Ashley Garner is one of PUC’s student chaplains this year. Through her previous roles with our campus ministries team and joining praise and worship, she fell in love with ministry- and wanted to take on more responsibilities by becoming a student chaplain. She’s been able to meet more people- and witness ministry and Jesus change lives.
Share with us what it means being a student chaplain.
Disclaimer: This is just how I would personally define student chaplaincy; others may have differing definitions! A student chaplain has the privilege and great responsibility to assist and guide individual students as well as the student body as a whole in spirituality. Being a student chaplain means to engage in many different types of ministry and serve the various needs of students, staff, and the community. Modeling Jesus, student chaplains should seek to serve the whole person: the physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual needs of those around them. I believe that a student chaplain has the responsibility to be a campus prayer leader/prayer warrior, consistently praying for others and for spiritual change on campus.
What made you want to be a student chaplain?
I first started getting involved with ministry in high school. I joined the praise team, the Campus Ministries team, and eventually became the Religious-vice my senior year. I started on the PUC Campus Ministries team last year as PR; and also got involved with PUC praise and worship. I fell in love with ministry through these roles and wanted to further my journey in ministry and take on a new role and a bit more responsibility this year as a student chaplain!
What are your responsibilities?
Under Campus Ministries, I am a general student chaplain, the women’s dorm/residence hall chaplain, and I am our PR (this is my second year doing that!). My responsibilities generally include but are not limited to: managing Campus Ministries and being a part of our team; assisting the Chaplain in various ways, serving on a spiritual life committee; being a spiritual resource for dorm staff and residents; and managing Campus Ministries social media and public relations. Moreover, I have a responsibility to my campus, Pacific Union College; my boss, the PUC Chaplain, Pastor Kent Rufo; my team, the Campus Ministries team; and to overall serve God in everything I do.
What are the challenges you have as a student chaplain?
The challenges I’ve discovered, specifically this year, are trying to reach the entire student body in a meaningful way that promotes spiritual change. I’d love to personally know every single person on this campus and their needs; however, this is, unfortunately, impossible for one person to do. Also, programming is a big part of our ministry, and it’s an awesome opportunity but I wish I had more opportunities to connect with people on a one-on-one, personal basis. It’s definitely been a transitional year with COVID-19 still impacting our campus and the way we do ministry, which has undoubtedly presented challenges for the past 2+ years.
What is your favorite part about being a student chaplain?
My favorite part about being a student chaplain is the relationships with people. It’s been amazing to get to know more people, work with those who share the same love for God and others, and to be a part of a community. It’s also a very rewarding job: it’s really cool to see someone be impacted by the ministry we do and to see lives change through Jesus.
What do you hope to accomplish as a student chaplain this year?
What I’d love to accomplish this year is to start meaningful spiritual change on our campus. For the past 2 years, life has been largely uncertain and challenging due to the pandemic. As we try to rebuild from that, I want to help create a safe community at PUC, where people can dwell with God and others. I want to help create an atmosphere and culture that people who experience our campus can say, “God is working here and God’s presence is prevalent”.
What advice do you have for someone struggling with their spiritual life?
This is a tough question but so important. Firstly, I want to encourage those struggling. It’s certainly okay to struggle with your spiritual walk, and everyone— even the most devout religious leaders— struggle with their spiritual life sometimes. It’s okay to admit you are struggling and I think that takes courage and is admirable. Another piece of advice to specifically PUC students: utilize your resources! There are many resources for spiritual care here on campus. Talk to our Chaplain, a professor you trust, the counseling center, or even a student chaplain, Religious-vice president, or any student leader. We are here for you and we would love to assist you in your spiritual life, and we’d love to simply pray for you. Prayer is powerful!
What about being a student chaplain has prepared you for your career and other aspects of your future?
Student chaplaincy has prepared me for my career- in the sense that I’ve gotten to work with many different people from all walks of life, and I’ve gotten to build interpersonal skills. It’s also taught me a lot about fostering community in the workplace. I believe you can minister in any professional field, and being involved in ministry has taught me that and has also equipped me with skills to do so, although I still have a lot to learn. Being a student chaplain frequently pushes me outside my comfort zone, and I’ve developed leadership skills and learned to be more comfortable with public speaking.
What is your favorite weekend activity?
My favorite weekend activities are trying new coffee shops, thrifting, and yoga. I love coffee, and my favorite coffee shop near PUC is Soul Rebel Organic Coffee and Juice Bar in Calistoga. I also have been getting into yoga recently, and hot yoga is my favorite!
What do you enjoy doing outside of school?
Outside of school, I really enjoy hanging out with friends and family, playing sports, working out, and music (usually singing or playing the piano). I’m currently playing basketball intramurals, and my favorite sports are flag football and soccer. I make it a priority to move my body at least once a day, whether it is weight lifting, running, walking, or playing sports with friends.
What do you love about PUC?
I love many things about PUC. For one, the campus and the Napa Valley are beautiful; I love the trees, the sunshine, the sunsets, and even the fog and rain. I also love that there are so many opportunities here; for example, I’ve gotten to become a Student chaplain, a student-athlete on the women’s soccer team for 2-years, a member of the praise and worship team, a member of the Psychology honor’s society (Psi Chi), I was blessed to get a part-time job at Adventist Health St. Helena and I’m planning on serving as a student missionary next year! Through all of those opportunities, I’ve grown personally, spiritually, academically, socially, and professionally: I’ve met amazing people, traveled, made memories that are so special to me, and grown my relationship with God. PUC is pretty great. I’m honestly just so thankful that it was a part of God’s plan for me to attend here.