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'Howdy groups' do more than say 'Hello'; they encourage accountability
October 13, 2003
By Ginger Gilliland

Until recently, Boyce College’s student leadership consisted only of a four-member student council and men’s and women’s hallway resident leaders. This semester, students are enjoying a new group of student leaders -- Boyce “howdy leaders.”

A howdy leader’s main charge is greeting new students during new student orientations. Indeed, the intimidation factor in a 200-plus student orientation can be overwhelming to any incoming student.

To alleviate this trepidation, all new students are assigned to 15-20 member groups of other new students and two howdy leaders. The howdy leaders -- two older Boyce students, one male and one female -- begin the work of breaking down the fear factor and barriers to fellowship in three separate sessions over the course of new-student orientation.

The sessions themselves combine fun bridge-building activities and more serious moments of prayer and Bible study. A howdy group might begin with a competition requiring students to pick up Skittles candy with their toes but then end with heart-felt testimonies.

Howdy groups then extend through a student’s first semester, providing still more opportunities to get established and adjusted to college life with others experiencing the same pressures.

This semester’s howdy leaders include Julie Ball, Dustin Benton, Robbie Byrd, Mary Childs, Michele and Jason Cummings (for married students), Erik Koliser, Amy Martin, Ronnie Parrott, Shannon Robbins, Brennan Webb and Kathy Winn. During the orientation, they were joined by the four members of the Boyce student council.

The idea and initiative for these new groups began with Boyce women’s student life coordinator, Kristin Wicker. But Wicker will quickly give credit to student Kathy Winn who has taken a leadership role over the howdy leaders. Both Wicker and Winn approached orientation anxious to serve the incoming students whenever they needed help.

“Orientation was not just about telling students what Boyce College is all about, but it was about finding out how we can meet the needs of those new students,” Wicker said.

New students attest that the howdy groups have achieved this goal.

“I loved my howdy group,” new student Chris Bumblelough said. “It gave me a chance to hang out with people that I would not know otherwise.”

Howdy group leader Ronnie Parrott agreed.

“They allow old and new students to connect and for the new students to become infiltrated into Boyce life while encouraging them to pursue godliness,” he said.

The howdy leaders take seriously the task of encouraging real accountability and deepened commitments to Christ.

Leaders Julie Ball and Robbie Byrd pointed to Proverbs 27:17.

“‘Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another,’” they said. “Howdy groups exist for the purpose of sharpening each others lives in such a way as to inspire us to live a life worthy of the calling we have received to the ministry of the Gospel of Christ.”

All the howdy groups are now working through Donald Whitney’s book, Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life.

This sort of ministry “sets us apart from other colleges,” said Ball and Byrd.

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