Students talk ministry at Convergence

Break out of the daily grind of studying for free coffee and a discussion of passion for ministry with Convergence.

Convergence meets the first Thursday of every month, from 9-10 p.m. at Peet’s Coffee & Tea on Catalina Boulevard. The group is partnered with the Spiritual Development and Chaplaincy Ministries, and the Center for Pastoral Leadership.

The group formed in 2011, when Norm Shoemaker, professor of Christian Ministry, partnered with Will Turner, a 2013 alum and previous ASB director of Spiritual Life.

“The one thing I have tried to do internally with the student population was to do what we could to mentor and encourage — especially students sensing a call to vocational ministry,” said Shoemaker. He attends every meeting when his schedule allows.

Every student applying to PLNU is asked if they sense a calling to vocational ministry to track how many students have an interest in this field.

Before the formation of Convergence, Shoemaker formed a group called “The Edge” that met every Wednesday in the noon. Food was provided, so it attracted people who were in line for the cafeteria. The problem occurred when the group has no consistency with attendees, due to different schedules during the day. Shoemaker said it never allowed quality time together, as they could not network and encourage one another when they cannot meet together as one.

“So it’s kind of like, how do we get people under one roof to just encourage each other, those who are feeling a passion for vocational ministry?” said Shoemaker.

Shoemaker asked Turner to figure out how to gather people, and Turner came up with the name: Convergence.

“It was a neat idea of the converging of people, but also this kind of converging of passion and ministry and connecting with each other,” said Shoemaker.

Senior Katie Dexter is an intern for Shoemaker, and is one of four students on the Convergence leadership team, along with Wyatt Ehrlich, Zac Austin and Phil Patalano. Dexter said all are welcome to attend their meetings.

“It’s a time to explore how God uses us and may use us for his Kingdom’s purposes,” said Dexter via email. “We realize that not all are called into full-time pastoral ministry, but we all are called to ministry. We are all called to be his light on this earth.”

Peet’s Coffee and Tea agreed to open their doors to Convergence attendees after they close, provided students are given a five dollar voucher for coffee or a treat.

“Convergence is highly driven by dialogue,” said Tim Whetstone, the director of Chaplaincy Ministries, who has been involved with Convergence for a year. “And even if we don’t have the answers, we grapple with the questions.”

The meeting currently averages 15-30 students. Scott Daniels spoke at the last meeting, which was held on January 2, in which 32 students attended. Whetstone said Convergence is growing.

“For awhile, it’s historically been a lot of the same people,” said Whetstone. “Now we still have kind of that core group which are really part of Convergence, but even just in the last meeting we had eight new people…which is good, because it’s new voices and new thoughts and ideas — new life.”

During the one hour the group meets, they gather together, get their coffee and listen to a guest speak and tell their story.

“It really takes something to actually go over to Peet’s and I think that shows kind of an interest.” said Whetstone. “So I feel like that location is close enough, that it’s still accessible, but far enough that it actually takes initiation to get over there.”

After the guest speaks, a time of question and answer is open for students, as they continue to discuss ministry.

Recently, Whetstone said the Convergence leadership team has been exploring two avenues to be a part of: Spiritual Development’s ministries in the community, and International Ministries, looking into Ministry with Mexico. They want to not only discuss ministry, but to be involved in it as a group.

“What I am pleased about in the conversation is, not the desire to create something new, but to partner with something that is already existing,” said Whetstone.

Whetstone has challenged the student leadership team to come up with 10 projects to discuss with the rest of the Convergence group, and see what their interests are. From that, they will choose one or two ministries to concentrate on.

“Convergence is primarily a place where we can understand Calling, which is kind of this bigger umbrella of vocation — how do we live out Christ-like, no matter what occupation we have?,” said Whetstone. “Community ministries is tangible expressions to learn that. So now, with this conversation that happens at Convergence, there’ll be a both ‘and.’ So we’ll partner with these tangible expressions.”

The next meeting is on March 6, when Whetstone said the student leadership team will present the project ideas and most likely choose the project they will be involved with for the rest of the semester.

“I’ve only heard good comments from students who’ve come,” said Whetstone. “They always have a response of some sort of positive takeaway.”