Stories produced by students in the Meek School of Journalism & New Media
Most students, when entering college, tend to start distancing themselves from the church. In fact, a 2013 poll of 100 college-aged students found that 84% had attended church prior to college, and 54% stopped attending once they reach college.
Centered in the heart of the Bible Belt, The University of Mississippi; however, has plenty of religion-related organizations for students to join
Reformed University Fellowship, or RUF, is a campus ministry tailored to welcome students of many different backgrounds to get to know Jesus, with an estimated 350-400 students participating each week.
Robert Montgomery, a sophomore at Ole Miss, says, “It offers the hope of salvation.”
Montgomery says he’s a believer in Christ and that he enjoys going back because RUF “fosters spiritual growth,” as well as challenges him in his beliefs and pushes him to become a better person.
Madeline Tackeberry is another college student who’s bucking the trend away from organized religion. Most students shy away from the church when they reach college because they tend to lack a faith of their own. She says she looks to The Wesley Foundation on campus to help protect her.
“The devil is just waiting to dupe us so it’s important to be rooted deeply in Your faith so that you know love and the truth and who you are as a daughter/ son of God,” she said.
One of the campus ministry leaders is Allen Hampton, area director for Young Life in Oxford.
“Young Life is different,” says Hampton, “It’s a relational ministry.”
Hampton says that means accepting people for who they are.
“Hey, God lives in us, we have a relationship with Him, so we are going to build a relationship with you,” says Hampton.
Stephen DeGuenther a student at Ole Miss and member of Young Life, says that it is important to try as many campus ministries as one can. “Each one has a different outreach, but each has the same goal in mind, and that’s to work hand in hand,” says DeGuenther.
For some students, groups with a religious affiliation offer a sense of belonging – especially if they arrive at Ole Miss not knowing anyone on campus.
“It is a very safe place to go and worship and not to be judged,” says Collier Phillips, a junior at Ole Miss who belongs to Cru, a non-denominational group. “It is beautiful to be able to look around and see hundreds of peers taking a break from the mundane school life and loving being in the presence of Christ.”
Tackberry agrees and says that the biggest thing she got out of joining Wesley was the community. “You can go to church and pray and read the bible, but it is so important to have a solid community of believers to encourage you and hold you accountable through life.”
Connor Heitzmann is a member of Young Life and a journalism student at the University of Mississippi.