Perspective: California School Project’s first year at Wheaton

There are always new opportunities being added to the list of great ministries and clubs at Wheaton, and although California School Project (CSP) has only been on Wheaton’s campus a year, it has already begun to make an impact.

Although CSP has headquarters in California and began at Biola University, it has recently started a ministry in Wheaton: the Chicago Opportunity. CSP came to Chicago because of the city’s size and central location, and the Chicago Opportunity is involved with Moody Bible Institute, Trinity Christian University, Trinity International University and Wheaton College. CSP sent Mark Hopson from Biola to begin the Chicago Opportunity, and he works with the students at these universities to help them begin the ministry that, until now, had existed almost exclusively in California. CSP’s mission at Wheaton is to train college students to mentor high school students who are leaders of Christian clubs at their schools. The ministry also encourages both college and high school students to share their faith and to get students in local high schools connected to churches in the area.

CSP supports high school students not only by mentoring them, but also by coming to some of the events held by the Christian clubs in the high schools and supporting their activities, such as rallies. “The most effective witnessing opportunities for the high school students is a rally,” junior Mike Disher, one of Wheaton’s CSP student leaders, said. “They usually have some sort of entertainment to draw the students in, and then they will have a speaker. The week leading up to that rally is a big ministry week, where CSP expects the students involved in the Christian club to go all out for their faith.” CSP also provides support for students when they encounter conflict with administrators at their schools regarding their faith. CSP encourages Christian high school students to witness to their friends and provides them with Christian materials they can give to their peers. “We expect (the high school students) to be willing to go outside of their comfort zones,” Disher said.

CSP meets at Wheaton on Tuesday nights at 8:30 p.m. for a leadership meeting in the OCO to discuss how it is doing with the high schools it is already involved in, as well as the plan for reaching out to more high schools. In addition to this business meeting, participants also meet on Fridays after class to go witness at either College of DuPage or a mall in the area. All students are welcome to join this time of witnessing.

I had the opportunity to join the ministry during See You At The Pole, an annual nationwide prayer day where Christian high school students meet before school to pray for the nation and their school. Involvement in See You At The Pole with CSP included a meeting the night before as well as the actual ministry the next day. As the meeting began, junior Calvin Reeh, student leader of CSP at Wheaton, gave the logistics of the next day.

We were split into groups according to the high school that we would be visiting, and they encouraged us to get to know the members of our team. Calvin then spoke of his own experience with witnessing at his high school. “We are trying to give support and encouragement to students as they share the gospel, especially supporting those that don’t have a strong Christian club behind them,” Reeh said. He also gave us a bit of overview of what we would be doing the next day: praying with students and encouraging them to share the gospel.

The next morning, CSP sent students to schools that had no Christian club connections, as well as those with Christian clubs. The goal was to get connected with schools CSP had not yet worked with as well as to encourage the students at schools where CSP was already involved. I joined a school where CSP was already present and was struck by the relationships between the CSP college students and the high school students. We prayed with them and encouraged them in their studies and in sharing their faith. I got to see these students stepping out in faith. They wanted to see real change in the places where they spend at least seven hours every day. Morgan Bulger, a high school student who leads a Christian club on her campus, said, “Some of the people that were here praying this morning do not come to our club meetings, but I’m hoping that through meeting and praying with the other people involved they’ll feel more comfortable with coming in the future.”

CSP is still establishing itself in Chicago and at Wheaton, and although it is currently involved in only 17 high schools, its goal is to be involved in 40 schools in the area by the end of this year. “Hopson encourages the students at Wheaton to ‘dream big,’” Disher said. “He challenges students involved in CSP at Wheaton to think of ‘the biggest thing that you can possibly imagine God to do,’ and once they do, he says, ‘How can we make that happen?’”

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