Distance doesn't matter
Why a suburban church invests in a campus 25 minutes away.
Christ Community Church of the South Hills is a 25 minute drive from Point Park University, but you’d never know it by the commitment these church members have to these students. Most churches that partner with the CCO have an advantage of being close to campus. But this 120-member, non-denominational congregation has chosen not to view distance as an obstacle.
“One thing that is clear about the people at Christ Community Church is that they are absolutely devoted to helping us grow in Christ and sharing all that they have with us,” says Maria Fusco, a junior at Point Park University.
“The Body [CCO fellowship on campus] and Christ Community Church have really helped bring a sense of community to me,” says Caleb Reynolds, a Point Park sophomore. “The first few months of my freshman year, I didn’t know about The Body or Christ Community, but after I found them, I was able to connect with so many people. I have found lasting friendships that I treasure deeply.”
Maria and Caleb are two of many Point Park students involved in The Body, the fellowship group at Point Park University which is advised by CCO staff member Katherine Sikma. The Body is the largest student group on this urban campus of nearly 4,000 students, 75% of whom commute to classes.
Those students who join Katherine for worship on Sunday mornings at Christ Community Church of the South Hills, where she serves as Director of Young Adult and Campus Ministry, find even more support and encouragement to grow deeper in their faith.
Terry Timm, the Lead Pastor at Christ Community, is passionate about ministry to college students and he is passionate about partnerships.
“Our partnership with the CCO provides real-time opportunities to connect with next-generation leaders, to learn firsthand what God is doing in our world today and to be challenged to live out our faith in fresh and relevant ways,” Terry says. “We view our investment in ministry to Point Park students as an opportunity to invest in the next generation of leaders who will influence and impact our region, our nation and our world for years to come.”
Not only are students invited to participate in worship at Christ Community, but church members choose to make the 25-minute drive to the city to spend time with students on their home turf, and beyond.
“Every year, Christ Community Church goes on a mission trip,” Katherine says. “Last year, they adjusted the date so it would coincide with Point Park’s spring break, and the same thing will happen this year as well. Seven students ended up going on the trip, which was about a third of the entire group. Work teams were organized deliberately to help church members and students get to know each other. After that trip, several students started wanting to attend Christ Community regularly.”
Those students not only worship at Christ Community, but some of them also help lead the worship team and the children’s ministry. Church members provide rides to worship on Sunday mornings, open their homes to students for Steelers parties, create and deliver care packages, and join students on campus for prayer walks.
In short, these church members love college students and provide for them models of life-long Christian discipleship. And the students contribute something unique to Christ Community Church.
“It is awesome to have the passion and energy of the students in worship, participating in the worship band, serving together on mission trips and just enjoying one another’s company,” says Ken Smith, a leader at Christ Community and a member of the CCO’s Board of Directors. “The students bring unique perspectives and challenges, which brings diversity and strengthens our community of faith.”
“The Body and Christ Community are family to me,” says Natalie Harvey, a senior elementary education major. “They are God in the flesh to me. God speaks to me through The Body, my triad Bible study and Sunday worship at church.”
“The ministry of the CCO has been vital to giving structure and shape to the questions of faith,” adds Julia Franzen, another Point Park senior. “If I hadn’t plugged into a strong Christian community, I know my faith would not have developed as it has. I have learned so much through the ministry.”