Last year was a time in my life when I made a lot of changes. I was determined to put myself out there more than I ever had and get involved on campus. But even more than that, I wanted to grapple with all the deep existential angst that seems to hit when you’re in college. You know, when you’re trying to figure out your purpose in life and what you’re doing with your future and how to find true happiness or whatever. The usual stuff. Those are basically the reasons I checked out Journey: A Worshipping Community.
I haven’t quite uncovered the meaning of life yet, but I have discovered a really special place in Journey and gotten the exciting opportunity to be their Service Chair this year. Journey, which started off 8 years ago as the brainchild of Colin Kerr, has gone from meeting in a bar to becoming a full-fledged campus organization at both CofC and the Citadel. Now that Colin has moved on to establish Parkside Church, Journey is going through another transition with a brand new leader, Kyle Collins. This is obviously a really exciting time for Journey as an organization, so I decided to sit down with Kyle to talk about his plans and how Journey can help students grow as it grows, too.
Hi Kyle! What drew you to this position with Journey? What are you most excited about?
The thing that drew me to Journey was the emphasis on asking questions and exploring answers about faith in an open and safe environment. I love the idea of a Christian campus ministry that is specifically geared toward people who want to ask questions about Jesus, Christianity, His teachings, philosophy, etc. I’m most excited about the opportunity to meet students from a diverse set of beliefs and talk about the important things in life in a respectful way. I’m also very excited about students learning this way of discussing faith, as I think it’s the most effective and loving way to engage with others.
What do you think Journey has to offer CofC students?
For many students, college is their first taste of true independence, and it’s a unique opportunity to understand who they are and what they believe. Regardless of where you fall on the faith spectrum, I think it’s vitally important to ask questions about life’s meaning and purpose. Christianity makes bold claims about life’s meaning and purpose, and we explore those claims in a welcoming, unprejudiced environment in Journey. We believe in Jesus and are gospel-centered, but we know that life is hard and faith doesn’t always make sense. We want to explore these things together, and I think that Journey is a great place to ask those questions of life.
Journey isn’t the only ministry on campus. What do you think makes it unique among the others?
The other campus ministries are great organizations run by incredible people, but what makes Journey unique is the emphasis on asking questions and exploring answers in a thoughtful community. Our group has people of different backgrounds, ethnicities, political beliefs, sexual orientations, and faith spectrums. We are definitely a Christian group, and every lesson is taught from the Christian perspective, but everyone is welcome and valued as we ask and explore. You are welcome just as you are, and we don’t shy away from tough questions.
Tell us a bit about your own faith journey. When did you become a Christian? How did you decide you wanted to have a career in guiding others in their faith? What parts of faith do you still struggle with?
I grew up in a Christian household, and always had some understanding that God exists, but it wasn’t until February of my junior year of high school that I became a Christian. My own youth pastor was a huge part of that happening. He met me where I was, and regardless of how I acted or treated people, he never judged me. After 3 or 4 years of grappling with who God is, I finally decided to follow Jesus. I knew I wanted to have a career in ministry midway through my senior year of high school. I thought I might want to be a teacher because I’ve always had a passion for people, but when I started following Jesus, I realized that nothing brought me more joy than helping others work through their faith. I have been doing ministry in some capacity for 8 years now, and I am so thankful that this is what I get to do.
Although I’ve been a Christian for a little over 10 years, there are still many things that I struggle with. I struggle with the big questions that most people struggle with: “Why is there evil? How can a loving God allow people to be in Hell?” etc. Although I wrestle with these questions, I have found some peace in what Jesus did on the cross and in the resurrection, and I am committed to continuing to work out those questions. Today, I think I mainly struggle with how the Church relates to society. This is something I’m constantly thinking of as our society becomes more and more post-Christian.
I know it’s early in the year, but what has been the most challenging part about being Journey’s new leader so far? What has been the most rewarding?
Journey is an awesome ministry, however, it has come with its challenges. Unlike other ministries I’ve been a part of in the past, I’m the only person on staff. I’ve always worked on a team, so juggling all aspects of Journey (programs, outreach, meeting with people, raising money, administrative tasks, creating lasting structure, etc) can be quite a challenge. I also understand the culture at CofC, and doing Christian ministry on this campus isn’t always easy in general.
However, I have also loved the opportunity that ministering to CofC students has brought. I’ve had quite a few interesting conversations with students who do not share my faith background, and it has been so rewarding to discuss faith in a way where both parties feel heard and valued. I have loved those opportunities to connect with people about some of the most important things in life and build relationships that hopefully will last far beyond Journey.
What are your biggest hopes for Journey this year and the years to come?
My biggest hope for Journey is that we would be known on campus as a place where you can come and be loved for who you are. As a Christian, I fully believe in the Gospel message, and I fully believe that Jesus is, in His own words, “The way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). However, I think Christians in general have a reputation of being close-minded, judgmental, exclusive, inconsiderate, and maybe even foolish. This is not how Jesus is, and as Christians, we are followers of Christ. We are meant to look and act like Jesus, and unfortunately, Christians have not done that well. That is why Journey is structured the way it is, and my hope is that Journey would be known for what Jesus was known for.
College is a time when many students are confused about faith, whether they’ve never been religious but want to explore it, or they’re a lifelong Christian dealing with doubt. If you could say anything to students struggling with these big questions, what would you say?
For students that are struggling with big questions of faith, I want to say that you’re not alone. We were made with inquisitive minds that try to understand the world around us, so it’s natural to wrestle with these issues. I would encourage you to work through those questions with a community, because the question of what you believe is the most important question you can find answers to.
All religions make bold claims about life and its meaning. Christianity in particular makes a bold claim that hinges on a moment in history. Christianity claims that there is a God who made everything, and this God loves you infinitely. There is a separation between God and people because of sin, but because God loves you, God entered into the world as Jesus and did what we couldn’t do. Because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, anyone can have access to God through trusting in what Jesus did. That statement may be hard to believe, but as C.S. Lewis says, “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, is of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot it be is moderately important”. Keep asking questions. Keep working through what you believe. It is so important, and you’re not alone.
Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
If anyone is looking for a community to explore these questions with, Journey meets every Thursday night at 7pm in Stern Center 205 at CofC, as well as every Monday at 6:30pm in 230 Mark Clark Hall at the Citadel. Follow us on Instagram @charleston_journey for updates!