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Nettletons Find a Perfect Fit at Trinity RUF

March 08 2018
March 08 2018


As Wil and Mary Nettleton approach the end of their first year leading Reformed University Fellowship at Trinity University, they are settling into life and ministry in San Antonio. Michael and Rachel Novak’s departure from RUF to lead the Trinity Grace Church plant in 2017 after seven years  brought a season of change to RUF at Trinity, but the Nettletons say the ministry they have stepped into at Trinity feels like a perfect fit for them.

Mary is the child of a PCA pastor in Marion, North Carolina. Wil was raised in a Christian home in Tupelo, Miss., and attended RUF at The University of Mississippi. For Wil, RUF was his first exposure to Reformed theology, and his relationship with his campus minister there served as a catalyst for his interest in becoming a pastor.

Wil and Mary met after college when they were both in training for the RUF internship, which sent Mary to The College of William and Mary in Virginia and Wil to Mary’s alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As their relationship became more serious, so did Wil’s commitment to pursuing seminary, and after they were married, they returned to his home state to attend Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Miss.

With their roots in the heavily-churched Deep South, the call to Trinity was both a change and an exciting challenge for the Nettletons, who thrive on living in an urban center and are eager to connect with students who have often not grown up with much exposure to Christianity.

“We were surprised and encouraged that RUF would put us in a place like Trinity where you have to up your game a little and talk to very intelligent students who are not going to have a lot of fundamental understanding of Christianity and you’re going to need to convince them that the Bible is inspired and true, and therefore authoritative in their lives,” Wil says.

While that can be a complex task, RUF approaches evangelism from a place of simple hospitality and relationships. Campus ministers are seminary-trained pastors ordained in the PCA who are placed on college campuses to form relationships with students and lead Bible studies. Wil says in his early days with RUF, it often felt counterintuitive to spend time with students without always steering the conversation toward spiritual matters. But over time he came to see that authentic community is a deep spiritual need for students, perhaps even more now than in the past.

“Students now are much more high-performing and have a lot more anxiety about school and work and what they are going to do with their lives,” he says. “I think they feel like they have to give everything to their major and internships and in that they are neglecting themselves and their friendships and certainly their spiritual lives. So a big piece of what we’re trying to do is to get people to slow down, because friends are good for you.”

RUF’s focus on community includes a distinct emphasis on membership in a local church. Wil says he tells students that RUF is the church coming to the campus, but the hope is that students will go from the campus to the church, where they can have multigenerational community for life.

“We are trying to build as we talk a deeper sense of the church as the vehicle for God’s mission in the world,” he says. “[The church] fundamentally might be the most important relationship and body you will ever be part of. I think it’s a hard corner for students to turn because they haven’t heard church talked about in that way.”

RUF has always been the primary way Redeemer reaches out to college students in San Antonio, and many Redeemer members and leaders have come to the church over the years through early connections with RUF at Trinity. Redeemer contributes financial support and office space for RUF at Trinity, but the Nettletons, like all campus ministry families with RUF, raise the majority of the expenses associated with Trinity RUF by recruiting monthly supporters. They are currently seeking supporters to invest in the ongoing work at Trinity.

Trinity’s significance in San Antonio as a place where future leaders are educated makes the campus a unique opportunity for Redeemer’s vision to reach the city, Wil says.

“It’s important for people who understand the number of Trinity students who stay in the city to see that we have a strategic opportunity with these students to reach them for the Kingdom of Jesus, yes, but also to see them come into our churches,” Wil says. “They could be leaders here and serve in this city for the long term, and if we can get them a Christian vision of vocation and Kingdom and being in the city for the city, that’s a big deal.”

The congregation at Redeemer can also invest in college students in a hands-on way. Mary is eager to meet Redeemer members who have a heart to form relationships with college students and are willing to meet and serve them outside of Sunday mornings at church. It’s the simple things that communicate most powerfully to students that Redeemer is already a place that welcomes them, even if they have not yet come through the doors.

“If people want, we can have them start hosting gatherings in homes to say ‘Redeemer loves RUF and these people are opening their homes to you.’” Mary says. “The students don’t take that lightly. They are always so thankful to just be in someone’s house outside of campus.”

To learn more about RUF at Trinity or become a financial supporter, visit their Web site or email Wil Nettleton.


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