ECU Wesley worship impacts students and congregations alike
The worship team has been a ministry of the East Central University’s Wesley Foundation since before campus minister Janey Thomas arrived in 2014. This semester, the team will spend 10 weekends on the road sharing the gospel of Jesus and the work of the ECU Wesley.
Thomas often sees congregation members connect with students who share their testimony or speak about the impact of the campus ministry.
“As a campus minister, you see a lot of the students day in and day out,” Thomas said. “Sometimes it is easy to overlook just how far they have come in their spiritual journey from year one of college to year four of college.”
Chris Byers, a 2008 graduate from Oklahoma State University who now serves as the ECU Wesley’s worship leader, said the churches they visit like to hear older Christian songs and hymns. He said it can be “especially impactful” for older congregation members to see a younger generation lead worship using songs they grew up hearing.
“It’s great to lead the students, and see them grow and develop their own skills and confidence,” Byers said. “Traveling to other churches gives a chance for them to tell their story, whether in music or their testimony, to folks who might not hear it otherwise. And, that helps to spread the word about campus ministry and its overall impact on student lives.”
Emily Taylor, a 20-year-old family and consumer sciences junior from Marlow, said the churches they visit are often unaware of what a campus ministry does.
“I am a pastor’s kid growing up, and this place has kept me grounded and in the word while attending college,” Taylor said. “The ECU (Wesley) has become my home away from home with great people who I now call family. They keep me accountable and help me in my times of trouble.”
Sam Adams, a 23-year-old elementary education senior, often speaks at the churches the team visits. He said God has touched lives through the stories they share.
“Because of this ministry, I have had connections grow in places all around the state that are Christ-centered and always showing me where to step for Christ,” Adams said. “After I graduate, I know I will always have my Wesley family and church groups that we met to talk with and go to when times are good and bad.”
Traveling to different churches and sharing her story has been one of the greatest opportunities of Sage Barrett’s life. The 19-year-old nursing freshman from Oklahoma City said being part of the ECU Wesley will remind her to grow as a Christian even after she graduates.
“This ministry has allowed me to be more comfortable with myself,” Barrett said. “It has also allowed me to grow my faith more.”
Piedmont freshman Braden Culp said the ECU Wesley changed his life in a way he never imagined. Though the 19-year-old hasn’t yet chosen a major, the campus ministry has helped him in meaningful ways.
“I think this ministry helped me figure out what I wanted to do with my life,” Culp said. “It has helped me know God better and the friends I met through this ministry are friends for life, and I know that God put them in my life for a specific reason.”
Though Shawna Rodgers is not on the worship team, she said she’s seen God in a lot of the places they visit. The 19-year-old freshman from Union City said she wants others to have the ministry experience she’s had.
“The (ECU Wesley) ministry motto is ‘to know Christ and to make Christ known,’” Rodgers said. “This ministry has brought me some of my closest friends, and to be able to share this ministry with them is absolutely wonderful.”
Thomas is honored to lead the campus ministry, and the team is open to share their story with any churches or organizations that want to hear it. She said she is proud of the work God has done, is doing, and will continue to do through the ECU Wesley.
“I have seen students come to college with layers and layers of masks on. It takes time and patience to walk with students down that path to taking those layers off, one by one,” Thomas said. “When that final layer is torn off, you can physically see the load off of their shoulders. When they allow God into their lives, when they turn to God for daily needs, they learn scripture, they disciple others, that is what our ministry is about: knowing Christ and making Christ known.”
To learn more about the ECU Wesley, visit www.ecuwesley.org.