Couple’s ministry spans a decade of tailgates
The Norwoods have served as adopted parents for hundreds of students who have passed under the historic arch at the university.
“A list of what they do could go on forever,” Campus View member Dustin Rector said. “Always involved but never authoritative, they … know the nuts and bolts of a thriving ministry.”
FINDING A MINISTRY — AND A HOUSE
Terry Norwood stands vigil over the church parking lot as a steady stream of cars and fans head toward Sanford Stadium, known for its historic hedges and equally historic mascot — a pampered bulldog named Uga VI.
“What time does church start?” an inebriated fan yells from across the street. Terry and a co-worker holler back, “Tomorrow at 9:15!”
He’s posted a cardboard sign with “NO BOOZE” in big letters for game-day parkers to see. “I make sure they know, no consumption on the lot,” he says.
Terry arrived to supervise the lot at 9:30 a.m. and found people waiting for a parking space. He’ll be here until after kickoff at 7:45 p.m. The $20 per vehicle he collects goes to the church, and Terry hopes to use some of it for next summer’s mission trip to Fiji.
There was a time when the Norwoods considered moving away from Athens. After 23 years as a banker, Terry retired and launched his own “headhunting” business, recruiting workers for the banking industry. It was a job he could do from anywhere, and he and Connie thought about moving back home to Chattanooga, Tenn.
But by then the church’s campus minister, Todd Stancil, had involved them in the lives of the college students. Terry even had a part in the ministry’s holiday musical “I was a Teenage Christmas Tree,” his wife said, and had “just fallen in love with the young people.”
The Norwoods looked for a house close to campus and found one in nearby Watkinsville, Ga. Its spacious living room, basement and backyard were perfect for campus ministry, Connie said. They bought the house in 1997, and have since entertained hundreds of students within its walls — and housed more than a few.
Before his sophomore year, Zack Kellis packed everything he owned into his pickup and drove to Athens, only to find the dormitory offices closed.
“I had no way of contacting anyone, nowhere to go, and I was beaten down tired,” Kellis said. “I showed up at the Norwoods’ at 9:30 p.m., and they treated me as if I were their son.”
FAITH AFTER GRADUATION
Students stack chairs and tables back inside the student center as Connie cleans up the discarded paper plates and plastic cups. She’ll drive a student to his apartment — he forgot his ticket for the game — and then return to lock up.
She and Terry will watch the game on the big-screen TV at their nephew’s house. Tomorrow they’ll welcome a new campus minister to their church — the third in their 10 years of service.
The dozens of little tasks they do for college students have helped the ministry grow, Kellis said.
“However, their impact shouldn’t be measured simply by what they did with the students,” he said. “They also mustered support from within the congregation.”
In their 10 years of service, the Norwoods have promoted college ministry among the members of the Campus View church, said pulpit minister Steve Watson.
Each year at the National Campus Ministries Seminar they swap notes with church members from across the country who work with college students, including Matt Carter, campus minister for students at Kansas State University.
“The Norwoods don’t view their involvement in campus ministry as a temporary assignment,” said Carter, a University of Georgia graduate.
Elders, deacons and mature couples can be vital parts of such ministries because “they give us an example of how we live out our faith beyond graduation day,” he added.
Connie said she’s had to scale back some of her involvement with the Georgia ministry recently to baby-sit her two infant grandsons. But she and Terry have no intention of leaving the work.
They moved to Georgia to grow Terry’s career, Connie said, but soon she learned that God was answering a prayer from her childhood — a prayer to serve with her husband on the mission field.
“When students leave UGA they go all over the world,” she said. “So what better way to spread the gospel than this mission field right across our street?”
Nov. 1, 2006