You could say Steph Peterson’s entire ministry journey led her to this moment. She served faithfully in children’s ministry in Staples, youth ministry in Hermantown, and young adult ministry in Cold Spring. Each assignment set the stage for the next, igniting a passion to buck the trend and see college students thrive in their walk with God.
This year marks Steph’s tenth year of ministry at Winona State University (WSU) and as she puts it, “I absolutely love what I’m doing.” College campus ministry is unique. The moment a freshman arrives at school, the clock is ticking. Sooner or later they all leave, and Steph and WSU Chi Alpha have just a small window of time to make a meaningful impact on a student’s life.
With that in mind, Steph and her leadership team strategically engage students as soon as they get to welcome week. The hope is that freshmen get involved in small groups and the weekly Thursday night gathering in Harriet Johnson Auditorium. Many of the students dig deeper into their faith. In March, 14 WSU students were baptized in water and 54 (pictured above) committed to serving in leadership later this fall.
When it comes to involving students in ministry, Steph says, “You just have to take a chance on people.” She thinks back to times when people believed in her and she pays it forward. She loves seeing the potential of each new student and releasing them in ministry. She is motivated by “the joy of being able to see constant new life in Christ.”
Steph also has a special place in her heart for those who come out of Assemblies of God churches. Steph tells the story of a girl who gave her a call a few weeks into the semester. She hadn’t plugged into Chi Alpha and had chosen a different crowd. The girl told Steph, “I don’t even know who I am anymore.” Steph challenged her to pursue God for the next 10 days and if it didn’t work for
her, she could walk away. The girl went to small group that night, Chi Alpha service on Thursday night and fall retreat that weekend. Midway through the retreat, she approached Steph and said, “I don’t need ten days. This is who I’m supposed to be.”
Because parents and pastors have invested so much into student’s lives, Steph encourages them to “handoff well” and intentionally connect high school graduates to Chi Alpha pastors. It’s just as important to find a school with a campus ministry as it is finding a school with a student’s desired major.
While some might see a spiritual vacuum on a college campus, Steph sees a spiritual hunger. This generation of students is ready for the Gospel and WSU Chi Alpha is ready to bring it to them.