State of The Hedge
The semester and school year has finished, but not only does the work continue at The Hedge, it feels like some of the work has intensified. The old business adage, “If you are standing still, you are losing ground.” seems to be ringing true here as well. Doing what we have been doing does not seem as effective as it was. Thus we are giving a State of The Hedge message here at the close of the school year.
Evaluating at the finish of the year leads us to believe that our impact on campus the last couple years has not been what we would like compared to previous years. While our ministry within the international student community has held steady for the most part, its integration within the rest of the ABS community has not been as successful. A number of factors can contribute to that separation. The prevailing culture of the students to which we minister – some are more adventurous in cross-cultural encounters than others. Other factors could be whether there were special events programmed to help make connections within the group as a whole.
Our ministry to young adults beyond the UofA community has also held steady. There is an encouraging number of upper high school students currently attending that can be ready to lead upon reaching the university level. And there are a number of alumni still volunteering as experienced servants among the students. We treasure their participation with the realization that it cannot last forever.
However, the core of our ministry seems to be the point of greatest concern – the University of Arkansas student, in particular the on-campus students. Despite being one of the closest ministries to Pomfret Hall, we have not had any regular contact with American students in the dorms to my knowledge. Correlated with this observation is that we did not make any lasting connections with incoming freshmen this year. This disturbing lack cannot become a trend.
But a positive observation, we are experiencing a higher than normal percentage of off-campus and commuter students, notably those unable to attend a Tuesday night worship service but having connections with them during the day. Many of these students who use the ABS House as a lounge or study area are met with on a one-on-one basis semi-regularly for meaningful conversations.
Warren and Brad are re-evaluating practices we have been doing in order to change to meet these needs. One of the dynamics that changed was no longer having staff living within the ABS compound, Brad finally moved out of ministry housing in order to live closer to the church he pastors in Prairie Grove. The free and easy access to a minister there most of the time coupled with the busier schedule of students has forced a greater demand for intentional appointments with students.
But another potential help is the addition of an intern. Warren and Brad are considering with the Board of Trustees a recently graduated student to come alongside to serve at ABS. She would potentially be able to minister to a greater degree to the young women, including among international students where she had volunteered even as a student. She desires to live in ABS housing to give us greater presence there. She has the potential to greatly increase our points of contact with on-campus students. Coupled with her ministry would be an improved organization for providing scheduled “office hours” as well as more options for ministering among commuter students (flextime Bible studies and discipleship groups).
Please pray as we finalize plans for bringing an intern within the ministry. Due to faithful giving among our supporters, we are able to bring her in to serve one year while only requiring her to fundraise a portion of her support. We look forward to seeing how God provides for this tremendous opportunity for service for her as well as ABS.
A greater point of concern is structural. Our ministry building (“the ABS House”) is needing renovation. Even our trustees are pressing that this building needs significant work to make it an appealing place to enter, especially for younger generations.
A greater point of concern is structural. Our ministry building (“the ABS House”) is needing renovation. Even our trustees are pressing that this building needs significant work to make it an appealing place to enter, especially for younger generations. These concerns can be grouped around four areas. It sounds like a show on HGTV, but the ABS House lacks curb appeal. It looks more like someone’s neglected rent house than a student ministry center. It doesn’t get noticed by people driving up and down Clinton Drive. Should someone seek to come into the ABS House, people tell us that it is not an inviting first impression at the front door. Again, it feels a little like you stepped into someone’s living room and not sure you should have. We are not sure how to fix that yet, but that is what we are told. Then, once you are there, let’s hope you don’t judge a place by its restroom. There is only one and it is upstairs from where we meet for worship (complete with sound effects). And honestly, it needs an overhaul. Then the ABS House lacks storage for tables, chairs, and supplies. And despite these obstacles, we have maxed our capacity for having worship and a meal more than once. We would like room to grow.
But this is an imposing problem to solve. Do we renovate and expand the existing facility, even though there are existing structural concerns that would need corrected to ensure continued viability of the building? Or do we invest more effort and time into fundraising in order to raze the existing buildings and build a multi-purpose facility for the ministry? Or do we forsake the structure based paradigm of ministry altogether for something less location oriented.
We seek not your money concerning these questions. We seek your prayers, considerations, and then your input. Whether it is through an email, phone conversation, or sit-down meeting, we seek your thoughts on the proper course of action for the long-term situation of The Hedge and ABS. As alumni, you have been here, impacted in some way by the ministry of ABS. Your thoughts on how ABS can and should continue to have an impact for Christ in the future are important to us.
Please consider these ideas and options as you pray for this ministry. If you have questions for more details, feel free to contact us. We’d love to discuss these with you in greater detail. But above all, pray for the Spirit to guide our leadership in these decisions. Some are easy, but all have lasting implications for the ministry and the kingdom. God bless you.
Warren and Brad
“Without counsel, plans go awry, but in the multitude of counselors they are established.” (Proverbs 15:22)