Olivet The Magazine | A Safe Place to Question, Explore and Even Fail

An introspective look at the transformational power of a residential campus and how the right environment makes all the difference!

Lauren Beatty

March 30, 2020 Academics, Olivet The Magazine


Dr. Teresa Garner ’87/’91 M.A. is a professor in the School of Theology and Christian Ministry and specializes in youth ministry. The following is an excerpt from her contributed piece to the spring 2020 issue of Olivet The Magazine.


In the apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans, he speaks of transformation as a continuous process of recognizing the difference between con(formation) to the systems and values of this world and trans(formation) made possible by the “renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God — what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2 NRSV). Paul is helping us recognize that we need new lenses through which to see and interact with our world.  

Yes, Olivet Nazarene University (ONU) is a different culture and era than that to which Paul was speaking. However, when older adolescents and emerging adults enter ONU, they find themselves in this new time of navigating, questioning and exploring this tension of the patterns of worldly kingdoms and the faithful action and response to God’s Kingdom. This stage of exploration actually has a name: moratorium. We like to believe that ONU is a safe place to question, doubt, fail and achieve all at the same time. When we shut down this process of moratorium, we take away the opportunity for growth and understanding. When we accept that this struggle needs to happen in their lives, we facilitate the building of a deeper and stronger foundation that will stand the test of time.  

Take for example, Stephanie, who was abandoned by her family and whose lifestyle and default had long been drugs and abuse. Enter transformation — the transformation of a renewed mind. She has been a disciple of Jesus for a few years now, immersing herself in a strong community of believers and studying ministry, theology and grace. You would not recognize her now. She is living out this transformation by pouring into the lives of elementary students each day and discipling adolescents in her small group. Stephanie now sees her world through new transformative lenses.

This road of transformation has not been easy. She has stumbled many times. She has had to take extreme measures in order to get healthy and stay that way. She has surrounded herself with healthy people and mutual mentors, and she is teaching us as well. Together, we are growing in community as the Spirit of God renews our minds.

Then, there is Jodi, who spent most of her last year of college caring for her family — a family that had huge needs.  Yet, she continued to pour herself into her studies, her residents, her fellow students and every ministry opportunity she found. There were many days full of tears, agony and questions, but she found God to be faithful even when people were not. Jodi leaned in instead of pushing away. And her journey is just beginning. 

At Olivet, Jodi is developing grit. She is finding the will of God through the renewing of her mind by the Spirit in a safe community environment. Like Stephanie, her road has been one of transformative moments and days of trusting God, mentors and friends when she was blinded by confusion and doubt. No one blamed her for such questions. We shared the questions. 

In the book Life Together, author Ruth Haley Barton speaks of this process: 

“Spiritual transformation is the process by which Christ is formed in us — for the glory of God, for the abundance of our own lives and for the sake of others; it results in an increasing capacity to discern and do the will of God. Spiritual transformation in the lives of redeemed people is a testimony to the power of the gospel; indeed, it is an act of worship in which our very lives testify or ascribe worth to the One who made us, who calls us by name and redeems us for His purposes.”

Dr. Garner completed a Doctor of Ministry degree from Fuller Theological Seminary in 2018. She and her husband, Kenneth ’88/’01 M.A., live in Manteno, Illinois.

Published 3/30/2020

Lauren Beatty

Lauren Beatty ’13 is a freelance writer, author, editor, artist and an adjunct professor in the Department of Communication at Olivet. She earned a Master of Arts degree in cross-cultural and sustainable business management from the American University of Paris in 2014. Her thesis explored the evolution of socially responsible business practices in America.

Student on main campus wearing pink sweater and holding water bottle.

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