SAN DIEGO (BP) — When Arsenia Ivanov came to the end of her freshman year at Washington State University she had a choice to make.
The first generation Russian-American had little background in Christianity before attending Resonate Church on WSU’s campus in Pullman, Wash. As summer approached the young believer could either go home — away from her newly discovered spiritual support system — or join her Resonate friends for a high-commitment summer missional adventure in San Diego called Elevate.
“I knew if I were going to have a deeper relationship with Jesus I would have to pursue it or I’d walk away from it,” Ivanov said. “I saw Elevate as an opportunity to be in a place where I could grow and see what my faith would really mean for the rest of my life. When I saw that it was basically work, a vacation, Jesus and community all rolled into one, I was in.”
Summer can be the enemy of a great collegiate church. Church leaders spend the entire school year discipling students and preparing them to impact their world for Christ and in three months — or less — students fall back into bad habits.
That’s part of the success behind Elevate, a summer program to develop leaders at Resonate Church, a multi-campus collegiate church plant near WSU, the University of Idaho and Central Washington University. Last summer 70 students participated in Elevate.
The Elevate approach, which most students participate in between their freshman and sophomore years, allows students to live in a discipleship community, work and witness at a summer job and serve San Diego church plants in the process. Instead of the summer being a distraction to spiritual growth, it can be an incubator for it.
Resonate staff members work with some of the young men in helping them teach a weekly celebration time; the staff coach and guide them through sermon preparation and delivery.
“Students go as one kind of student, one kind of Christian, then they come back and it’s like you press the fast-forward button as a follower of Christ,” Keith Wieser, the lead and founding pastor of Resonate, said.
“They come back, and they lead. They come back, and they’re bought in. They come back, and they set the tone for the church.”
Throughout the summer students have jobs at many of the tourist locations around the city. They meet together for worship, teaching and small group discipleship. They also serve together at local church plants –participating in everything from setup to outreach efforts. Students invite people they meet to a weekly party where they develop the relationships further and look for ways to share the Gospel.
“The huge takeaway for these students is that they’re learning what the Gospel is and how to articulate it and how to have normal conversations and transition them into spiritual conversations centered on the Gospel,” said Jane Worsham, a Resonate staff member who coordinates the ministry along with her husband, Drew, who is a pastor at the church.
For some of the students — like Ivanov — it’s the first time they have ever shared their faith in Jesus with another person.
“Up until that point I knew the Gospel; I knew the story,” Ivanov said. “But I never felt like it was something I was called to share on a daily basis and live missionally. Living missionally and sharing the Gospel was the biggest growth I had during the summer. Even being back in Pullman now, I’m sharing the Gospel with people who haven’t heard it and those who are confused by it.”
During her summer in San Diego, Ivanov led a coworker to faith in Jesus and has continued to trade emails with her since returning to the Northwest. Ivanov says the young woman she led to Christ is still involved in church and is even contemplating future ministry opportunities.
Participating San Diego-area church planters appreciated the extra available hands for their ministry efforts, too, calling it a win-win for both students and planters.
“I can’t thank the Elevate team enough for the boost they provided for Generation Church this past summer,” said Chris Martinez, lead pastor of Generation Church in Oceanside, Calif. “The Elevate team helped provide an amazing energy boost for our church each week, they helped us prepare for a launch of another campus in September, helped us reach our community by hanging with students, assisted us during our community movie nights that led to the city of Oceanside asking us to do a larger event for them at the end of the summer, and they helped run our annual sports camp that we offer free to our community.”
For many students, Elevate is also the first time they’ve participated in a church plant. Drew Worsham, the Resonate pastor who works with his wife Jane to oversee the ministry, says the experience not only gives them an awareness of church planting but it also can play a part in stripping away a consumer mindset toward church.
“I want them to see that a church doesn’t have to look like Resonate,” Worsham said. “Wherever God takes them — whether it’s Seattle or Portland or Boise, New York, Miami or Atlanta — they are going to walk into a church and say, ‘I don’t know how long God has me here, maybe 5, 10, 15 years, but I’m yours. Put me to work.'”
For more information about Resonate, visit experienceresonate.com. See how you and your church can partner is San Diego at www.namb.net/SanDiego.