Living into Spiritual Life

Living into Spiritual Life

Northwest Nazarene University
Feb 28, 2022
Grant Miller - Chapel

With a change in leadership comes new vision and new ways to live into NNU’s mission. This year, NNU welcomed Grant Miller as the new University Chaplain and Ashley Gage as Associate Chaplain. Grant is not a newcomer to campus— graduating in 2010 with degrees in Political Science, Public Communication and Philosophy and in 2017 with a Master of Divinity—but embraces his new role with passion and enthusiasm. Ashley comes to NNU after serving throughout the Boise Valley as the Connections Pastor at College Church of the Nazarene, with Boise Angels and as a part of the Wesleyan Holiness Women’s Clergy. Grant and Ashley share their plans as they continue to encourage students to live, learn and lead now and in the future.

NNU: Briefly tell us how you ended up at NNU in these roles.

Ashley: I felt a call into ministry about six years for the last 5 years I’ve been a pastor at Nampa College Church, next door to the University. I’ve watched the vibe of this campus and have been involved in the lives of students; I’ve always had a heart for this generation…when the opportunity to step into this space and work alongside Grant came up, it just felt like God was nudging me deeper into this ministry. So here I am—and I couldn’t be happier!

Grant: For the past seven years I’ve worked as NNU’s Director of Community Life. During that time, I was also actively participating in church ministry working with young adults and college groups, most recently as the college pastor at Nampa College Church. In that process, I felt a desire and a call to serve the broader Church of the Nazarene, so I went through the process of ordination….When the chaplaincy opened up, I felt called to apply for that role. Spiritual development and spiritual formation for our students is something that I am passionate about, and being able to step into the role of University Chaplain has been a fantastic opportunity to continue to do that in a more formal way.

NNU: Ashley, as someone who has been connected, but on the outside looking in, what has stood out the most about Spiritual Life at NNU?

Ashley: I think what immediately comes to mind is community. A lot of schools say “we are the place that feels like home.” I noticed from the very beginning that it’s more than something just said here; it really is reflected in the way our students walk alongside each other and support, challenge and encourage each other.

NNU: Grant, you’ve been around a while. What things have stayed the same within Spiritual Life since you were a student and what has changed?

Grant: I love that we continue to ask students to pause in their day for chapel, where together we intentionally reflect on the ways God cares for and sees us and the way God seeks to partner with all of us in the world. That’s been pretty consistent since I was a student here. The biggest change is the nature of conversations we have. With the evolution of technology and social issues, the framework in which we have conversations with one another and the topics we discuss are very different. However, those conversations will always be founded in something that doesn’t change—our commitment to Scripture and our understanding of who God is; God is constantly here as a firm foundation on which to base our conversations.

NNU: What role does Spiritual Life play in empowering and equipping our students to answer the call to live, learn and lead?

Ashley: If you think of a tapestry and how it’s all woven together, I think Spiritual Life is the foundation that we can truly know God and see God working in and through our lives. I think sometimes we take for granted that walking with each other is so much of what we are called to do. It’s how trust is built, it’s how compassion and love are shown, it’s how we learn grace acted out and embodied. Being able to be here and walk through life with students as we are learning how to walk together enables us to lead with grace and love and reflect the fullness of the body of Christ here at NNU. We are able to have thoughtful conversations about how the God we all serve is reflected in the vocation our students will pursue or in their relationships or life choices.

Grant: One of the things I like about the manifesto is the idea that the purpose of living, learning and leading is to be part of “God’s compassionate work in the world.” We have a beautifully diverse group of students on campus that come from a million different backgrounds and we want to think about how every journey is impacted by the work of God on this campus. We want to be listening and responsive in the things we do to make sure we enable every person to flourish fully in who God’s made them to be, to bring their whole self into this space and to have them be something we believe is redeemed by Jesus Christ. That then is reflected as a beautiful tapestry of experience where we seek to respond and equip each individual to be successful as they go into the world and use the education and preparation they have received here to make a difference in the lives of others.

NNU: How do you think this call relates to the rest of the NNU campus—alumni, faculty, staff, supporters—as a whole?

Ashley: I am a product of a Nazarene higher ed university and when I was going through a time where I had fallen away from a relationship with God, I had professors and alumni from my local church who prayed for me. If it wasn’t for a community like that, I don’t know if I would be where I am today. I see that in this community. I feel like part of my calling is to be that to the students who are here because I’ve seen how life-changing it can be when the entire community—faculty, staff, students, families and alumni—are all working together for the mission.

Grant: The work of spiritual transformation isn’t something that is exclusive to the chapel space or the formal programming that we do; it’s a piece of the cohesive, integrated education that we offer here at NNU. It’s also a partnership with our community, with the families and parents that send students here, with the local churches that support students in so many different ways and with our faculty and staff. Our faculty are here because they believe in the mission of this place, and God cares deeply about training people who recognize the way their particular study can be part of God’s redemptive work in the world. I think our staff also embody that. I can’t tell you how many students have told me about these incredible redeeming conversations they have while paying their bill or getting lunch or talking with the person who’s cleaning the lobby in their dorm. Everybody participates in this mission because it’s something that everyone is committed to; it’s a beautiful part of what unifies the work of what we do here at the University.

NNU: What is your vision for Spiritual Life at NNU moving forward?

Grant: The most important thing we want our students to leave here with is an innate understanding of how God cares deeply about them and who they are. That He wants to partner with them in a redemptive work in the world and that takes place in a million different environments in a million different ways. It’s not just in being a missionary or going into full-time vocational ministry—though these are obviously fantastic examples. It’s also being in the classroom or the business world or in the art studio or wherever. God’s Spirit and Presence is actively seeking to be at work in all of the places our students find themselves. I pray that our students leave here with a crucially innate understanding of what God’s seeking to do in their lives.

Ashley: That’s precisely what we’re called to do. In this unique higher education system, we are challenging and equipping our students to be launched into the world ready to reflect Christ in the places they work, live and everywhere they are called to go and lead. We want a student’s spiritual life to be one of those things that is a foundation as students take what they’ve learned here and go out into the world to live, learn and lead.