Spotlight: Community leaders on and off campus

Though no day looks alike, Lauren Taylor loves her job.

Gathering with Hope College students at the Keppel House, the Chaplain of Discipleship smiles as she asks about campus happenings. The smell of brewing coffee from the nearby kitchen wafts into her cozy office and sunlight bounces off of the chalked doodles on her coffee table.

In her third year at Hope, she spends the majority of her time building both Campus Ministries programs and relationships with students. Taylor meets with four or five students a day, attends staff meetings and campus events, preaches at Chapel and oversees the management of college-organized small groups with her team of coordinators and interns.

“Jesus invested in other leaders who invested in other people,” she said. “Every person is a leader in some part of their life.”

As part of Hope’s Campus Ministries, Taylor believes chaplains play a unique role on campus.

While each part of the Hope campus community is charged with leading the student body in a variety of ways, Taylor and the rest of the Keppel House staff are entrusted with guiding students on their spiritual journeys.

It is an extraordinary privilege that she looks forward to day after day.

“I leave work after spending time with students… it could almost make me cry thinking about how I got to witness God growing,” Taylor said.

It makes the work rich and helps her to constantly think of new ways in which to disciple students.

The first time that Taylor ever considered her own potential to be a leader was during high school, when a favorite teacher encouraged her to be come involved with the school’s leadership team.

At the time, she was grappling with the effects of her parents’ separation and their counseling.

“This teacher really took me under his wing… and my [former] babysitter Stacy became a mentor to me,” Taylor said. “I was trying to reconcile the age-old question, ‘Why do bad things happen to good people?’” This experience, and later opportunities that she had in her church, taught her that leader ship is something anyone can do.

It was not until beginning her undergraduate studies at Wheaton College that anyone told her otherwise.

“When I got to college, that’s when the college pastor began to talk about men and women in different ways,” she said. “He really told me to focus on being a wife and a mother… but I was growing more and more unsettled with the thought of being home all day.”

As a Bible Theology major, Taylor greatly wanted to be a part of the ecumenical conversations her professors and pas tors were having. She respected them for their teachings and their leadership.

But while she admired them, she was discouraged by the friction she felt between their beliefs and her own. Taylor joined a new church, a Presbyterian one with a female pastor, after some mentors at Wheaton suggested that she consider attending seminary or another graduate school.

This adjustment was just the confirmation that she needed to realize that women could lead in the church. Taylor decided to pursue a Masters of Divination degree at Princeton Theological Seminary following her graduation from Wheaton.

“Sometimes I think we think that it’s special people who have special roles,” she said. “[But] Jesus often invested in people the rest of the world had labeled as unimportant—the women he lifted up, or people who were poor or ill; Jesus gave them a voice.”

From her role in Campus Ministries, Taylor strives to do the same herself.

Campus Ministries Small Groups Coordinator and former intern Emily Holehan (’09) knew Taylor when she was just starting out at Hope. Both newly relocated to Holland, the Princeton Seminary graduate and Western Seminary student bonded over a shared love of Jesus and became friends.

Holehan became a Hope Campus Ministries intern in January 2015. Although Taylor was the mentor in this new relationship, their existing relationship did not suffer.

Rather, their friendship grew.

“I never felt like just her min ion, but a co-collaborator and co-pastor with her,” Holehan said.

Now, as a Chaplain of Discipleship at Hope, one of Taylor’s main tasks is to organize and plan women’s small groups and the biannual Women’s Night Out. Holehan assists with the planning of these activities.

Their preparation is all about teamwork. Bouncing ideas off of one another, sharing input and seeking each other’s counsel, Taylor brings her colleagues alongside her every step of the way.

“Lauren is obviously the authority figure and has the last word, but she’s really encouraging,” Holehan said. “Her leader ship style is really wonderful and she’s really hospitable across the board.”

This hospitality extends beyond her interactions with other Hope faculty and staff members, to students as well.

When recruiting student leaders, a diverse assortment of races are represented. When preaching, Taylor is careful with her words and not afraid to suggest some challenging ideas. In a sermon a couple of years ago, she clearly claimed that the Psalmist of focus could have been a woman.

Holehan believes that such small details in Taylor’s preaching truly incorporate the fullness of Christ.

“I think that’s just a part of who she is, being this person who is welcoming to everyone, and I see that in her messages to students,” Holehan said. Hope junior and small group leader Sara Plohetski (’19) agrees.

“I just feel like a lot of times her sermons are the ones that stick out to me the most,” Plohetski said. “She just has that ability to make wherever you are a comfortable environment. She gets life.”

Taylor and her husband, Derek, also regularly open their home to students and friends. Their one-year-old son Theo takes up much of their free time, yet they love to cook whenever they have the time. The Taylors routinely host pizza parties and other dinners at their home for students.

Hope senior and small group leader Natalie Zeller (’18) has fond memories of such invitations to their house.

“Not only is she opening up her office to us, but she opened up her own home to us,” Zeller said. “Once you meet Lauren you want to get to know her more and be a part of bible study and leading.”

Taylor feels the same way about Hope students.

“You’re just at this place in life where you’re trying to figure things out and it’s so much fun to work with you,” she said, regarding students. “It’s a way to engage in conversations about faith.”

For her, faith in Christ is the springboard toward all things. She feels that leadership is never about one person, but about Christ and about groups of people.

“I love my job!” Taylor said. “I am a follower of Christ be fore I am a leader of anything… and I get to [follow Christ] with lots of students.”

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