Derek Bates:  RUF at University of Pittsburgh

About Derek

Derek moved to Pittsburgh in 2008 to begin a chapter of RUF at PITT.   Born and raised in VA, he graduated from James Madison University, lived briefly in Ukraine, CO, and then St. Louis, MO where he graduated (again) from Covenant Theological Seminary. His wife Luda speaks 3 languages, works, tries to keep up with their 4 awesome kids, and bakes some out-of-this-world snacks for RUF.  Derek enjoys reading, sports, lifting weights, fixing up broken things, good music, concerts, and drinking coffee with students.

About RUF @ PITT

RUF strives to be a safe community for all kinds of people to come and learn about God and His love. Whether you consider yourself a Christian, a cynic, burned out, or confused, RUF is a place for anyone to hear the good news of Jesus, ask questions, grow in understanding, and enjoy community.

​ RUF, the campus ministry of the Presbyterian Church in America, is on over 150 campuses across the nation, and was established at PITT in 2008. 

As a student organization at PITT, we love the University, and think it is a wonderful place of people and ideas. We believe that your calling to be a student is an important one, a call that God delights in. It is our hope that in the midst of your call as a student at PITT, RUF would equip and encourage you to serve and lead well here, such that your fellow students, and the broader university, would benefit from the gospel's work in our midst.

Visit their website:

December 2020:  God with Us

It may come as no surprise that I'm one of those stubborn folks who refuse to welcome the Christmas season before Thanksgiving.  I'm not content to merely refuse.  I question those who run on ahead, and wonder what other holidays they celebrate six weeks early.  Nevertheless, when my chilly heart finally begins to warm, it is often because I'm singing one particular carol, O Come, O Come, Immanuel.  A musician friend uses the term heart-box to describe that sweet place in us that deeply resonates to a particular song, style, or theme in music.  This song resonates in  my heart-box musically, thematically, spiritually, and emotionally.  As everyone's heart box is different, perhaps this slow, sad-sounding old hymn doesn't strike you like it does me.  But maybe this year, this hard, lonely year, O Come, O Come, God with Us, might strike your heart box a little more profoundly.

We studied the Gospel of Mark this semester in RUF.  It's a book where the prepositions do some heavy lifting.  We're invited to follow after Jesus if we would find true life.  Jesus' direction, though He is the glorious Son, is toward a hurting, needy world.  Jesus will 'give his life as a ransom for many'.  Such important prepositions underlying so many vital and gracious truths.  But another preposition stands out in Mark:  with.  He chooses twelve to be WITH him.  Soon thereafter, during the worst stormy boat ride of their very sea-experienced lives, Jesus is WITH them.  In their confusion in knowing and following Him, Jesus stays WITH them.  In Jesus' transfigured glory on the mountain, three are WITH Him.  In their arrogant place-grabbing pride, Jesus stays WITH them.  Knowing they will abandon Him, Jesus stays WITH them.  In His own deep sadness and confusion in Gethsemane, Jesus takes three to be WITH Him.  After his death and resurrection, he goes to Galilee in order to be with them.  From beginning to end, good times and bad times, confusion or clarify, Jesus is with them.  In our stormy, disorienting, confusing, divisive, and oh so often isolating year, what better news could we hear than this?  Jesus has come.  Jesus is WITH us.

...and they shall call his name Immanuel, which means God with us.

Matthew 1:23


-Praise for excellent student leaders who cared and served well during this difficult fall semester!

-Praise for new students, despite limited opportunities!

-For our group to grow in love for God and others

-For us to equip and encourage future leaders well.

-For mental and physical health for our students and staff during what may be a hard spring semester.

-For a restful December for the Bates family.

Fall 2020 Update

...I must admit the pictures on the front of the newsletter are a bit deceiving.  Most of my semester has been virtual--virtual freshman outreach, virtual Bible studies, virtual team meetings, virtual games, prayer, and more!  I've been praying over Zoom two mornings a week with two different groups of students, and this has been the biggest blessing!

Prayer & Partnership

-Please pray for wisdom and creativity as we continue to plan for small groups and other virtual activities next semester.  For opportunities to reach, equip, connect, & care safely, especially with the more unforgiving weather.  For favor with university leadership and that God would restrain this virus.

-For students, as it is the hardest part of the semester with exams & projects due, & they are sheltering in place before traveling home to family.  For rest over the break, and for those who do not have an easy time resting at home.  For strength, endurance, physical, and mental health, and a commitment to God and others.

-For us, as we continue to train student leaders, to walk with students, & to care for those God has entrusted to us.  For strength, endurance, physical & mental health, and a commitment to God and to others.

-For provision, to make up a monthly shortfall with monthly partners going forward.  Please pray for and/or consider joining us for our "5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Blastoff into 2021".  Due to some harsh financial realities we have lost some long-time partners.  Please join me in praying for them as well!

July Letter from Derek Bates, Campus Minister at Pitt


What if you could really help your college students, and it only took you a few minutes? I really believe that's the case. Help RUF help your college students!

Many of your young adults are about to return to college, or head off to college for the first time. That transition is often daunting, and in this unprecedented year it is even more so. RUF is on grounds to pastor these young adults whom you have loved, and to reach others for Christ.

The college ministry of the PCA, we are an in-depth Biblical ministry, desiring that students would know and rest in the love of Jesus, and be transformed by it. Our greatest hope is that we would equip your students for a lifetime of loving service in the church, while caring for them during these sometimes difficult and always formative years.

So how can you help?

1) By letting us know if you have students coming to our universities this fall. We would like to welcome them before their arrival, reach out to them during the hectic first weeks, and help them find a place in our fellowships. With an unusually strange fall before us, we believe it's even more imperative that we reach out and welcome students as they begin their college careers.

If you know of students attending WVU, Millersville, Penn State, Lehigh, University of Maryland, Delaware, Delaware State, Akron, IUP, UMBC, Howard, or Rowan, we have campus staff at those schools who would love to welcome and serve your student. If the students you know are going to school outside of the Mid-Atlantic, you can search on to see if there is an RUF ministry on their campus.

2) If you're not comfortable passing your students' info along to us, then please encourage them to pursue a good church and campus ministry. Perhaps you could pass along the info in the links above.

And if they are attending PITT, you could pass along our info to them.

4) Please pray for students, and for ministries such as ours.

If you have info about a new student or further questions about RUF, or RUF at PITT, please feel free to contact me. I would be glad to chat with you.

Your fellow servant in the Lord,

Rev. Derek Bates

RUF, U of Pittsburgh

May 2020 Update

Well, it's been a few months.  And by that, I mean it has been quite something of a few months.  It's quite possible our last correspondence hit your home about the time our lives were changing.  I penned that little postcard when we had every reason to expect a full and regularly finished semester.  I think acknowledging and grieving what we have lost is important, as humans, and as those who seek to be faithful to Jesus.  Our spring break mission trip to Yakima, WA, a much anticipated trip, was cancelled.  Students went home for spring break, and never returned to class.  A retreat with up-and-coming leaders will have to be made up, when we do not know.  Our much beloved graduates finished up their time here separated from friends, and with little celebration.  Summer Conference, a tremendous week of growth and goodness for our students, both as individuals and as a group, was cancelled.  All loss.  And part of our job has been to help students, who are not always familiar with loss, to cope with their drastically changed circumstances, and to grieve what they have lost.  And so we have settled into a study of the Psalms this month of May, where we hear the cries of loss, and of thick-skinned faith, from God's people.  

And, well, it's been a few months.  And by that, I mean I can't believe how quickly they've passed.  As a family, we have fared better than any unprepared homeschoolers should reasonably expect.  We have been healthy; our kids have been healthy.  Many others have struggled and lost far more.  We mourn with them, while acknowledging we have good reason to give thanks.  Our students have hung tough, adapted, and stuck together.  Every single one of our student led Bible studies continued to meet, to study, to care for one another, online.  We quickly began livestreaming our Large Group messages, and our staff worked brilliantly, learning new skills, embracing the awkwardness, to meet our students where they were with prayer, song, and the teaching of God's word.  All I had to do was show up and speak to an almost empty room, which I have experience doing.  Staff and student leaders continued to reach out and meet one-on-one with others.  In fact, all our main avenues of ministry continued.  We even managed a very encouraging online senior night celebration.  Indeed, we have many good reasons to give thanks.

April 2020 Update

Another day with RUF PITT!