Deepening Faith: Helping College Students Realize Potential

Deepening Faith: Helping College Students Realize Potential

July 25, 2005

College is a life-changing experience. More than just a place to gain an education, it's a time of freedom and independence. It's a place to make choices, find direction, and define personal values. And as NABS alumna Barb Dewald knows, it is a place to develop and deepen faith.

She understands this not only through her current ministry at Northwestern College (NWC) in Orange City, Iowa, but also from past experience. It was during her college and graduate school years when she began to grasp that being a Christian really meant living "a life of ministry in obedience to Christ."

Being privileged to have been in environments where issues of community, grace, prayer, vocation, and justice were important, Barb feels indebted to the many individuals who came into her life and recognized God�s hand when she was not able.

"I am humbled by the many opportunities, relationships, and resources that have contributed to my spiritual journey," said Barb. Among these places are the University of Sioux Falls and North American Baptist Seminary, where Barb worked and earned her Master of Divinity respectively. Barb recalls this time as a "very significant part of my life--both working with college students and in the development of my personal and professional life."

Now spiritually rooted, Barb helps students recognize God's hand in their lives. In her role as Associate Dean of Spiritual Formation, she comes alongside students at an important and defining time in their lives.

Barb's position places her in the center of student life and activities at Northwestern College. Whether speaking to a group or with individual students, taking students on short-term mission trips, training students how to lead discipleship groups or other ministries, crafting a new ministry program, or working with the campus ministry team, she is able to witness firsthand the work of God in people�s lives at Northwestern and around the world.

"I love working with college students. I love where they are developmentally," said Barb of her vocation. "I love their eagerness and their openness. I love being able to witness their growth and development as they wrestle with what it means to be a Christian who thinks and cares about others and the Kingdom."

The integration of faith and learning is at the heart of Northwestern's philosophy and Barb's ministry role. The lifelong task of spiritual formation and discipleship is stressed in the classroom and throughout the campus. It is the goal of the college and its campus ministry team to help students grow spiritually while discovering their calling in life,in the church and beyond.

Barb encourages and challenges students by listening to "their stories, paying attention to where they are in their lives" as God shapes their futures.

Helping students hear God as they discover and develop their life's calling, Barb has realized a few things about herself in the process. One of these is her love for missions. Always having had an interest in the field, it was not until she started taking students on short-term experiences that her interest deepened.

During this time, NWC's mission program experienced growth. Having nearly 250 students going on spring break mission trips and 20-25 students in the Summer of Service program, Northwestern's ministry team welcomed Jill Erickson, NABS alumna, to run the mission program. Although still active in missions, Barb is now working to develop the school�s discipleship area as she helps students create space to listen to God as they consider scripture and process what they are learning and experiencing in the classroom and beyond.

She feels privileged and challenged to be able to join the mind and heart at a time when young adults are considering how they will live as Christians and seek change in the world. She is eager to see how their lives will be used in the Kingdom.

Barb Dewald is making an impact. Whether on campus or on a mission trip, she plays an important role in equipping students to be leaders in their homes, communities, churches, and around the world.