Redeemer is flourishing with new ministries this semester as students take initiative and seek spiritual growth. Maturity is expected for students, says Joustra, but only students that invest in spiritual growth, grow.
Dr. Robert Joustra, academic advisor and professor of politics and international studies at Redeemer, talks about Redeemer’s expectations for its freshmen. He says, “There is an expectation that first year is kind of a mess… you are leaving mom and dad and the comforts of home to live with seven strangers. At the same time that your whole safe, emotional, social life is turned upside down, you are in a learning environment with new expectations and new dynamics of interaction.”
In students’ first year, Joustra says, they ask vital life questions like, “Who am I in this new place? What does it mean to be a friend and student? What comes next?” It is a lot to balance for first years, so the hope is for freshman year to be “more like a highschool experience,” says Joustra. Professors are very understanding of that fact.
However, the goal, says Joustra, is to “recede as instructors until you’ve receded so much that classes are almost peer-led and profs become facilitators.” This expectation is written into the curriculums of the programs.
How does Redeemer mature its students? From an academic perspective, Joustra says, “Redeemer uses great books, especially in the core curriculum.”
Joustra’s advice for new students is to “Do what you think is fruitful and useful and not put too much pressure on yourself. Living on campus, you have both your feet in. Learning how to draw healthy boundaries is part of that maturity,” he says.
What should new students do if they want to spiritually mature and grow? Joustra says, “They should go to church. Go to a gathered community of believers that worships, and learn their stories. Take the gift that is the coherence of this community—take it while you have it, because it is never coming again.”
Tyrel Luchies, third year pioneer of RealTalk, a new ministry focused on accountability for addiction to pornography, says in first year he was “mature from a secular standpoint, but not in [his] faith yet.” It wasn’t until the end of his first year that he was transformed and “relying heavily [on] and following [God],” he says.
Being a nominal Christian in his first year, Luchies says, “At Redeemer, it is easy to live as a serious Christian, but unfortunately easier to live as a nominal Christian.”
When he came to faith in 2022, the opportunities to engage in spiritual community on campus became available and now meaningful. Luchies says, “Redeemer had everything I felt like I needed to do that.”
However, being connected to a local church is vital to spiritual growth and maturity. Redeemer cannot replace the church. Luchies says, “If you’re taking your faith seriously, Wednesday morning chapels aren’t enough for you, so you’ll be pushed to find a church. But if you are nominal, you can be fooled into being happy with all the things you are doing for your religion.”
Luchies says, “Redeemer did help me grow in my faith when I became serious, but maybe it was more from the outside.” A church made it possible. Luchies says he did not find a community of serious believers until he got connected with James North Baptist Church.
Luchies and Joustra agree that if new students want to grow in their faith, they must get plugged into a church. After church comes the ministries Redeemer has to offer such as “Common Ground [men’s ministry]… Abide [women’s ministry], prayer nights, prayer partnership, RealTalk [accountability groups], etc.,” says Luchies.
Sebastian Caldwell, fourth year student body president, says, “Redeemer is a place where you get out what you put in… if you invest in the community, you will get out a great community.”
There are a plethora of “leadership opportunities” at Redeemer, says Caldwell. These opportunities “teach the students what it means to be a leader.” It is easy to start a club, says Caldwell, “If you want to… but if a student is not keen to become a leader, there is no expectation to.” In other words, if a new student desires growth and maturity, they will grow and mature.
The four years a student spends at Redeemer are very special, but that speciality is dependent on investment. Quoting Alice Walker, Joustra says, it peeves God when we walk by the colour purple and don’t notice it. He says, “Redeemer is a little bit like the colour purple. It will not be there forever; like a flower it will flourish and die. It won’t come again, so appreciate it while it lasts.”