Perhaps the most important tool when it comes to Fall quarter/semester tabling is… wait for it… sunscreen. August and September in SoCal means sun, and lots of it. Even if the sun is hidden behind a mini “cloud-layer,” it’ll get ya and your skin will be a lobster-red mess by the time you jump in your car and drive home… in traffic, with no aloe vera lotion.
Actually, I’ve changed my mind. The most important tool when it comes to tabling may just be willingness. It’s madness, if you think about it, to willingly put yourself behind an shoddy, wooden table with only one plastic folding chair, and constantly invite people to join in something you’re not only a part of, but is about significant aspects of your personhood! The rejection can be devastating and all it takes is a mere two seconds for someone to glance at you and the flier in your hand as they walk past you without even looking you in the eye–and you’re reduced to the fourteen-year-old self that was looking for friends for the first time in high school.
And that’s just my issue with tabling–I’m not even a student! But our students at Long Beach State are game-changers when it comes to loving their campus well. While tabling, I consistently saw our students boldly ask people to fill out spiritual surveys, hand out fliers and invite them to join us. This actual exchange between an Epic student leader happened dozens of times (in slightly varying forms) between all the staff and students tabling during LB State’s welcome week:
Epic student leader: Hey! Do you have a couple minutes to fill out this spiritual survey?
LB State student: Sure. [He fills it in. Everything is marked “not interested, zero interest, etc.]
LB State student: [as he hands it to our student leader] Sorry… I’m just not interested…
Epic student leader: Hey man, it’s not a problem. I’m glad you were honest! Thanks for taking the time to fill it out!
At first, this interaction could seem and feel discouraging. Yet, for our students involved, their hopes were not dashed by the un-interested. The above student leader’s attitude revealed to me that we’re not about changing the minds/hearts of the un-interested. Rather, we are trying to find those who ARE interested in knowing if God exists, and are asking the question: “What now?”
Those students, I realized after calling a bunch of them who left their contact info on our spiritual surveys, are everywhere on campus! They are Buddhist, Catholic, Christian, of every culture, with a billion different interests and majors, yet with a common desire to know if there is indeed a God… what now??
The willingness of our students to invite anyone and everyone to fill out those surveys begot the willingness of those who filled out surveys to ask that question with us. And all this is not because of our strategic thinking, nor the prettiness of our fliers or group members (well, maybe some of our Epic ladies…JK, gross!) but I think it’s because of what the Lord is doing.
For some reason, I entered the year thinking I would mostly be convincing people that believing in God is worth it–basically, selling Him and a relationship with Him. Thankfully, and marvelously, I’ve found it already to be completely untrue. There are those who aren’t interested and God hasn’t given up on them. But God is already stirring students to wonder if He’s there and to picture what a relationship with Him could be like. And that’s where God places us and Epic. We are to be willing to engage in that dialogue with everyone who wants to. We are to encourage honesty and questions about a life following Jesus–especially within ourselves.
So far, we’ve had three weekly meetings at LB State. It’s been exciting to see baby-Christians, seekers, and “old-Christians” interact together so far. Our student leaders are, essentially, extremely welcoming, articulate, and insightful discussion leaders. It’s so exciting… the Lord is moving and orchestrating things in an exciting way.
Please pray that we all continue to be open and willing to meet others where they’re at! We have dozens of students we’re still following up with, so please pray for those interactions as well and that all who encounter us in Epic would be brought closer to God.
Whitney Chen is on full-time staff with the Epic Movement and works in the OC/So Cal area. Sometimes she gets chased by dinosaurs.