Op-Ed: Return 'City Engagement' to House Cup Competition

City engagement used to be a part of King’s year-long House Cup Competition, along with the GPA and basketball competitions. However, in 2011, it was removed because King’s sought to encourage students to pursue their individual gifts and passions instead of having them participate in mandatory service.

The King’s College should bring back city engagement as a part of the annual House Cup Competition because it will cause Houses to take their ministry partnerships more seriously through healthy competition. In the process, it will foster camaraderie between House members as they meet the city’s needs together.

“Since 2011, city engagement has completely changed paths from being a part of the House Cup Competition because the fear was that service was becoming a way to score points instead of a lasting partnership,” 2016-2017 City Engagement Coordinator Sadie Elliott (‘17) said.

Over the last five years, King’s has changed its approach to collectively engaging with the city’s needs. In 2015, King’s kicked off its newest chapter of city engagement by matching each of the ten Houses with a NYC ministry. Eric Bennett Spiritual Life Director and Davis Campbell (‘16) 2015-2016 City Engagement Coordinator worked together to help Houses bridge ministry partnerships, and provided accountability to each house’s executive team to set and meet goals.

Elliot has continued to expand and deepen the partnerships in the 2016-2017 school year. The ladies of ten Boom serves meals to the homeless at the Bowery mission three times a month, the men of Churchill tutor urban teenagers through Campus Crusade for Christ, and the Houses of Queen Elizabeth I and Ronald Regan pick up food from Trader Joe’s for the New York Gospel Mission’s food pantry. Other Houses partner with Avail NYC, International Justice Mission, Restore NYC, Red Cross and Charity:Water.

“I absolutely love city engagement. I think that it is a tangible expression of the mission of the college in that students get out of the bubble here and get out and engage with real people and real issues in our great city,” David Leedy, Dean of Students said. “It’s also helpful for students to galvanize their faith and put their education into practice.”

It’s important to not forget the immense needs of NYC and our privilege as Christians to fulfill God’s commands to love Him and serve His people as if we are serving Him.  According to the United States Census Bureau’s 2015 population estimate, there are over 8.5 million people living in Manhattan. Of these over 8 million people, 60,410  are homeless, including 14,699 homeless families with 23,783 homeless children, who sleep in shelters and on the streets each night, according to February 2016 data from the Coalition for the Homeless. With the hundreds of students who attend King’s, we can make a difference in meeting the needs of the hungry, poor and homeless, but only through intentionally serving the city.

Adding House ministry partnerships does not detract from individuals pursuing their God-given gifts. Because each House has around 50 members, not everyone has to serve at the same time. With most of the ministries, students work in shifts of less than seven people which they can sign up for based on their availability. Students have the freedom to serve as little or as much as they wish, giving students the change to both serve with their house and with another ministry unique to their own passions.

King’s should return city engagement as a part of the 2017-2018 House Cup Competition. Adding specific House partnerships with city ministries in 2015 was a new step in the story of King’s history of engaging with its surrounding culture. Reintroducing the incentive of competition along with the partnerships in 2017 means more people would likely volunteer, thus growing the number of students involved in ministry and opening another chapter in King’s history. Additionally, making volunteering mandatory would create the space for students to form lasting habits of service, building an others focused mindset which is essential to us as students of King’s and servants of Christ.

Its implementation would be simple: continue to have the executive teams log the hours per month students are serving, create a minimum number of students who must serve, and total it up like we do with the GPA competition.

Leedy and EElliott expressed concerns that reintroducing competition into the House Cup Competition could provide perverse incentives of people serving to win instead of to meet the city’s needs. However, with the new addition of Houses intentionally engaging with a specific ministry, the next logical step is to provide stronger motivation for the members of each House to proactively fulfill their commitments to their ministry partner through the mandatory involvement, fostering a sense of ownership, camaraderie and motivation between King’s students.

OpinionRachel Cline