Society leaders are reaching beyond the borders of their societies to foster community in the student body through creative society prayer meetings.
The Basilean Eagles recently took the initiative to reach out to other societies to hold large joint prayer meetings. The society holds joint prayer meetings with its sister society, the Chi Theta Upsilon Gators, every other week. During the last Bible Conference, Basilean also held a joint prayer meeting with the Phi Kappa Pi Rams. But their biggest joint prayer meeting was last semester, involving the Gators, the Rams, the Zoe Aletheia Wildcats and the Epsilon Zeta Chi Tornadoes.
Daniel Bendzinski, the Basilean chaplain who organized the joint meeting between the four societies, said he preferred the joint society prayer meetings for the unity they build. “For us, it was the Gospel, and that is something that unites everybody regardless of your political opinions or whatever societal structure you’re from,” Bendzisnki said. “We’re not united in that; we’re united in the Gospel.”
Some societies prefer the value of smaller prayer groups. Asa Cropsey, a sophomore accounting and ministry leadership major and chaplain of the Alpha Omega Delta Lions, said prayer meetings with just society members can accomplish the same goal of building unity as the larger joint prayer meetings. “There’s more of a community involvement that you don’t quite get with the Friday society meetings because it’s voluntary . . . and not quite as formal,” he said.
Cropsey uses the regularly scheduled prayer meetings to give serial messages in a more focused Bible study. To the men who come faithfully, he said, the set-up helps them focus on each other’s needs and build each other up.
Trey Woodberry, a junior ministry leadership major and chaplain of the Rams, said society prayer meetings in any atmosphere can develop personal relationships. “It’s a time we can come together and really focus about being brothers in Christ, worshipping Christ in prayer, encouraging each other, really, like we’re commanded to do,” Woodberry said. “So, it’s not something you get fully in society.”
“[The Gospel] is something that unites everybody regardless of your political opinions or whatever societal structure you’re from.” – Daniel Bendzisnki
Woodberry said the smaller group prayer meetings develop deep personal relationships and encourage faithful members to pray for each other throughout the week, a practice too involved to take up time in busy regular society meetings.
But Woodberry said he appreciated the community built through the joint prayer meeting with Basilean, stressing the body of Christ is bigger than any one society. “I kind of want to move some of those borders and boundaries so that we can come together in prayer,” Woodberry said.
The joint prayer meeting was arranged by Woodberry’s friend Michael Beauchamp, a senior biblical counseling major and chaplain of Basilean. Beauchamp said he wanted to move societies from viewing each other as competitors instead of brothers and sisters in Christ. “First and foremost on campus, Basilean [members] are my brothers; but the Rams are also my brothers, because it’s the body of Christ,” Beauchamp said. “Instead of having a competition focus, I think we need to have a ‘coming alongside’ focus.”
Beauchamp works creatively in weekly prayer meetings as well by adding a time of confession to the standard practice of prayer meetings. By starting with a call to private confession and individual prayer time at the start of the meeting, Beauchamp said he hopes to help students make the transition from the stress of school to a mindset ready for worshipping God. According to him, changing up the regular prayer meetings can draw people in, if the focus is still on prayer.
The freshmen of his society are one target of Beauchamp’s plan to draw students into prayer meetings. He said with the addition of freshmen residence halls, forming close friendships with freshmen members of his society is most easily accomplished through society prayer meetings.
Beauchamp said he would promote the practice of holding joint prayer meetings outside of the boundaries of brother and sister societies as long as the societies are on the same page about the prayer meetings. “I would love to see this spread to the entire campus,” Beauchamp said.
Susanna Myers, a sophomore math education major and chaplain of the Gators, said she enjoys some of the creativity Basilean has added to prayer meetings and plans to incorporate a confession time in her society’s prayer meetings. She said she works on ways to bring more students into prayer meetings without losing the focus of prayer. According to her, changing the routine of prayer meeting breaks up what can easily become routine. And for smaller societies, Myers said joining with a larger society can be an encouragement. “It’s healthy to . . . reach beyond your little circle of friends.”
Another creative method Basilean uses is a prayer box to collect prayer requests in regular society meetings rather than only in prayer meetings, Bendzinski said. Officers hand out index cards to members on their way in. Students write down their requests and submit them to the box, where they are collected and distributed among society officers who will pray for them throughout the week.
Bendzinski said these creative practices in prayer meetings all move toward the goal of community. “Not only does [a prayer meeting] build into a relationship, but it can build into a really functional method of discipleship,” Bendzinski said.
Students interested in attending their society’s’ prayer meetings can contact their society leaders for time and location information.