or whatever it is.  My son goes to school or camp or something, when he comes home and has met a new friend, he tells me immediately what they have in common. “They like Legos, just like I do. They like Star Wars, just like I do. We ate popsicles together.” Adults will often think of how we’re different from each other, but kids just are looking at how we’re alike.

That’s why I wrote my second book, celebrating how we are more alike than different. I felt like, let’s just confront it. Yes, our hair is different, our skin is different, our features are different, our beliefs are different. But in the end, God gave us one big heart, that’s the most important part, because that’s where love starts. I think that’s kind of a continuation through all three of my books. It’s very deliberate that on at least one or two of the spreads in each of my books, there’s a group setting. So they’re going to be at a school, in a classroom, or an airport or a block party–we have a lot of different people. So anybody who’s looking at the pages of these books or reading them will see somebody who they can identify with who looks like them, or a family member or relative.

When people talk about diversity and inclusion, I think that they’re not necessarily looking at the big picture, unless you’re including everybody, right? It’s not just about bringing only black and brown people to the table. It’s about bringing Native Americans and Asians. But when I was looking [at this data] seven years ago, more than 90% of the children protagonists in children’s books were white. And meanwhile, if you look at the U.S. Census Bureau, half of the kids in this country are kids of color. Additionally,  a 2018 from the University of Wisconsin found that 27% of children’s books have animals as the central character. And so that means that children are more likely to see an animal than children of color in their books. So that’s really a problem. And so rather than complain about it, I figured I’d just be part of the solution and start creating some books that have black and brown characters.

Allen

It’s great. So let’s pivot to the message that you wanted to communicate to children reading this book. My daughter has just started reading in the past couple of years. She’s trying to grasp some of these words, but she looked at your book and she knew what it said. She said, “Stay this way forever.” she could read that out loud, and that stuck out to her right away. What are some of the messages that you want to pass on to kids who are reading this? Maybe new readers or even those who are hearing their parents read?

Linsey

You know, I think that that’s where it’ll be really profound. Hearing your parents or grandparents reading these words, knowing that you’re loved and cherished. I think that there’s something really special and meaningful when somebody tells you, “I love that the way you smile,” or the way you throw your head back when you laugh–not [just that] you love them, but the examples of the ways in which you love and the qualities that you love in a very unconditional way. We go through the book with the very specific aspects of children that again, I think that everybody is going to relate to. Like the belly laughs or the tickle fights or whatever it is that you do in your home, chances are a lot of families are doing the same thing–just going through these different stages of childhood. Mainly, I hope that the children who are reading this or being read to just feel cherished and adored by their loved ones.

Allen

You have a line in there that really touched me. You said [may] your heart would stay open wide, so that love can rush in. Can you talk a little bit about what that may mean? And how we can stay open?

Linsey

Sure. Well, I think that it’s anyone I don’t even think it’s just having a black son. But I do worry about how when he gets older, he could become guarded based on the world’s perceptions of him just because of his skin color. I really don’t want that for him. I really don’t want to have the albatross around his neck and that waiting  list that can come along with that. And, and so I’m really hoping that he’ll still love so freely and that he won’t feel that he’s been boxed in.

But I think that any parent can relate to that, whether it’s bullies or whatever we could be ostracized about in our community in a way that we feel that, you know, we don’t measure up or people kind of keep us distant or that we’re not going to be they’re not going to be friends with us for whatever reason, it could be kids have unfortunately so many reasons that they end up kind of guarded and boxing themselves off from the hurt or the pain. And, and so I really am just hoping for as long as he can, that he can really preserve and children in general can can hold on to that idea of just loving it’s kind of like, you know, when people talk about, you know, dancing, like no one’s watching and that kind of thing. Just you know that that freedom that unbridled, just, you know, excitement and wide eye, you know, love of life and joy. That is what I’m really you know, talking about in that in that line, that sense of just loving and being loved and giving it in exchange. He very easily very, in a very fluid way.

Allen

So, my last question. I really appreciated being able to read this. I honestly started to tear up when I got to the end. It’s a beautiful book, and I’m so glad that you wrote it and that I’m able to share it with my daughters. What’s something that you want to leave parents with as we think about how to help our children maintain these qualities of openness to life and love?

Linsey

First of all, just spend quality time with our children. And even in the midst of this turbulent past year, I have tried to be really intentional about going out on dates with my son. Just taking him to lunch and really trying to put the phone down during that time–talking to him about what he’s thinking and what he’s feeling. And I think that whatever it is that we can do, if it’s that reading time, right before bedtime, prayer time, or the mealtime–whatever it is, the time that we’re able to kind of set aside. I think in the same way that kids are resilient, they’re going to remember even though you’re busy, you’re going off to work or you’ve got a hectic schedule on Zoom calls all day, I think that they will be very forgiving if they know that. But at the end of the night, you were there to tuck them in at the end of the day, you were there, at dinner time, and you kind of talked through their day or whatever it is. I would like to think that, but maybe I’m being too optimistic. When I think about my own childhood, I think you’re willing to let a lot of things ride if you felt fulfilled at the end of the day. I think many parents would be surprised about how a little bit can go a long way in the heart and eyes of a child.

Allen

Fantastic. Well, thank you so much for this again. I’m just touched to have Stay This Way Forever and share it with my daughters. My five-month-old loved the pictures. She tried to eat it, but couldn’t. But it’s just a joy. And I thank you so much, Linsey, for sharing with us today and just look forward to continuing these conversations with our children and our audience.

Finding Faith and Community on Virtual Campuses: An Interview with Shaylen Hardy

Finding Faith and Community on Virtual Campuses: An Interview with Shaylen Hardy

Last year the pandemic disrupted the world as we know it–leaving most college students grappling with how to live in a world without access to community, coupled with the pressure of continuing their education. 

For Black students, the exposure of racism locally, nationally, and globally made the Great Disruption even more difficult. The nation witnessed the deaths of Black men and women at the hands of law enforcement and vigilantes while being forced to quarantine. White supremacy and racist rhetoric were often unveiled from the mouths of people who identified as Christian, which left many students wrestling with their faith on multiple fronts without the normal practices and people to help encourage them. 

But in the midst of the turmoil and testing, leaders of campus ministries sought to support  Black students. I had the opportunity to interview Shaylen Hardy, the President of Intervarsity’s Black Campus Ministries, about her experiences and insight leading one of the largest networks of Black campus ministries through the pandemic. Some highlights of our conversation are below, and the full interview can be viewed above and on UrbanFaith.com!

The interview has been edited for clarity.

 

Allen:

I’ll open up our first question, Shaylen. From your perspective, what are some of the challenges that you have seen Black students face in the last year as they’ve lived through this pandemic and the social unrest in our country? 

 

Shaylen:

Yeah, I mean, I think you named some of the major things that they’re facing. I think another thing with Generation Z is mental health issues. We already knew coming into this year, or pre-pandemic, that Generation Z experiences significantly higher amounts of mental health issues. So as you think about it, some of the racial reckoning that we’re seeing in the nation, plus the weight of the pandemic, are actually just compounding the mental health issues that those students were experiencing already. So some of the ways in which they may have negotiated or worked through their mental health challenges, like being with friends, or engaging in activities that are life giving to them, were taken away instantly. So, the challenges of coping with mental health complications are something that we’re seeing. 

And also their academic coursework. I mean, many of us remember getting up in the morning, going to class, and just the weight of that. But there’s a different [pressure] when you have to be virtual and on Zoom calls all day long.  They are expected to retain everything that they’re hearing without the personal interaction with their teachers and other students, and just the fatigue. Many of us working via Zoom for this last year were also experiencing fatigue, but we’re not being tested week in and week out on what we heard during those calls.

 

Allen:  

That makes a lot of sense. A follow-up question that I have is, how are the students able to gather together in life giving ways with organizations like Intervarsity, or with one another? How, in the midst of being virtual, are they finding community?

 

Shaylen:

Yeah, I think part of it is being somewhat creative. And so we recognize that one of our only ways of interacting is virtually. And we know that we’re inviting them to come back into a virtual space after they’ve spent most of their day on it. But we think through developing community in a couple of different ways. 

Yes, we still do our Bible study, and yes, we still have prayer meetings and things like that. But we host virtual game nights where we invite students to come play Spades or stUno, and we have virtual movie nights where we play a movie and students can chat about what they’re experiencing. So we think that community is still very, very vital to their mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. We just have to be creative in how we use virtual mechanisms to help build that community so that when we are able to go back to the new normal, they can pick up where they left off with one another

 

Allen:

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I think that hybrid is kind of the future of the world at this point, right? Like, things are not going back to the way that they were. You just mentioned how people are using these hybrid mediums in order to engage in order to strengthen themselves and their faith. What are some of the ways that you’ve seen students really be able to feed their faith or keep themselves encouraged?

 

Shaylen:

I think part of it is we do small groups on different campuses and across the country, and we have had a national virtual conference for students to engage. I think one of the things that we’re learning about Generation Z is that because they have so much content available to them, just showing them a video  isn’t enough. They’re like, help me figure out what I’m supposed to do with what I just heard. And so we’ve actually been able to have a couple breakout sessions [that are]  conversations about what’s happening in the world and what Jesus has to say about justice. And students are like, “Yeah, that was great.” And then we have to follow up by sharing the next two steps to take if you want to figure out how to be more active and engage in what’s happening in the world. So I think part of it is yes, content. But if you think about it, this generation has more access to more content than anyone has ever had. So what we’re seeing is this generation is like, “Yeah, give me content. And when you give it to me, make sure it looks good, but also help me figure out what you want me to do with what I just heard.”

 

Allen:

Wow, that’s huge. The application part makes a big difference for them. Now, the other thing that has been impacting us is not just a pandemic, but also this racial unrest. And I’m really curious, how have you been hearing Black students talk about this deal with this with their faith? How is the racial unrest been impacting them in particular in these times? 

 

Shaylen:

I think in some ways, it’s connected to some of the mental health issues.  Like, it is hard for me to show up because of all of the trauma that I’m experiencing, and so that is compounded with that mental health tension, and then I have to show up and engage academically. But also, I have to be social and be competent in my interaction with my classmates. So it’s like they’re having to pull it all together to be okay, when they don’t feel okay. So that’s definitely a tension that they’re experiencing. 

I will say that we’ve tried to have conversations to help students think through what Jesus has to say about what is happening right now. And I think that a lot of people who would challenge the Christian faith or the Christian perspective will point to broader White evangelicalism of: “That is why Jesus cannot be trusted.” And so some of our students are trying to wrestle with, if this is the fruit [meaning racism], and they say they love Jesus,, can this be compatible with me following Jesus? 

Part of what we’ve had to do is actually expose some of the lies of White evangelicalism. And yes, you can fully follow Jesus as a Black person, as a nAfrican American, as an African [person]. All of those things are compatible with Jesus. But in some ways, I think in order to make that case, we’ve had to k pull back the curtain and say things like, “These are the lies that have been intertwined with American Christianity, and this is why Jesus is trustworthy.” On the one hand, [we] also speak to what Jesus has to say about the Black experience. And I think that there have been moments when [for Black students and myself] I see what’s happening in the world and I live as a Black [person] experiencing it [and], I’m like, “Lord, when will you show up?”

 

Allen:

That makes a lot of sense. What are some of the other ways that you’re coming alongside these students or ministering to them with Intervarsity? Or even the wider campuses? I know that you guys do work, not just with students, but with folks who are supporting students on campuses. So what have you all been doing in the midst of all this to support campuses?

 

Shaylen:

I think I’m connected to some of our spaces. So we’ve had a psychologist come in and talk about racial trauma, sharing her insights. And then we had breakout rooms where students were able to discuss what they were experiencing. And then from that point, we have prayer ministry rooms. So we’re getting into spaces where students can actually share their story and not just about what they have been experiencing, but also connect to prayer ministry. 

And similarly, at our virtual student conference we had over 300 students and about 10 faculty join us. So we had a conversation and then invited people into prayer ministry rooms. One of the things that was really surprising to me is that I felt like we recruited really well for our prayer ministry rooms, but we were continually having to call in reinforcements because the need and the hunger for prayer was so strong. In a virtual space, we had a Zoom room with music playing [where people could wait for a minister to be available].  There was one point, when I was recruiting people in there who jumped on 20 minutes after we started because they needed people. And there were students just waiting quietly in the prayer room until somebody was available. I think that that was such a stark picture of how we categorize youth often, like they aren’t interested in spiritual things or they don’t love Jesus. [But] they are hungry for what Jesus wants to give them. These students sat through an hour and a half or two hours of programming. And they are sitting in a Zoom call, listening to worship music because they want somebody to pray with them. 

I think just giving those opportunities for people to have encounters with the Lord [is important]. One of the things that we’re learning about Generation Z is that they want access to experts. I think millennials want to be the experts. Generation Z is like, “Just connect me with somebody who knows what they’re doing.” I don’t know that we anticipated this or actually know how it would work virtually. But offering that prayer ministry space has been super significant for students. 

And then I think the second piece that I mentioned earlier, is just opportunities for helping them figure out how to actually do it– how to apply the message to their lives.

 

Allen

So that provides a really great segue for another question I have, especially for a lot of the folks in our audience. We’re touching people who are Christians and especially churches all over the place. And it sounds like there’s a space for the church and an opportunity to reach some of these students. What kind of roles do you think the church can offer to these students as they’re dealing with things on campus and going through this this time?

 

Shaylen

I think one of the things that as I’ve been working on and trying to identify is, how do we actually care for Black college students, and what are the support structures that exist on college campuses? For HBCUs, there’s much more of a community of people already there who can pour into you and to develop you. For students who end up at predominantly White institutions, that looks quite different. 

[On HBCU campuses] there are often support structures and Black professionals who can help pour into you in the same way you were used to in high school. It sticks out to me that Generation Z wants to be developed. They want people who know what they’re doing to guide them.But on PWI campuses, it is very hard to have access to that. And that’s compounded. Most PWIs are surrounded by churches. White churches have money, so they surround the campus. But in most campus contexts, Black churches are about 10 to 15 minutes away from most campuses. And then basically, you’re saying for a Black college student to be connected to community, or to be connected to an older people who could pour into them, pray for them, and care for them, they have to find a way to get there. 

And so I think that my question would be, are there ways that Black church communities can be intentional about supporting Black students on college campuses? Now that’s a little bit complicated due to COVID because we just don’t know how accessible campuses will be, right? But as they open [there are opportunities]. 

My church has been thinking through things like, how do we care more for Black college students? And so I [gave them suggestions’ and  we actually started partnering with a student organization. We attended their meeting every so often and brought a whole bunch of food–wings, pizza.e would let them do their meeting, then do an icebreaker and ask if anyone needed prayer. 

And then we ended up having a college day later in the semester, and we had never had so many college students at our church. I want to say that over 100 college students came over to the event. And part of it was because they saw us being active on campus–they saw us caring about them. We didn’t do a full church service. That’s something we could consider down the road. But basically, we were saying, “We just want to know what you’re going through.” We want to support you. 

Churches might think that they have to have a robust strategy for recruiting for building a whole separate ministry, but I don’t think that they need to do all that. Are there two or three students that somebody in your congregation has trust with? If the answer is yes, ask them, or, for Generation Z, tell them how you want to support them. Say, “Hey, I know that I have meetings on campus. Would it be okay, if our church sponsors dinner for you at one meeting per month? We would just love to meet them and see if there’s a way for us to pray for them.” And then figure out ways that you can invite them to partner with you for something that you’re doing in the community or invite them to church. We don’t have to have a whole robust strategy. It can really start off with relationships.

 

Allen

Wow, I love that relationship piece. And just allowing us to again build relationships as churches with students and be able to support them where they are. So my last question is, with all of that’s going on, are there other people who may be around campuses who  can continue to make an impact with Gen Z?

 

Shaylen

Yeah, so we have a ministry in a university that’s targeted towards Black graduate students and Black faculty. It is called Black Scholars and Professionals, and they recently had a prayer call with Black faculty across the country. I want to say there were 45 faculty who jumped on [the call]. art of that was for encouragement and to tell testimonies of where they’re at and to pray together. 

As we think about faculty, they are carrying tremendous weight. There is the leadership that they already have on campus, but often for Black faculty, they have the unwritten roles of caring for Black students and speaking for diversity issues. And so they are carrying tremendous weights. One of the things that we try to do is to see how we can care for this spiritual life and help a faculty. As we think about wanting to see transformation on campus, students are there for four to five years, but faculty actually have significant influence on both students [and campuses]. If we can care for the spiritual life of faculty, they have access into [students’] lives in ways that we don’t. 

We’re trying to think through what faculty need so we can be present to their needs, but also for prayer and fellowship. On the student side of things, we have a point person on most campuses  who can provide discipleship and engagement. But also, we’ve been trying to kind of brainstorm how to do this work, even if we don’t have a staff available. 

The reality is, for the amount of Black students who are on college campuses across the U.S., we don’t now, nor will we ever,  have enough campus staff to reach all of them. How can we actually empower students to reach other students? How can we empower volunteers to reach other students? We are trying to be creative [about] how to partner churches, alumni, people in the community and students  to do the work of reaching other people on campus.

 

Allen

Absolutely. I thank you for naming just the needs of the faculty because they don’t get thought about a lot. Is there anything else you wanted to just say?

 

Shaylen

So, I would say that being in college is a really, really important time. You’re figuring out who you are, what you believe, and also what you’re going to be about. A lot of the decisions that you make in college shape who you are for the next 40 to 50 years. One of the difficult parts about college is that those decisions are made when you’re the most distant you’ve ever been from your spiritual community and [broader] community. So I want to encourage college students to look for people who can support them on the journey, because it’s significant– these are important decisions. Ask your parents and pastors who they know in the school or college town. If they don’t know anyone, reach out to different networks to try to figure out who in your community will support you. 

I think about my local church community when I moved into the town. They were so extremely helpful people wanting to pour into me–people wanting to know what I was  passionate about. Generation Z, doesn’t like the idea of taking the risk and going to somebody’s church or a place you don’t know. Having to socially interact with them in person might seem very, very risky. But I think thatB the benefit will far outweigh the risk.  That’s where you can have intergenerational fellowship. I think you will get much more than you are giving, and it will be worth much more than you risk. Ask your spiritual community where you are, if there’s any connections to where you’re going, and then seek those out. And if they aren’t a good  fit for you, I promise there’s someone in the community who can help you develop into who the Lord is calling you to be.

Allen  

Well, thank you so much for this interview, Shaylen. It has been fantastic. It’s awesome work that the Intervarsity Black Campus Ministries is doing all around the country. You guys are impacting so many students, faculty, and grad students. It’s wonderful to be with you again. And I hope that people are able to take something from this. I know that I’ve learned a lot about what’s going on on campuses, especially in the pandemic with racial unrest.  God bless you in this work.

Shaylen 

Thank you. And lastly, I’ll just say, we are on social media if people kind of want to see some of the things that we’re doing. It’s under Black Campus Ministries on Instagram, and we’re on Facebook. If you want more information, you can check out our website at BCM.intervarsity.org