RUF @ IUP:  Oliver Pierce

More than just a ministry on the university campus, RUF seeks to be a ministry for the university. We strive to serve in this unique stage of a student’s life in the world they live in, exploring together how the Lordship of Christ informs every area of life.

About Oliver

Oliver and his wife Kim have been married for eight years and both grew up in Knoxville, TN. They have two daughters Emilia and Julia. They spent the last four years in Philadelphia while Oliver was working on his MDiv at Westminster Theological Seminary. Oliver was first involved with RUF as a student during his undergraduate studies at Middle Tennessee State University. After graduating MTSU with a BA in English and Philosophy, Oliver interned at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Murfreesboro, TN, serving primarily with RUF at MTSU in addition to leading Trinity’s Youth Group.

While at Westminster, Oliver served as a pastoral intern with the college ministry at Tenth Presbyterian church in Philadelphia, PA, doing outreach and bible studies at colleges such as University of Pennsylvania, Drexel, and Temple. Oliver and Kim are excited for the opportunity to pioneer a new RUF at IUP alongside a new PCA church plant!

Visit the website at:

End of 2021 Update

Recently, I ran into one of IUP’s admissions directors. He had been meaning to reach out to me because one of the campus tour guides had shared at a recent recruitment event that RUF completely changed her experience at IUP. This student spoke of how she struggled to find real friends and had no real role for faith in her life though she grew up in the Catholic church. In RUF, she found a spiritual home— a community in which she could seriously wrestle with the truth claims of Christianity. It was awesome to not only hear this student’s story but also know she was allowed to share her experience at an IUP event!

After an initially disheartening end to the semester, this encounter was a providential encouragement. Contracting COVID was not only taxing on my health but it also meant I was not able to be a part of our end of the year events. Nonetheless, God was still at work not only in that student's story, but also in our student leaders who stepped up the last week of classes and made our Bible studies and Christmas party happen anyway!

More End of the Year Christmas Party Festivities!

Plans for Next Semester

Large Group Changes

Now that the semester is over we have entered into a stage of strategizing for the spring. I’ve been able to have some great planning sessions with our ministry team. One goal for the spring is to make large group a more consistent avenue of ministry. This likely means moving to weekly meetings and focusing on fellowship & teaching. We hope this shift will make large group more accessible to many non-Christians who love RUF and are interested in learning more.

Pray that these changes might result in more consistent community and biblical teaching in student's lives. Pray we might continue to see our reach on campus increase through Christians inviting their non-Christian friends to large group.

Small Group Changes

I’m also excited to see new girls and guys bible studies start up next semester. Co-ed groups have been the norm at IUP for a while but this semester we've seen a need for deeper conversations that are better had in gendered groups. Providentially, community is already naturally developing in that direction through informal guys & girls events.

Pray that these groups might provide the context for students to open up and process together the specific ways they need to grow more into Christ-likeness. Pray that some of the fringe students I have been meeting with (particularly one student named Marco) might get connected to the rest of RUF through new avenues like these.

End of the Year Giving

It truly is humbling year after year to see the generosity of God’s people overflow to allow us to freely minister to students. There are a million other things one could do with the resources God has given. I see God at work not only on campus but in the fact that so many of God’s people would choose to invest in RUF at IUP. Thank you to all of you who have given generously this year!

If you are still considering year end giving, we’d be honored if you made a year end gift to RUF. These gifts help us finish the year strong and send us into 2022 with the ability to focus even more on the mission at hand: reaching students for Christ and equipping them to serve for a lifetime in the church!

January/February 2021 Update

Though classes started online January 19th, many students waited until Feb 8th to move back into their dorms due to the university’s suggestion. We took a hybrid approach as well holding both in person and online bible studies and events. It has been great to see students continue to build relationships and grow in their knowledge of Scripture, whether they are in-person with a mask or on a computer screen!

Ministry Story: Reading Through the Bible In a Year

One new endeavor that is bearing fruit is our 2021 Reading Through the Bible Group. We’ve had 16 students join so far and it has been encouraging to see the activity in this group overflow into the rest of our ministry. Students are asking questions in one on ones and bringing up passages from the readings in our bible studies. One student has been really enjoying going through the plan so far and has been asking lots of questions, particularly about Genesis. In those conversations, I’ve been able to highlight how Genesis is not about how great Abraham, Issac, and Jacob were but about how merciful and faithful God was to these men and their families even despite their sinfulness.

After several of these discussions, she texted me: “I have never read through the Bible this way and it is truly life changing.” It was particularly encouraging to hear this from her because her past experiences with the church have been negative. When I first met her she seemed completely done with Christianity. I prayed for her often last year and it is wonderful to now see the LORD at work in her heart, drawing her back to Himself.

Answer To Prayer: RUF is an Approved Student Organization!

Further great news is that RUF is now a recognized student organization at IUP! Two weeks ago we met with the Student Government Association (SGA) Board of recognition and it went so well the chief justice of SGA sent our president this email back:

"Excellent meeting tonight. One of the best presentations we've seen all year. We spoke about RUF a good bit after you all left, and we all agreed that your group has left an impression. I personally thank you for taking the time to create such an excellent foundational document!"

When we met with the entire student government council the next week, we went in with such strong recommendation that we had no trouble being approved! This has been an ongoing struggle with many hiccups due to COVID, so praise God for his faithfulness in answering our prayers that we might complete this crucial step this semester. I am also incredibly thankful for our leaders who stepped up and did most of the talking. Praise Him as well for how He is equipping these students to represent RUF well to IUP.

RUF leaders running game night at the Folger Student Center.

Prayer Requests

Spring Training Conference

This weekend is our spring training conference with RUF at Pitt & WVU. We've got several students going through both the "Leading Bible Studies" and "How to Study the Bible" seminars. Pray the conference might enable students to better study Scripture and lead discussions with other students. Though IUP will gather in person, the seminars will be run through Zoom, so pray that students can stay engaged and learn well.

Ongoing Equipping

As important as this weekend is, in the words of one of my mentors, "events don't train people, people train people." The training weekend is a great starting point but I am starting a bible study leader apprenticeship group for all those who have gone through the aforementioned tracks. We will meet up regularly for mentorship and discipleship and continue to practice preparing & leading Bible studies. Pray that God might use this group to prepare several students to lead a Bible study next semester.

Caring for One Another

As our community grows, it has been wonderful to see students deepen relationships. Especially in the midst of the pandemic, students have had all kinds of needs this semester, whether it is just a ride to the grocery store or someone to talk to in the midst of anxiety and depression. Students themselves are already stepping up and taking on some of these burdens! To this end, several of us have been reading through Ed Welch's "Caring for One Another." Praise God that the gospel fruit of fellowship & service is showing up more in RUF this semester! Pray God might continue to equip us with all we need to do every good work!

Thank you for all your support and prayers!! -Oliver, Kim, Emilia, & Julia

  • Wednesday Bible study

    Students sticking around for more discussion after our Wednesday Bible study on Ephesians

  • Reading the Bible in a year

    Student with questions from Bible reading plan on her "llama"post-its.

  • Game Night!

    RUF leaders running game night at the Folger Student Center.

  • Cute Baby Pic

    Little Julia

Glimpses through fall 2020

Creative & fruitful outreach during a pandemic!  Working to show the students the beauty of the gospel.

  • Resurrection Outdoor service

    Type content here...

  • Outdoor bible study

    Type content here...

  • Hiking

    Type content here...

  • Cookout with students

    Type content here...

  • Bible study

    Type content here...

  • Fall Family Photo!

    Type content here...

November 2020 Update

 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it" (Matthew 13:44–46).

With most students staying home and finishing their classes online after Thanksgiving, we wrapped up our last “Stories Jesus Told” Bible study right before the break with the two parables above. We had a great time meeting in a new space on campus, discussing what we value, and what we are willing to make sacrifices for.

After each bible study I try to wrap up our discussion with an illustration of the main point of the passage and specifically how we see the person and work of Christ in the text. So I asked the question: what is Christ’s treasure and did he have to sell anything to get it? In Hebrews 12:2, we see Jesus on his own treasure hunt: “Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross." Jesus left the glorious life of heaven, emptied himself, and for a mysterious moment was abandoned by his Father on the cross. He sold all that he had. Why? Because He had found the one pearl of great value. His people. His bride.

As I finished this closing exhortation, one student said “Wow, that is so beautiful, I’m going to cry!” I saw few other students with watery eyes as well. But it was not because of my rhetorical skill. I believe this student said that because this parable really was his story this semester. He found the treasure of the Kingdom of God in the field and in joy went and sold all that he had, even being willing to put his long-term relationship with his girlfriend on the line. So it was a precious reminder to this student that even as God calls us to make Him our treasure, He too has sold it all to make us His treasure.

Praise God that students are seeing more and more of the beauty and riches of Christ in His Word this semester!

Prayer Requests

Spiritual and Emotional Support for Students

This has been a challenging year and more difficulties are ahead of us. Even over the break, students will be in need of continued care and encouragement. The Student Government Association at IUP recently did a poll on mental health and the results concerned them. So, they reached out to the Council on Spiritual & Religious Life, of which I am a member, asking for any support we could offer students during finals and over break.

Pray that we might be able to continue to support and love students even as they are back home. Pray that struggling students, who are tempted to despair as the certainties and comforts of the world fail, might find real hope in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Giving Tuesday & Matching Grant

Lastly, I'm excited to announce that one of our ministry partners is going to match up to $5,000 for year end giving. If you are able and sense the LORD is leading you to make a year end gift to RUF at IUP we’d be honored to have you support this ministry!

Thank you again to all of you who have already given this year! You are a huge part of making this ministry possible.

We are praying the LORD’s blessing and protection over you in this challenging season. We pray you might be reminded of the truth that “Christ Jesus….emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant" (Phil 2:7). He gave up all the treasures of Heaven in order to make you his treasured possession!

Thank you for all your support and prayers!! -Kim, Emilia, Julia, and Oliver

September & OCtober 2020 Update

Creative and Fruitful Outreach in a Pandemic! 

We began this semester with plans but did not know what we would be allowed to do. Many larger schools in more urban areas remained completely online this semester. However in the LORD’s providence and being in a small town, we are thankful to report that we had many opportunities to meet incoming IUP students. Not sure how long students would remain on campus, we threw all our energy into outreach while we could! For the first two weeks, we did an outdoor activity almost everyday to connect with students: yard games, volleyball, cookouts, firepits, hikes, and video game and movie nights.

One of my favorite moments of outreach was during one of the video game nights. We were set up outside one of the dorms and I noticed an RA heading in our direction. I began to think "Oh no, we are in trouble. She is going to tell us we have to leave." Instead, the exact opposite happened! She said, "I just wanted to tell you guys that I think what you are doing is so cool! Can I take a picture of y'all to put on our Instagram page." We’ve had many encouraging moments like that this semester where it was evident that RUF has a growing presence at IUP.

During our first two weeks of outreach, we got contact information from over 125 students who were interested in hearing about RUF events and gained around 150 new followers on our Instagram account. While social media presence is certainly not a measure of ministry success, it is an important tool for outreach and communication in campus ministry today. As new students we never met before showed up at our events, I would ask: “how did you hear about RUF or this event?” Often the answer would be “Instagram.”

Praise God for his favor in our outreach and the increasing fruitfulness at IUP even in these challenging times.

Discussing the Stories Jesus Told

As we have had increasing connections with students on campus, it has resulted in more opportunities to get the Word of God into their lives. Last year after outreach, three students showed up at our first bible study. However, this year we had nine! This semester we’ve been studying the parables of Jesus and often our discussions have been so lively that I’ve had to cut the conversation short in order to end on time.

However, these open discussions have set the stage for further opportunities for discipleship. Recently we looked at the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31. Many students were challenged by this parable's claim that if someone does not believe the Scriptures, even a person coming back from the dead will not convince of them the truth of the gospel. Since our discussion on that parable, I’ve have many opportunities to dialog one on one with students about why the Bible is trustworthy and reliable when it comes to answering life’s biggest questions.

Prayer Requests

Pray for Students

It is such a privilege to study the Scriptures with students, especially when they are reading them for the very first time. I was reading the gospel of John with one student recently and he asked me: "Why is Jesus called the lamb of God?" His honest question provided a wonderful opportunity to explain the person and work of Christ.

Please pray for students who I am regularly having conversations like these with. Pray the LORD might work through his Word and that they might be persuaded that these words are truly from God. Pray that they might also understand how the Scriptures bear witness to Jesus Christ and that they might trust in him for salvation.

Pray for Resurrection Indiana (PCA)

Another encouraging aspect of this semester has been increased student attendance at the church plant we are partnered with. We've resumed more official monthly "preview" services at the YMCA but have also gathered each Sunday for bible study, fellowship, and food in a less formal capacity in our backyard! Nonetheless, this has been a challenging season to connect with families and to cultivate new relationships. Pray that the LORD might continue to add to our number and grow His Church in Indiana.

Pray for Oliver, Kim, Emilia, & Julia

We've definitely had a busy and unusual year with adding another little one to our family in the midst of the pandemic. Pray we might have patience and energy to both love our daughters well and serve in the ministries that God has called us to. We are also thankful for how the LORD has provided for us so far but we do need to raise further support. Please continue to pray for our financial provision.

"I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance." Phil 1:19

Thank you again for all your support and prayers! You help make this ministry to students possible! 

A Season of Change

July/August 2020 Update

As with the rest of the country, the circumstances at IUP and Indiana have been rapidly changing over the past two months. As soon as we begin to make plans, another change comes our way! Just last week, IUP announced that they will only be holding in-person classes for incoming freshman this fall. While there was wisdom to that decision, its last minute nature was frustrating for upperclassmen. As I’ve reached out to many of them, they are wrestling with the decision to stay at home or to move into apartments they have already leased. There is much disappointment and anger in the air.

Though it can be frustrating that the LORD has put us in such a season of uncertainty, it is an opportunity for creativity and growth. God is at work, even as we have to change plans on the fly or wear masks as we discuss Scripture and pray for students.

I've seen this many times as I've been strategizing for the fall and inviting input from our students. One student decided on her own to write out all of her ideas for the fall semester and suggested we create a document online where everyone could brainstorm. Another student reached out to me out of the blue asking about Resurrection Indiana and wanted to volunteer to run sound once we start meeting again for services. On my end, I've been trying out new ways of connecting with incoming freshman through social media and have had some fruitful conversations as a result.

Most recently, I’ve been going on walks around campus with two students (pictured above) who are in Indiana over the summer. As we've discussed plans and prayed together, I have been floored by their creativity and their excitement for the fall. One of them told me: “We’ve been equipped and now it is time for us to start reaching students too.” This wasn't mere talk: this student has already been inviting incoming freshman from the area to RUF!

Praise God with us for how He is still at work in the hearts of students in this difficult season!

"RUF is a family that helped me through my loneliest and hardest transition in life."

Another last minute change was the cancelation of the student organization fair normally held at the beginning of the year. However, IUP's Council on Spiritual & Religious Life, of which I am a member, was given a few slots during orientation to share about spiritual & religious life at IUP. I suggested that we each make a short video clip about our ministries to show during the orientation. As I set to work on RUF's clip, I reached out to students and asked them for a quick answer to the question "What is RUF?" Not only did their answers make for a great video but I was encouraged by them. I was particularly struck by one student who said "RUF is a family that helped me through my loneliest and hardest transition in life.” Hear more from our students in the video above!

Further Prayer Requests

Pray for freshman outreach

Though some guidelines have been made known, there is a lot of uncertainty still about what outreach will actually look like this fall. When we set up our table in the Oak Grove on the first day of classes, will students even stop to talk with us and hear about RUF? When we play volleyball and basketball in the campus quad, will that still be an opportunity to connect with freshman?

The U in RUF means we want to serve IUP. Observing COVID guidelines and protocol will be important in this respect. But we are still called to reach students for Christ and equip them to serve. Pray for the Lord’s favor on us, that we would be bold and wise, as shrewd as serpents and gentle as doves in how we reach out to students (Matt 10:16). Pray for us especially now as freshmen begin to move in this weekend! Pray overall that the LORD would surprise us with how many new students we are still able to connect with even with these restrictions.

Pray for the sanctification of our students

Though we may not be able to gather new students as easily as we could in a normal semester, this semester could be an opportunity to more intentionally disciple our core group of students returning from last year. Pray they might grow in both their biblical theological understanding and their character this semester. Pray especially for Elliot and Rain, two students who have gone through our bible study leader training and will be apprenticing this semester with the goal of leading a study on their own in the Spring or next Fall.

Thank you for all your support and prayers!! We love you guys! -Kim, Emilia, Julia, and Oliver

May/June 2020 Update

What a difficult past couple of weeks we’ve all been through! As our attention has been drawn to all that is going on nationally and globally, we’ve been thinking of and praying for many of you all. In light of these challenging times, I’m glad I can start off this update with some good news! Our daughter, Julia Abigail Pierce, was born on June 4th at 12:48pm. Today was her due date but she wanted to show up a few days early! We are praising God for a great delivery and healthy baby and mom! Thank you for your prayers and celebration with us.

Summer RUF: Theology Thursdays

We continued, as usually as we could, to reach and equip students online for the rest of the semester. Many of us struggled with some Zoom fatigue as the semester wrapped up in May. However, our spirits had a reboot when another RUF campus minister at WVU reached out to me and a few other campus ministers to suggest partnering together for an online summer event we’ve called Theology Thursdays. We’ve taken seminars that are normally done at RUF summer conference, which was unfortunately canceled due to COVID-19, and set them up online. Students from IUP, WVU, Rowan, and even Bogota National University in Columbia have joined us each Thursday to learn together! In a time where people have been weary of video calls and social distancing, it was particularly refreshing to have some fellowship in Christ even with students in a different hemisphere!

For the past three weeks, we’ve had two four week long seminars running, one on Biblical worldview and another on the authority of Scripture. After that we will begin a two week series and I will be teaching one on anxiety and depression. We have been encouraged by the seminars so far and especially by all the great questions students have been asking.

Students and the Headlines

Though the news headlines have often seemed far away from day to day life in the tiny town of Indiana, PA, I have continued to hear how our students are being affected by all that is going on back home. One student was working in a retirement home that had several COVID cases and sadly a few deaths. Another student who was back home in Philadelphia working at a grocery store was transferred because it was looted in the riots.

An African American student who has attended RUF events occasionally this semester reached out to me asking me what I thought about all the protesting and rioting. I lamented with her the havoc our sin has wrecked upon the world and affirmed the call to pray and work for a society in which we increasingly heed the call "to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with (our) God" (Micah 6:8). My words were well-received and we had an encouraging conversation.

Please pray for wisdom for the many moments like this where I have opportunities to bring the truth of Scripture to bear on the national and global issues that students are wrestling with. Pray at the same time we might keep the focus of our ministry on Jesus Christ and the hope of the gospel. Jesus is the ultimate hope for the prejudice every heart is prone to, “for he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility” (Eph 2:14).

Further Prayer Requests

Pray for Fall Plans and Freshman Outreach

As the fall semester gets closer, I am excited at the prospect of seeing students in person again. IUP recently announced that they will be meeting in-person in the fall yet with many social distancing policies in place. Pennsylvania has moved into its more open "green" phase and that has increased my hope of fruitful ministry in the fall. Soon we will be having planning meetings this summer and I’m excited to have some of our students involved with our outreach! However, I am anticipating this semester may not be a typical semester. As we have learned this year, we "do not know what a day may bring” (Pr 27:1).

Please continue to pray that this virus would die out and not resurface during the fall, especially in a way that might hinder our mission to reach and equip students. Pray for wisdom for us and our students who will be involved with outreach, particularly for creative ways to still connect with students while staying safe.

Pray for Resurrection Indiana

A unique aspect of my call to start RUF at IUP is I am also closely partnered with Resurrection Indiana, a PCA church plant. Resurrection was set to launch monthly services mid-March at the YMCA when the shutdown began. I have been encouraged by how the church planter, David Schweissing, has innovated and continued to connect with the Indiana community through online trivia nights, book clubs, and even a night of painting instruction from a local artist. However, it is undeniable that the shutdown was a setback for the church plant. Our family longs to have a more normal Sunday worship gathering and a more established Church community here. We still trust the LORD is at work and can accomplish these things in his timing but we know this may continue to be a time requiring prayerful perseverance.

Pray that the LORD might work beyond what we can ask or imagine in these challenging circumstances. Pray that non-Christians we are continuing to build relationships with might repent and believe the gospel! Pray that our love for the lost of this community in particular might continue to grow. Pray we also might find rest in God ourselves as we bear the burdens of others. Pray for the LORD to send other Christian families and individuals to labor in the harvest with us since there are so many who are harassed and helpless.