From September of 2015 through March of 2016, we tested Journey to the Table five times with our first draft of the material:
Syracuse University, Hendricks Chapel in New York,
Pfeiffer University, Misenheimer Campus & The Village Church in North Carolina,
Martin Methodist College in Tennessee,
Ferrum College in Virginia,
and Kansas Wesleyan University.

Some of these locations also partnered with Walk to Emmaus or Chrysalis Communities, local churches, and a United Methodist Annual Conference to host the test events. Each test location was selected to emphasize different aspects of the program.

hendricks chapelWith Syracuse University, five Christian Chaplains worked together to host the event as an ecumenical retreat. Chaplains from the Baptist, Evangelical Christian, Historically Black Church, Lutheran, and United Methodist Ecumenical campus ministries led the event, recruited student leaders and participants, and even participated in a communion liturgy together. This event showed us how Journey to the Table can be used as an ecumenical ministry. In their feedback after the event, Chaplains learned as much about working with each other as students learned about the faith of their classmates.

pfeiffer_logo_colorPfeiffer University and The Village Church tested the program as a series of Sunday evening events with student leaders from a variety of ministries. Student Chaplains on athletic teams, leaders from The Village Church, and other students involved in campus ministry participated together to bridge the differences of their ministry settings. Because their campus has a high percentage of student-athletes who compete on weekends, the team chose to run a series of Sunday evening sessions to cover the material of Journey to the Table. Interestingly, while many spiritually formative conversations happened during the Sunday evening sessions, leaders reported afterwards that the most interesting questions were often raised on Monday mornings when students would see each other around campus. From this we learned that even without the continuity of a weekend retreat, the conversations that begin during JTT can easily continue in between sessions and after the event.

MMC logoMartin Methodist College tested the program in a weekend retreat with close ties to the model of Chrysalis, and the tradition from which JTT comes. This test provided us a chance to see what this new program for young adults could look like in a more familiar format. The logistics supporting the weekend were outstanding. This test showed us that the involvement of even just one or two people with experience in retreat ministries (especially Walk to Emmaus or Chrysalis) can dramatically improve the environment of an event by creating an atmosphere of unconditional love. This type of partnership between campus ministries with Emmaus or Chrysalis Communities, or local churches can be a powerful format that builds a better experience for participants. In the feedback from this event we learned a good way to describe one of the most powerful characteristics of Journey to the Table: it is an invitation to community. More than any specific teaching, message, or idea, JTT invites young adults into a community and into a conversation to share and learn from one another.

fmc-combined-02Ferrum College is a small, private, liberal Arts college in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Students and leaders who arrived at the retreat site for Journey to the Table already knew each other well. Our experience here showed us what the program can look like as a deeply spiritually formative experience for an established community. On their campus, students here see each other often, and get to know each other more closely than most other campuses. Team members and participants alike came to the weekend retreat knowing each other. As we expected, this made it easier to start faith-based conversations more quickly. More interestingly, it also made it much easier for team members to stay in contact with participants than in some of our other tests, and gave us more detailed feedback on the experience and results for individual participants. JTT can create a space for young adults to discern areas of study or jobs, to commit to new ways of serving others, to solidify their desire to identify with Christ, and find a place for their story in the story of our creator.

KWU-logo_color_1Kansas Wesleyan University is a small school in the middle of Salina, Kansas. Among the wonderful things that happened during our test there, the University President and family brought trays of snacks for the students attending the event. This gave us a strong indication of just how much attention KWU and their campus ministry give to the well-being of their students. The event was held at a neighbor church that is almost surround by campus. students came for the sessions, and went back to their own rooms each night. We also were able to participate in a campus-wide time of service Saturday morning. Although it was held Friday through Sunday, this version of the program was anything but a retreat. Students came for the sessions they were able to attend, and the number of people involved grew throughout the weekend. Initially, we were concerned that students may miss some of the meaning to the program if they did not attend all of the sessions. In the conversations between students throughout the event it became clear that even students who missed parts of the program were still active in the table conversations and connecting with others on the topics presented.