College is often seen as a time when you can break off the shackles of the town you grew up in and become a newer, fresher and more liberal you.
For a lot of us, this involves much self-reflection about our moral, political and, most notably, our religious beliefs.
Campus ministries are an evil or blessing, depending on your beliefs, but these organizations are necessary all the same.
In a place where the population is dense and religious beliefs are scattered on both ends of the spectrum, the wide variety of campus ministries available for students can help students define their beliefs and whether those beliefs involve following a religion or not.
My first experience with UCA’s vast pool of campus ministries was harrowing, to say the least.
As a shy girl moving to Conway from a small, Baptist-dominated town, the transition to college alone was difficult enough.
To add to the anxiety, swarms of campus ministry members converged on me as soon as my feet hit university soil.
All religious denominations and non-denominational groups wanted me.
That kind of welcome, though overwhelming, makes or breaks whether or not a student will easily find a place in the hectic collegiate world. Knowing that you have multiple organizations to utilize when you need help, prayer, or a friend can make the difference between feeling accepted and feeling like an outsider.
Though campus ministry members try their best to make everyone feel welcome, their enthusiasm can be intimidating for those of us who belong to more reserved denominations.
Students who don’t practice religion or who are unsure of their beliefs can find the never-ending energy of campus ministries equally as frustrating.
But once you navigate your way through each of the varying campus ministries, you’ll know more names and faces walking around campus on any given day. That familiarity gives students a confidence boost.
The respect level for new and differing beliefs runs high in the circle of UCA campus ministries.
When I initially met with various religious organizations on campus, I was never asked what denomination I belonged to or even if I was religious. Each member I met focused solely on who I was as a person and whether or not I felt welcome.
It’s for that reason that campus ministries are necessary for university students.
These organizations are equally important for students questioning their faith, or lack thereof.
Campus ministry members are intense, and they have an endless collection of questions designed to challenge your faith and define what you believe.
As much as this energy can be annoying to some, these people are passionate about their faith. They use that confidence to inspire others.
That’s why I, as a member of a campus religious organization, feel like I belong at UCA.
My faith has grown stronger, and I have a better sense of who I am as a person.