The Wesley House: Prayers, pizza, and a place like home
When college-aged people head out for the newest chapter of their life, they are evaluating everything from who they are and what they want to do with their life, to what they actually believe. Many students have questions about all of these things and many more, but when it comes to faith, the Church has often taken the approach to “feed them pizza and they will come and work it out.”
This is not an actual truth. College-aged people are very unlikely to bring their questions, concerns, and struggles to the Church because of free pizza.
The truth is that many young people feel ashamed of their questions or think if they ask them (especially in a church) they will be shut down, made to feel inferior, or belittled for even having questions. Whether the church has actually acted this way or not doesn’t matter, what matters is the fact that the young person thinks this is true, so they don’t enter the doors of the church, and they certainly don’t ask their questions.
But what if there was another way/place we could meet them?
We know that the number one reason that students leave SMU is because of homesickness. We also know that 44% of graduates from SMU stay in the Metroplex. These are important pieces of information because we know that if we provide a young person with a place that feels like a home that offers them the comforts of home and a place to study, as well as a person (or lots of people) to process with, they will connect. And in this case, they will most likely stay connected.
In the early 1930’s, a home was built on Daniel Ave, just north of Dallas Hall at SMU. This was a home for 70 years. In the late 1990’s it became a ministry location for the Baptist Ministry at SMU, and in 2004 it became the ministry location for the Wesley Foundation at SMU.
Though it has a firm and strong foundation, the building has been in need of some serious restoration both inside and out. In 2017 this building at 3220 Daniel Ave became the official college ministry location for Highland Park United Methodist Church, and it became known as Wesley House.
The hope and prayer is that this building returns back to the idea that it was originally built to be, a home. We believe this building is the home our young people are looking for: a place where people feel safe and comfortable. A place where excitement and fears are all valid. A place where people can eat together, laugh together, and truly grow together.
In the Spring of 2018 renovations began. We stripped away the worn out walls and windows. We removed the sinking ceilings and tired carpet. We stripped the entire building down to the studs. Now we are rebuilding it from the inside out.
But before the new walls and paint go up, we put prayers and blessings on the studs and framing. Prayers for students to encounter God during these crucial transitional years. Prayers that students don’t find themselves isolated and alone, but find community in this house. Prayers that our college students, no matter where they come from or where they end up, will remember that the Lord is at work in their lives.
On Wednesday, July 18th we opened the house up for students, parents, and HPUMC members to write those prayers. We had current college students, recent college grads, host families, long-time members, people with no connection to college students, HPUMC staff, children, and everything in between. They covered the walls and studs with blessings, hopes, and prayers.
We believe that house will be a refuge for our young people as they transition into the next phase of life. We cannot wait for the house to become a place where we watch a college-aged person encounter Christ and as we look past their physical form, or above them, we see through the walls and remember that someone was already praying for a moment such as this.
Free pizza is still part of the equation, but it will simply be eaten then forgotten if we don’t provide a personal connection and safe space as well. We write prayers, blessings, and scripture on the walls to welcome the Holy Spirit. We hope to serve our pizza as a side dish to the main course of hope that started “cooking” before we even hung the drywall.
Become a Host Family to a college student
The number one reason students leave SMU is due to homesickness. The Host Family program at HPUMC seeks to connect students with families that will offer them regular prayer, a good meal, unconditional love, a place to do laundry, and a listening ear as they make some of the biggest decisions of their lives. If you love Jesus and like people, this is the perfect way for you to serve the next generation.