By Rebekah Crozier
Students returning to campus this past fall were disappointed to discover that many of the off-campus ministries that they love would not be able to meet in large groups on campus due to COVID-19 protocols. Samford’s Pandemic Response Team made the decision to prohibit all external partners, including ministry organizations, from coming on campus this semester.
University Minister Bobby Gatlin stated that, instead of evaluating each off-campus group and selecting who was allowed on campus and who was not, the Pandemic Response Team asked all external groups to refrain from coming on campus. . This includes ministries like RUF and Campus Outreach that normally would be on campus all the time to engage with students.
“Because those individuals belong to a national organization and are not Samford employees or Samford students, then access was denied to campus,” Gatlin said. Those are just the rules that everyone has to play by.”
When asked about the effect on the student body from these ministries not being able to meet in large gatherings, Gatlin noted that there have definitely been negative feelings from students. Students miss their large group gatherings, but the COVID-19 pandemic has helped them see how important small groups are.
“It feels like people are dialing in more intentionally to those small groups,” Gatlin said. “If we’re honest, we’re drawn more to the large group thing because of the show. But the small group is where you really get to know people and grow and learn from each other.”
Senior JT Gilbert has been involved in RUF since he was a freshman and is part of RUF’s Ministry Team. He stated that RUF and other organizations have had to come up with creative ways to get together off campus, such as movie nights, meals or game nights. Although large group gatherings used to be a huge part of their ministry, these gatherings of smaller numbers have had a positive impact on the students involved with RUF.
“I think it really allows people, especially those who are newer to Samford, to really come out of their shells a little quicker than usual, knowing that we all are dependent on community,” Gilbert said. “It is something that all of us need, it is something that all of us desire and it is something that the Lord has given us.”
Despite the smaller group opportunities that have been available this year, students are eager for the ministries that they love to be back on campus. Students are hopeful for a return to normalcy in the fall.