The other day while I was thinking about how I would write this article on Ministry and Service credits, the acronym “MAS” kept filling my thoughts. It then hit me–the word sounded so familiar because the acronym “MAS” sounds exactly like the word “más” in Portuguese. Now the reason I know this is that my mother is full Brazilian and I grew up going back and forth between Brazil and America.
Más in Portuguese means more and this is exactly what MAS credits are. They are additional 30 credits per year at APU on top of our 126 scholarly credits that we need to graduate.
According to APU’s website, “MAS exists to educate and mobilize the APU undergraduate community toward an active response in service that advances the work of God in the world.”
Yes, it is good that students are encouraged to do ministry outside of APU’s campus, but should this be a requirement? Before I answer this question I want to look at why this requirement is in place.
APU was founded as the Training School for Christian Workers back in 1899. Then, it was a school to train those who wanted to serve communities for the rest of their lives. This is part of APU’s history, but APU has grown. Has it grown out of this tradition?
After being at APU for no more than a day, I had the four cornerstones ingrained into my memory. On my first day of orientation two years ago, I remember sitting in the audience and someone speaking about four artists who painted corners of what I knew as APU’s logo. There was a heart, a tree, a pair of hands hammering a nail and a backbone. Each point was explained in great detail and I was genuinely happy that I chose a school that had great cornerstones.
APU’s website defines this cornerstone of service as follows:
“Service, as one of the four cornerstones at Azusa Pacific University, is at the heart of our local and international outreach, missions, and service-learning endeavors. The university desires to see the service experience connect to a deeper relationship with Christ, develop a greater sense of community, and modelscholarship put into practice. To this end, the university desires that every student has an intercultural experience during their time at APU.”
Now APU does not just leave us students to find opportunities on our own, but I would say that they do a great job of helping people find the serving opportunity that best fits them. As an APU freshman you are required to attend Beginnings, a class to help transition students into college. In this class you are required to do City Links, which is a 5-unit opportunity to serve in the local community. The Ministry and Service Office offers opportunities with Retirement Center Ministries, Environmental Ministries, Mentoring Ministries, Ministries with Children and Families, Urban Ministries, Mexico outreach and Focus international summer trips.
These opportunities are not the only options; if you have been doing something around the city or at home and can prove that you are not getting paid or serving a family member then it may count as well.
Also, many majors incorporate service learning into their major. Nursing and Liberal Studies majors are serving their community with the classes they take. They get credit for the work they are doing for school credit because a lot of it is directly benefiting the community.
Now I am almost done with my senior year in college and I have 45 units of the credits required of me. This is because I have not turned in service that I completed about a year and a half ago as well as a couple service opportunities that I completed earlier this year and summer.
I have found that this requirement is what I make of it. This summer I taught kids from my church’s youth group how to surf about three times a week and out on the water I would talk to the kids about life, faith and anything else that came up. It was fun for me as well as a service that I could get credit for.
This year I am an RA in an all girls freshman dorm, well the only all girls freshman dorm. It is hard to find time for myself let alone those in the surrounding community around APU. One thing that I have found to be successful is getting my girls to help. This semester a small group of us went with my church to do service for half a day. I loved it and it reminded me that the world does not stop now that I am in college. People are still hurting and in need of service that I am able to provide. I may not be rich, but I can paint a wall, pass out food and teach kids how to surf.
So what do I think about being forced to do ministry in order to graduate? I think that it is something that we as students should not be surprised by. We knew that it was one of APU’s cornerstones and I am glad that APU takes it seriously enough to keep students from graduating who do not take it seriously throughout their time at APU.