ACU is three months into a semester-long partnership with Barna Group, a research group surveying the student body and providing resources for the university to better engage in students’ spiritual development.
Barna Group, founded in 1984, tracks cultural and spiritual trends, offering statistics, resources, seminars and custom research to churches and non-profit organizations. The group’s research is being shared with staff and faculty through a series of web seminars throughout the semester.
Jan Meyer, dean of student development, said the group’s national and custom research will help staff understand the student body better.
“Our students at ACU are a part of a larger college student culture that is always moving and changing,” she said. “We want to be staff and faculty who are in tune with cultural shifts so that we can be most effective in our roles as mentors and educators.”
Chris Riley, vice president of Student Life, said the partnership will help the university in tailoring the ACU experience to current students.
He and Meyer heard David Kinnaman, director of Barna Group, speak at a conference in January. Shortly after, Riley brought Kinnaman to speak at the staff presession.
Riley said the staff senate members received enough positive feedback to prompt a possible partnership with the research group.
“The research affirmed many of the observations that we made and discussed, and that is always encouraging,” Meyer said of the staff presession. “It also provided a framework in which to continue more conversations about practical applications of the information.”
The university has partnered with Barna Group before, hiring the company to in 2011 to survey alumni, but Riley said the focus this time around is first and foremost the current student body.
According to an email sent to faculty and staff by Riley, the Barna Lab Discussions consist of monthly live webcasts focusing on “engaging and working with Millennials (ages 13-30),” that will help staff engage in more meaningful relationships with students.
The webcasts are as listed below:
-Know Your Audience: Who are Millennials? (January 21)
-Reaching Your Audience: Keys to Growth and Retention / Making Space for Millennials (February 11)
-Screens for Jesus: Capitalizing on the Opportunities of the Screen Age (March 4)
-The S-Word: Ministering through the Minefield of Sexuality (March 25)
-The Bible Says What? Teaching Scripture to a Pluralistic Culture (April 15)
-Unrealized Potential: Finding and Unleashing Young Leaders (May 6)
-Vocational Discipleship: Tapping Current Leaders to Reach the Next Ones (May 27)
Although involvement is not being tracked by Barna Group or ACU, staff and faculty are encouraged to watch each webcast and discuss their findings at monthly departments meetings organized by the university.
A survey was sent to students at the beginning of March, offering two Chapel credits upon completion, as part of Barna Group’s custom research.
The questions covered areas such as church and bible study involvement, a student’s background in religion and Christianity, as well as what the student anticipates their spirituality will be like in the future. The survey also asked students how supported they felt on campus, and whether or not they had a mentor.