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Praise Project: Spiritual Initiative

by Julie Z. Lee
May the people praise You, O God; may the people praise You. -- Ps 67:3

The youth of today have been pummeled with accusations of tepid spirituality and terminal apathy. For a generation that represents the future, hope is said to have dissipated. However, these rumors are weightless, and the truth resounds louder than . . . an electric guitar?

A little over a year ago, Daneen Akers, former assistant student chaplain at PUC, had listened to the frustrations of students who wanted to be involved in campus ministries, but had no suitable outlet. A group of freshmen, they were a new generation of young adults who had found spirituality in Christian rock bands.

"They had musical talent and were on fire for God," says Akers. "So we decided to create an atmosphere where they could have the freedom to play whatever type of praise music they wanted."

Students quickly formed committees and carefully sketched out agendas. Within a short time, they had made a Sabbath School program, and the worship meetings, aptly named Praise Project, became a regular event. Praise Project now welcomes 100-150 students each week.

"Our main objective is to create an environment where people can get to know Jesus better," says Benji Ferguson, assistant student chaplain. "It provides a good option for people who are interested in contemporary music and a nontraditional service."

This unconventional Sabbath school begins with an infusion of praise songs, often accompanied by amplified guitars, drums, and a team of singers. It also incorporates drama, video, lesson studies, and student speakers. An effort is made to have discussions and encourage congregational participation.

"We don't want people to feel preached to," emphasizes Jessica Shine, coordinator for Praise Project. "We want to give them something to interact with so they experience God on their own, instead of watching others do it for them."

Support has come abundantly to this student-run organization. Campus clubs volunteer to provide breakfasts for the worshipers, and offerings help to pay for small expenses. A regular committee meets every Monday evening to evaluate the last program and plan for the next. They schedule musicians and speakers up to a month in advance, and Friday run-throughs serve as dress rehearsal for the upcoming service. By ten o'clock on Sabbath morning, the chapel walls are reverberating with praise, sounding like nothing that could be mistaken for apathy.

"It gets people up for church," says Ferguson, not realizing his understatement.

It certainly does more than that.

"We are personally finding that God is good," says Shine. "We do not want to be pacified, or spoon fed in worship. We are going out and doing it for ourselves."
Note: This is an archived article and does not necessarily represent current issues at Pacific Union College.