The first time I heard about STP, someone told me that it was about 120 college students living in a hotel for two months. Not being a huge extrovert, I couldn’t imagine how you were supposed to make friends in that large of a group. But, in reality, STP has been broken down into smaller groups like campuses, teams and rooms, which makes it easier to form a close group of people around you while still having the option to get to know a lot of different people.
Campuses are probably the most obvious segregation on project. The reason all five Campus Outreach Minneapolis schools come to one project is because the mission of CO is to build laborers on the campus for the lost world. A summer of shared experience, learning and growth is strategic for cultivating a unified group of students on campus who are excited to share their faith and welcome others into the community built here. So we spend time together as campuses every week to lay a foundation for going back home.
Another way that STP has been strategically broken down is into teams. This summer, there are five teams on project: Imperfect Harmony, the Fueen Machine, Old Yeller, Recess and Al We Do Is Win. Each team is made up of 4-6 guy and girl rooms; they work together at Wal-Mart and attend church together, but the main way they spend time together is during team time, a time each Sunday where everyone on the team gets to know each other through games and conversation.
Rooms are designed to bring people of the same gender together from different campuses in a way that relationships can be intimately fostered through discipleship groups, room hangouts and one-on-one time. Rooms also expose students to people who come from a variety of different backgrounds and teach them how to work through conflict in close proximity.
Like I mentioned before, the point of all of these groups is to offer a setting that’s smaller and more comfortable, in which people can get to know one another better. As the summer goes on, they can each become places for sharing growth, struggles and joys.
Is it important?
I remember feeling during both of my past two summers that I didn’t really know what the point of the breakdown of project was, and it’s only now that I’ve been in the role of team leader that I really see the need for it, apart from the practical planning side of its purpose.
If we all perfectly knew how to reach out to others, form a community around ourselves, and never felt like we didn’t belong, there would be no point to what the divisions are about. But the reality is that as fallen and frail human beings, we don’t do any of those things well. We fear others’ opinions of us; we try to blend into the crowd; we hide behind facades of perfection and laugher...because not being known is so much easier than showing your true self. When people know you, they see your sin, they could judge you for the things you enjoy, they could decide that you’re so different that you’re not worth their time.
But vulnerability offers the sweetest connections of all. Openness breeds trust, and trust lays a strong foundation, one that will last long past one summer of living together, working together or being on the same team. It develops an attitude of the heart that should flow out of a security in our identity in Christ.
That’s the reason why STP is structured the way that it is; we hope and desire that people would learn to live freely with others out of a security in relationship with God, but recognize that doesn’t come naturally. Having campus time, team time and rooms offers a platform to show students what it could look like to have community as a way of life beyond this summer.