For many freshmen, D-Groups, on campus PLNU Bible studies, seem to be there for everybody else’s benefit. After all, the posters explicitly say that they are “for sophomores, juniors, seniors, transfers, and commuters.”
It may seem strange that first years are excluded from such great opportunities to grow both spiritually and socially. Deborah Jimenez, a freshman international studies major, says that she started searching off campus for spiritual groups, because like many freshmen, she did not see D-Groups as an option for her as well. However, what many freshmen don’t know is that D-Groups aren’t as exclusive as they seem. While not intended for freshmen, students are still welcome to join the on campus spiritual groups. Senior Brady Sisk, one of the interns with Discipleship Ministries, says, “[Freshmen] are definitely welcome. It’s open to anyone, and there are a lot of different groups out there, so you can find one that works best for you.” So despite what many students think, anyone who has an interest in D-Groups, including freshmen, is gladly accepted.
Now, before any eager freshmen start composing an email proclaiming their interest in joining a D-Group, there is a reason why this information is not widely broadcasted. Melanie Wolf, the Director of Discipleship Ministries on campus, says that when she and her team created D-Groups, the goal was to help students grow in their relationship with God, self and others. In focusing D-Groups to the older students, she hoped to encourage freshmen participation in Alpha Groups.
Yes, that’s right, the meetings with your hall that you went to for the first two weeks. Alpha Groups are designed specifically for freshmen, to help them not only get acquainted with their surroundings but to also find community with the people they’re living with.
Wolf spoke about connecting with incoming freshmen to get a feel of their core needs, and she found that an overwhelming amount said their greatest needs are to know other people and to be known. She continued, saying, “We have to feel like we fit here somewhere, we have to find that place, and the way we do that is by getting to know ourselves a little better, getting to know those around us a little better and helping them get to know us as well.”
For Wolf, she responds to the critique that Alpha Groups are “just social” by saying one should consider the “richness” of building relationship and counting getting to know one’s background and their story as among the most special and sacred experiences. She encourages freshmen to take advantage of the unique opportunity Alpha Groups provide, which is especially valuable for freshmen navigating their unfamiliar new home.
So, while freshmen who want to be a part of a D-Group are fully welcomed, especially in the spring semester, they are also encouraged to consider the special and personalized communities of Alpha Groups.