A Decade of Devotion: Graeme and Sharon’s Christian Leadership at BSH

In the heart of Palmerston North, the Baptist Student Hostel (BSH) stands as more than just a place of residence for first year tertiary students. It is a haven of faith, warmth, and community, shaped by the dedicated leadership of Graeme and Sharon, who have served as managers for the past ten years. In this article, we delve into their journey, the unique challenges and rewards of managing a Christian student hostel, and the enduring impact they’ve had on both residents and the local community.

A Faithful Decade

Graeme and Sharon embarked on their roles as BSH hostel managers in January 2014, answering a call to continue a legacy that spanned 17 years.  Their backgrounds, including Graeme’s service as a youth Pastor and Sharon’s administrative position at Massey University, positioned them uniquely for the responsibilities that awaited them. Their diverse experiences, ranging from banking to running businesses and youth ministry, provided a solid foundation for the multifaceted role of managing The Baptist Student hostel.

The decision to transition into student hostel management was motivated by a desire for change and a shared love for working with young adults. As parents of five children, Graeme and Sharon recognized the importance of creating a space where students could experience personal, academic, and spiritual growth. The opportunity to be part of a ministry supporting young adults in their relationship with Christ resonated deeply with the couple, setting the stage for a decade of impactful service.

Rewards of Faithful Service

The most rewarding aspect of managing BSH, according to Graeme and Sharon, lies in witnessing the spiritual growth of young adults during their time at the hostel. From baptisms to the formation of lasting friendships, the couple finds fulfillment in being part of a community where students are nurtured in their Christian journey. 

Seeing several residents come to faith be baptised is wondered aspect of the role.  We have met some awesome people during our time and it gives us a sense of hope knowing these talented young people are part of New Zealand’s future.”

Graeme & Sharon

BSH isn’t just a place of residence; it’s a community fostering connection that extends beyond their time at the hostel.

Memorable Moments of Christian Community

Annual events at BSH take on a unique flavor in a Christian context. From opening day gatherings to formal dinners where residents dress up for lighthearted photos, each event reflects the warmth and camaraderie of the Christian community within the hostel. The history of formal photos, dating back to 1972, adds a layer of tradition and continuity to these cherished moments. Additionally, witnessing residents find love and attend weddings further underscores the sense of family fostered at BSH.

It’s also great to see residents succeed in their studies and progress to graduation after all their hard work. There have also been great times with banter and discussions over meal times and kitchen clean up.

Graeme & Sharon

Adapting to Changes and Navigating Challenges

Over the years, Graeme and Sharon have observed significant shifts in the student accommodation landscape. The move to online exams and classes has transformed the university experience, impacting the time students spend on-site. Financial cutbacks and course reductions at Massey University have affected students’ academic pursuits. Additionally, the emphasis on pastoral care, highlighted by the passing of “The Pastoral Care Act,” reflects a broader industry shift that aligns seamlessly with BSH’s commitment to nurturing the whole person.

The role of hostel managers comes with its share of challenges, from handling personal conflicts to addressing changes in residents’ circumstances. For Graeme and Sharon, the key to overcoming these challenges lies in drawing on their collective wisdom and experience. Open communication, a willingness to find resolutions, and a deep sense of compassion have been instrumental in navigating the complexities of managing BSH.

Creating a family-friendly atmosphere has been central to Graeme and Sharon’s approach to navigating challenges and overcoming challenges. Their success to building relationships and community impact at BSH, lies in their commitment to fostering an environment where residents feel at home, safe and free to be themselves. This commitment has resulted in meaningful relationships, especially with Residential Assistants (RA’s) who have become an integral part of the hostel’s community. The couple’s connections with other student accommodation managers and local youth pastors have further strengthened ties with the wider Palmerston North Christian community.

Reflections and Words of Wisdom for Successors

As they prepare to pass the torch to new managers in 2024, Graeme and Sharon offer simple yet profound advice. Emphasizing the power of food to connect with residents’ hearts, they encourage the incoming managers to be authentic, enjoy getting to know the residents, and not to stress over minor details. Their wisdom reflects the essence of creating a nurturing environment where the Christian values of hospitality and love shine through.

The most important thing we feel is trying to live out Christ, reflecting him in what we do.” 

Graeme & Sharon

Looking back on their time at BSH, Graeme and Sharon find joy in the maturation of students and the lasting friendships forged within the hostel’s walls. The positive feedback from appreciative parents underscores the impact of the caring environment fostered at BSH, and they encourage their successors to be mindful, and encouraged by, the wider impact they have on the friends and family of their residents.

Graeme and Sharon’s accomplishments such as upgrades to hostel buildings, the creation of a self-catering flat for residents with dietary needs, and the completion of a comprehensive management guide stand as testaments to their commitment to excellence.

As Graeme and Sharon reflect on their journey, they acknowledge the significant impact working together 24/7 as a couple, had in drawing them closer together. The flexibility of the role, combined with job-sharing, has allowed them to appreciate each other’s giftings and talents. Ultimately, their decade at BSH has been a testament to faith, community, and the transformative power of a Christian hostel in the lives of young adults.

As they approach retirement, Graeme, and Sharon plan to take a well-deserved breather. Their agenda includes attending to home maintenance, spending quality time with grandchildren, embarking on travel adventures, seeking part-time work, and remaining open to the opportunities that God may have in store for them.

Closing Thoughts and Thanks

Graeme and Sharon’s tenure as managers of the Baptist Student Hostel has been marked by a steadfast commitment to Christian values, community building, and nurturing the holistic growth of young adults. As they transition into retirement, their impact on the lives of countless residents and the broader Christian community in Palmerston North will undoubtedly leave a lasting impact. The BSH remains not just a place of residence but a spiritual home where faith, compassion, and hospitality converge to create a transformative experience for all who pass through its doors.

On behalf of the BSH Board, residents (past and present), and families, we extend a heartfelt thank you to Graeme and Sharon for a decade of devoted service. Your unwavering commitment to fostering a Christian community, your compassionate leadership, and the countless lives you’ve touched have left an indelible mark on the BSH legacy. As you embark on this new chapter in your lives, may your hearts be filled with the same warmth and love that you have shared with us over the years. Blessings and gratitude from the BSH family.