What’s the Episcopal Church doing on today’s college campus?
Would you rank campus ministry among the top ten essential programs of the Episcopal Church?
No? And why not?
Where do you think it fits among our church’s ministries and programs?
If you aren’t quite sure, you are certainly not alone. The problem is, as a church I think we don’t quite know what to think about ministry to university students on campus settings.
Campus ministry is not service in the way we usually think of service: feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, or visiting the sick. It is not a defining part of our liturgy, music or tradition. Many of us adults in the church may have had the common experience of attending a Cursillo weekend, but few of us probably share a common experience of participating in Episcopal campus ministry programs during college. One might wonder what it is that Episcopal campus ministries actually do and why are they funded (and by whom)? Why should we provide services to college students? What benefit does it really give them? How does it build up the Body of Christ?
My own memories of campus ministry go back to the early ’70’s when I was a freshman at Florida State University living in an all girls dorm. I had grown up in the Presbyterian church but it was First Baptist that sent a bus to campus on Sunday morning and evening, rounding up those of us who lacked transportation to get to church. There was worship, there was food, and there was a college age choir of 70-80 students. That fall we rehearsed and performed “Celebrate Life,” a hip-and-happenin’ musical based on the life of Jesus. It was glorious.
Did this change my experience of college life? Yes. It made a difference. It mattered.
And that is what campus ministry can and should be doing.
The following is from the Florida United Methodist Campus Ministries website:
How Important is Campus Ministry? Consider these statistics:
- The current generation of college students is the largest since the Baby Boom, but the lowest percentage to grow up in church.
- Approximately 80% of college students have never had significant Church experience.
- More significant life choices (vocation, lifestyle, relationships, spiritual) are made during college than any other stage of life.
- 90% of students who have grown up in the church may never return after graduation.
In the weeks to come, I will be exploring campus ministry in this blog, trying in particular to see what “best practices” are being done and specifically looking at programs like intentional communities and peer ministry. What is it that is working and why? I’m also gathering resources on the Campus Ministry Resources page of this blog: if you can suggest items to add, please let me know.
I invite you to come along for the journey. I think it will be an interesting trip.
In what ways has campus ministry made a difference for you or someone in your family? I’d love to hear from you!