No social media, no sweet food and cold showers every day for a whole semester may not sound like fun. However, for the 100+ men involved in Exodus 90, this lifestyle of sacrifice has become the norm. Exodus 90 is a program run through the Saint Benedict Institute here at Hope College. Those enrolled in Exodus 90 are required to give up many comforts of the modern lifestyle, including social media, TV, sweet food and warm showers. Instead, members dedicate at least 20 minutes of their day to prayer, growing closer
in their relationship with God. Father Nick Monco, chaplain of the Saint Benedict institute, is responsible for introducing Exodus 90 to the Hope community. The concept of Exodus was originally developed by a priest in Lafayette, Indiana, but has since spread nationwide. Monco says that he began the program here to help people be more “uncomfortable” in their lives in the name of God.
“Life has never been more comfortable, and it’s not in comfort that we grow closer to God,” says Monco, “so now more than ever we have to be more intentional about choosing hardship.”
That’s not to say that Exodus 90 is all about suffering and masochism. Hope follows a slightly modified version of the original program’s curriculum, with exceptions to certain sacrifices in social settings. For instance, members are permitted to watch TV so long as it’s with others.
“[The original rules] seemed to be not helpful,” says Father Nick while speaking about the change, “it just made people antisocial. Their friends would go out to watch a movie, and they just couldn’t go.”
Even with the adjustments, Exodus 90 is a challenge of discipline and faith. Dan Campbell (‘24) has been a member of Exodus 90 for the three years that he’s been at Hope College. He describes how the daily sacrifices of it have made him a more disciplined person, recounting the negative habits he used to have like snacking on sweet food or wasting time on his phone.
“Exodus 90 is deliberately and intentionally saying, ‘I’m not going to do these things for God’,” says Campbell, “and through that sacrifice [you] learn to love God more, and be more disciplined in faith.”
Campbell also points out the social aspect of Exodus 90 as one of the most enjoyable parts. Exodus
participants meet in weekly small group meetings designed to foster a sense of Christian brotherhood. Jonathan Harlow (‘25) describes the social side of Exodus as one of the best parts.
“My favorite part has been…the community of guys to open up to,” says Harlow, “just having a [group] and talking to them about life, and what’s hard.”
The meetings typically include prayer, brief updates from each member on how their Exodus has been going and a brief lesson of spiritual guidance from Fr. Monco. Meeting weekly helps members stay on track by creating a sense of community around a shared goal while also holding individuals accountable for staying on top of their sacrifices. Campbell has led one of these groups the past two years, walking other members through their own Exodus journeys. He says that the responsibility of leadership has
helped to focus him on his goals and faith. “As a freshman I felt like I could [mess up] without it
really mattering,” says Campbell, “but now as a leader I’ve learned that if I can set a good example
and be intentional with how I communicate and sacrifice, it can bring others to Christ.”
Above all else, the most important part of Exodus is its heavy focus on meaningful prayer and reflection with God. Members are required to pray for 20 minutes a day, something that many find hard to fit int their normal routine. On top of simply praying more, participants discuss with their groups how to improve the quality of their prayer through guided meditation and reflection.
“I grew up reading the Bible, but not really praying,” says Harlow, “so [praying] and focusing more time on that has been eye opening.”
Things do, of course, get tough during Exodus 90. Certain sacrifices can be particularly tough, especially “cold showers on cold days” according to Monco.
Other sacrifices can be difficult, such as avoiding snacking or unnecessary internet use. However, Monco adds that while we all fail sometimes, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Failure is simply a reminder that even the best of us need the grace of God. Despite its challenges, Exodus 90 is a transformational experience for many. It helps participants to become more disciplined and focused in their lives while also developing a stronger connection to God. Though it may seem tough, Campbell urges anyone considering the program next year to simply reflect and pray about it.
“For people who are on the fence,” says Campbell, “just spend a lot of time in prayer about it, and be willing to be uncomfortable. When we’re in uncomfortable situations, that’s where the most growth happens, and [those are] the situations that God uses as a catalyst for faith.”
Students gather for Catholic mass in Winants Auditorium in celebration of Palm Sunday on April 2 as Fr. Nick Monco offers the Liturgy of the Eucharist (Photo credit: Jacob Roman)