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FOCUS brings hundreds of college kids closer to Jesus

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Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 05/06/24

College students seek meaning and purpose at this critical time, and for many, FOCUS is a huge part of the journey to a strong adult faith.

Growing closer to God might not be the first thought that comes to mind when we picture the college years, but for some young people, that’s exactly what they’re doing. Even better, they’re joyfully bringing their friends with them.

FOCUS, a missionary ministry specifically for university students, plays a big role for many, as described on their website:

Can you picture a thriving community of college students going to Mass, reading Scripture, investing in their prayer life, and inviting their friends along for the ride? See where this is happening right now! 

Too good to be true? Nope. I’ve seen it firsthand. One place where FOCUS is changing students’ lives is the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), and I have to thank my little sister, Angela, for cluing me in. 

Angela is a sophomore at UIUC and a member of one of the 19 sororities present on campus. She started a Bible study in her sorority at the beginning of her semester. To her surprise, the Bible study exploded in popularity!

“When I started out, I was kind of nervous,” Angela admitted. She wasn’t sure how people would react. 

But she was blown away by the welcome response. To keep things in perspective, this Bible study is just for the members of her own sorority: There are other FOCUS Bible studies in other sororities. 

“I was surprised by how many girls in my sorority were interested,” Angela said. In fact, the response far surpassed her expectations. “I barely had to tell anyone about it. I would just mention it once and people would say, ‘Oh, yeah, I need a Bible study. Keep me in the loop,’ or something like that. I really did not have to do much work to sign people up.”

A message for college students

If you’re in college and you’ve thought about starting a group on campus to pray or study the Bible together, Angela and her friends want you to know you don’t have to be nervous.

“I was scared to start it, but it’s honestly gone so well,” she said. “The worst answer you’re going to get is ‘That’s cool, but I’m not interested.’ And lots of people will say, ‘Yeah, that’s awesome. I’m in.’”

As she encourages other students in prayer and faith, she is blown away by the spreading joy. 

“I’ve seen huge changes come about and it’s honestly so great. Some of the girls in my sorority will text me and be like, ‘I just went in for my 15 minutes of prayer today. It was amazing. I’m so glad I decided to start doing this.’”

A bigger story

Angela said about 11-12 girls are in the Bible study group chat, with 7 or 8 attending any given session. FOCUS continues to be an invaluable support to her, especially with its new effort to reach out to students in Greek life

“FOCUS has a lot of really good Bible studies, templates that you can follow. The one that we did this semester is called Fully Alive and it’s specifically for students in Greek life,” she said. “It focuses on issues we might face like peer pressure or drinking. It tackles all those issues.”

Her wonderfully positive experience leading it is just one small part of a much bigger story about FOCUS and its role on college campuses. 

FOCUS began its outreach to fraternities and sororities at UIUC only a few years ago; today over 100 members of Greek life attend its Bible studies. The incredible growth speaks to the deep desire in the hearts of young people to know their purpose.

College students seek meaning and intentionality at this critical point in their lives. As Angela told me, “So many people are looking for something like this.” 

For many young people, FOCUS is an irreplaceable way to encounter the light of truth and begin the path to a strong adult faith.

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