Blog

Look at the challenges these chaplains and ministries face, the questions they are asking, and the opportunities they pursue. Do you see the similarities to what your local congregation is trying to do?

January 24, 2017 1 0 comments
Blog

In working with congregations in the area of campus ministry, I've encountered a few myths along the way. Here are 3 of the myths along with some suggestions for changing them into helpful stories. 

November 29, 2016 1 0 comments
Discussion Topic

A friend and colleague recently noticed that the faith and campus life resources I shared were all written by men. Thankful for her observation, I want to share some great resources written by women.

October 25, 2016 0 0 comments
Blog

As we send off our students, it's a great time to talk about what makes a good church and about the importance of being part of a worshipping community, even if it will be temporary.

August 28, 2016 1 0 comments
Discussion Topic

One thing these books have in common is that they're being read by students. Have you read any of them? If so, what would you recommend? Are there any I missed?  

August 27, 2016 1 3 comments
Discussion Topic

It is easy for a local congregations and classes to see campus ministry as a stand-alone ministry. As such, it is often viewed not as a partner, but a project. How can we change this perception?

May 19, 2016 0 0 comments
Blog

In 2015 we celebrated 75 years of ministry! At our annual conference we spent time celebrating the past, looking at learning from the present and imagining the future.

February 3, 2016 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

It is hard not to be involved in a conversation these days about young adults or campus ministry without hearing the question “how do we keep our young adults in the church?”

February 3, 2016 0 0 comments
Blog

People sometimes talk about how universities are hostile places for Christians and how they lead people away from faith. Yet, I think this idea of universities being anti-Christian is too simplistic...

July 13, 2015 0 6 comments
Blog

A recent article notes that depression is common on university campuses. The sub-title is that graduate students are more at risk.

June 17, 2015 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

Are CRC campus ministers mostly folks who stand in the gap between high school faith and adult faith for Christian students, encouraging them to articulate a coherent world and life view?

April 25, 2014 0 1 comments
Discussion Topic

Hi all,

Here's a presentation I gave a couple of weeks ago at River Terrace Church on the way in which science and faith can interact with one another and how this should affect our life.

http://vimeo.com/38270549

I would love feedback from other campus ministers - does this...

March 13, 2012 0 3 comments
Discussion Topic

Here is a great article by Shiao Chong, campus minister at York University on how to grow your faith while on a secular campus. Chong looks first at ways in which your faith can "bleed out" on campus and then offers excellent insight and advice, honed from experience, on how to build your faith...

September 8, 2011 0 0 comments
Q&A

Our board is researching its role in the ministry, and we're wondering: what does your board "look like"? What is its structure? How does it function? What roles does it assume? How does your board handle fundraising?

 

Whatever information you'd like to share, we're listening!

May 18, 2011 0 1 comments
Discussion Topic

"You were never their age!" This advice was given to me when I first started in university ministry. It was a reminder that the students I was working with came from a whole different set of experiences than mine, and were faced with a very different world. I couldn't assume to understand them...

February 1, 2011 0 2 comments
Q&A

One of the things that has surprised me these last couple of months is the wide variety of space limitations that we face as campus ministries. For instance, here at MSU, in order to host any event on campus, we first needed to gain recognition as a Registered Student Organization (a process...

January 4, 2011 0 8 comments
Discussion Topic

Stanley Hauerwas has written an excellent article on being a Christian student at university. His article, "Go with God" is available here and is an excellent read for any current university student, or for seniors in high school getting ready for higher education. It is also an excellent...

November 3, 2010 0 2 comments
Discussion Topic

At a recent Bible Study, we were discussing what it means that Christ  'set me free from the tyranny of the devil' (Heidelberg Catechism Q/A #1). The discussion turned to the relentless pursuit of knowledge that many students face. For those who profess a naturalistic worldview, we can never...

September 16, 2010 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

Here’s an excerpt from an article by Eboo Patel, published in the September-October 2010 issues of Sojourners magazine. Patel, a Muslim, is founder of the Interfaith Youth Core and author of Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation.

“......

August 26, 2010 0 0 comments
Q&A

As a newcomer to the world of campus ministry, both personally and as an organization, the sheer scope of campus ministry can be overwhelming. Our ministry, Campus Edge Fellowship, works with graduate students and faculty of Michigan State University. Where does one begin? The University is home...

July 21, 2010 0 1 comments
Discussion Topic

Did you know that the Christian Reformed Church has been active in campus ministry since the 1930's? What started then at the University of Michigan has grown and now includes over 30 campuses across North America. Summed up by the phrase "Whole Gospel, Whole Campus, Whole Life", campus ministry...

July 19, 2010 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic
Are you heading off to college this year? Or perhaps you have a daughter or son who is leaving home for university. Here in this forum, we can help! You can post your questions here and we'll do our best as a network community to help you on your journey. To get things started, check out the '...
July 19, 2010 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic
Hello, One prevalent problem in our churches is disappearance of people from age 18 to 30. Even the most active youth group kids seem to go away to college and virtually disappear off of the congregations radar. There are many possible reasons why this, but chief among them has to be that when...
July 14, 2010 0 1 comments
RSS

Great question, Virginia. I'd love to hear what others recommend.

A book I JUST heard about is called A Woman's Place: A Christian Vision for Your Calling in the Office, the Home, and the World. I listened to a podcast interview with the author and it sounds like a very interesting book (drawing quite a bit from her own experience). Per the description, the book encourages all women to explore their calling (in a way that glorifies God) whether that be "caring for children, running a home, business, or working full-time." 

I like every one of these books you suggest, Mark.  But we've got to keep our eyes open for a female's perspective on these things.  Don't any Christian women write books and blogs about faith and life at the university?

 

I would add a good set of favorite blogs. Subscribe in your inbox, follow on social media, whatever is going to keep it in your attention. My three top recommendations for campus ministry-minded folks:

ThinkChristian (http://ThinkChristian.reframemedia.com) - think pieces on all things culture-related. Movie reviews, social commentary, etc. 

The Twelve (http://blog.perspectivesjournal.org) - daily blog with a rotation of twelve writers. Sometimes devotional in nature, sometimes responding to current events, sometimes taking a look at an overlooked chapter of history. Has often been a way of introducing me to something I would otherwise not have known about.

inAllThings (http://www.inallthings.org). A new blog run out of Dordt College, addresses a range of topics from the Reformed perspective.

 

Blogs like these three can be a great way to start thinking about a topic or to be able to pass something along to students.

Thanks again for your thoughts on faith formation in the college/university setting.  If I understand you, Brenda, you seem to be discounting a nominal faith relationship (Christianity in name alone) and questioning the depth of commitment that is made to Christ, whether in the secular college/university or in a Christian college/university setting.  Individuals can believe in the tenets of Christianity (whether the Apostles’ Creed or the Heidelberg Catechism) without having a full and life changing commitment to the God of those creeds and confessions.

If people do turn to Christ in the public university, it is not likely due to the academic program of the school, but rather to the extra curricular Christian programs on campus, especially programs or groups that are evangelistic in nature.  Those are the programs (extra-curricular Christian groups) that are not logic or reason based but faith based.  These are the kind of programs (groups) that stress making a commitment to Christ.  Whereas many of the faith based programs of Christian colleges are knowledge based (faith based knowledge) and do not focus on making a commitment to God but on the faith-based content of the Christian religion (Christian Doctrine 101, 102, 103, and 104).   

But, of course, it might be reasonable to question the enduring quality of a faith that is extreme in the short term but has little endurance because it lacks in content.  Maybe it’s the church that is supposed to promote both faith-based knowledge, as well as faith-based commitment.  But, of course, the church doesn’t operate well if it wants to offer an education in academia.  I’d still opt for a secular academic education and find a good church to attend while pursuing your education. Thanks, again, Brenda for a thoughtful article and comments.

 I attended public universities because they were closer to home than Redeemer or Calvin would have been and also the tuition fees were a lot cheaper.  Since I was depending on loans and grants to finance my way through school the difference was not trivial.  Since I was 26 at the time I began to attend the University of Montreal, my personality was pretty much defined already.  Maybe it's not a great loss if the kids who turn away from "Christianity" are actually turning away from a feel-good version of Christianity, as long as they eventually turn to the real thing, but we don't know that they will, right?

Public universities didn't cause me to lose my faith, and they don't have to have that effect on people, so I'm not saying they're better or worse than Christian institutions. It depends on the individual.  While I was attending the University of Sherbrooke and living on campus I attended IVCF meetings as well as services led by a local Presbyterian minister, which just goes to show that if you want to keep in shape spiritually there are ways of doing it, and no one is on their own unless they want to be.  At least in Canada. 

 

 

Thanks for the comments. I have to admit that I'm not sure what's best in terms of attending a Christian college or a public university. I went to a Christian college (Redeemer), and it was very formative for my faith and for who I am as a person. I don't know how well I would have done at a public university, although looking at the campus ministries of my colleagues in Ontario, I think I would have received very good care and formation in the faith.

The question I'm raising here is less whether public university or Christian university is better. I think that has a lot to do with each person's situation and what people make of either experience.

My point, instead, is that I do not believe public universities can be seen as a primary cause for people losing faith. Yes, people do turn away from Christianity at public universities. But I have 2 points to reiterate in response:

1. Sometimes they are not turning away from Christianity, so much as they are turning away from a belief that "Jesus makes me a good person and makes me feel happy, peaceful, safe, etc." Such a a belief is what Christian Smith calls moral therapeutic deism and is not actually Christianity. Our culture and our churches and our ways of doing belief seem to encourage significant number of young people (and their parents from whom they learned it!) to choose this "feel good but doesn't cost much" kind of religion, instead of Christianity. Those ministering at both Christian and public universities encounter this kind of belief and are doing their best to challenge and disciple people in the context they are in.

2. As much as I would agree that more people probably turn away from Christianity (however you might define it) at a public university than at Christian universities, I am fairly certain that many more people convert to Christianity at public universities than at Christian colleges.

When we talk about public universities, we Christians (especially Christian Reformed folk who focus on the importanceof Christian education) tend to focus on negatives.  My question for us, though, is whether we focus so much on keeping "our folks" safe that we have forgotten about how the gospel can and is being shared with those who might be open to new ideas.

Thanks Brenda for your article that asks if a secular education contributes to the erosion of Christian faith.  From both Bill and Michelle’s comments, there are different ways to look at the possible problem of secularism’s impact on Christian faith, as well as the solutions.  I don’t know the figures, as to how many are losing faith in a secular education system, but I would venture to say that many more fall by the wayside in secular colleges than in Christian colleges. But of course there is a different approach to education in these two kinds of colleges.  Christian colleges insulate the Christian perspective or philosophy and the secular college challenges it.  In the secular setting, if Christianity (or any religion) doesn’t stand up to a logical scrutiny, a reasonable explanation of facts, then it is questioned.  If the tenets of the Christian faith cannot stand on their own in making logical sense, then they will find little room in a logical educational system.  Much of education has to do with applying reason and logic to any given topic or discipline.  Christianity (as well as other religions) often fall short on that front.  That is why Biblical creation is never taught in a secular college or university.  Christians may believe in Biblical creation but such a view is less than logical.  Instead of fact based, it is faith based.

As Michelle suggested, a wall of protection might be helpful in protecting faith’s erosion.  That’s what Christian education tends to do, it’s a shelter against non Christian thinking.  But I don’t know if living a sheltered life is an honest approach to what secular education has to offer.  I don’t think that secular education is as much against Christianity (or any religion) as it is for a logical approach to life and living.  Miracle based religion does not resonate in a logic based educational system.  Christian higher education tries to maintain both (logic and faith in the illogical) even though the two are not a good fit.

So I agree with Brenda, that secular higher education is not, so much, against Christianity as it is for logic and reason.  And perhaps that is the strength of a university education. But only the strong and sheltered survive.

As a practicing Christian I attended two different universities and neither weakened my faith. But before I got there I had attended Bible studies at church for quite a few years and read extensively.  So attending university or college is not necessarily a grave-digger for Christian faith as long as people prepare for it spiritually. Especially institutions that are not Christians.  Because unbelieving faculty and classmates will challenge you, and kids who don't prepare for it are foolish.  I only attended a religious private school for one year after which I was switched to the public sector because I was too slow to keep up with the others, so I never experienced the sort of greenhouse environment that kids who get all their primary and high school education in Christian schools do, and I suspect those kids tend to rest on their spiritual laurels. Or they try to ride on their parents' coattails.  The problem with that is when you're away from home--and possibly a significant distance away--for a long time, the landing can be quite rough.

That would explain why some kids lose their faith at universities, but such a tragic event is entirely preventable if parents ask their kids why they believe what they believe if the kids don't know enough to do the work of preparing for those challenges themselves.  It is a fairly spread out belief now based on research that people's brains don't reach their full maturity until age 25, and the last part of the brain to reach that maturity is the part that can visualize the consequences of one's choices and plan ahead.  Since most kids that go to college leave home around age 18, that means most of them have not yet reached that maturity....By the way, when I started my first B.A. I was 26.

Agree 100% - especially since I became "reformed." If God is the ultimate determiner of regeneration/reprobation then the "Christian" concept of evangelism and some of our prayers is defective. We need to learn the difference between our will and God's. We don't know God's . . . everything that happens is God's will in the long run? 

 

There was a time when CRC campus chaplains were seen as on-campus babysitters for our tender CRC teens who headed off to college or university. It was quickly discovered that the vast majority of CRC freshmen on the 'secular' campus simply wanted to discover life, perhaps even skip worship, and not become immediately connected to the campus chaplain's office.

Today's campus chaplain is, firstly, a Christian presence on campus for the broadly ecumenical student body. The campus chaplain's office is the place where students (re)discover their spiritual identity and become engaged in meaningful discussions as they try to connect their Sunday faith with their university campus setting.

You pose the question: Are CRC campus chaplains mostly ministers to Christians on campus or mostly evangelists on campus? The answer is Yes!  ;o)

I think that chaplains provide a nurturing environment for Christian students who want to continue to grow in the faith but they also provide a nurturing environment for not-yet Christian students who are searching their own spiritual direction.

Should chaplains be sidewalk evangelists on our university campuses? I certainly hope not. That's not our Reformed style.

Students expect to become engaged in an intellectual discourse ... whether it's their area of academic interest or their own spiritual journey.

I suspect that the campus minister's life is a very lonely one. It is my hope and prayer that he or she has a strong support group within the local church communities and among clergy peers.

Hi, you might read and respond to my book, Doubtbusters! God Is My Shrink! which touches on your discussion and provides unusual reasons for the priority of the Bible in looking at God's universe.  Retired CRC pastor Bruce Leiter. 

There is something to be said for the opinion that "The issue is truth vs falsehood, good vs evil."  Centuries ago they were asking, Is it true or false that the earth is spherical?  Is it true or false that the earth revolves around the sun?  Today we are asking, Is it true or false that the universe is 15 billion years old?  Is it true or false that the human race can be traced back about 160,000 years to a single female living in a larger clan?  Is it true or false that humans have animal ancestors?

If the answer to these questions is Yes, then there will have to be a lot of rethinking of our theology and of our way of understanding Genesis.

I'm not a campus minister.  But I have attended both secular and Christian campuses as a student.  I've obtained degrees in both the ARTS and in Science.   So maybe you will accept some of my comments.  I appreciate your attempt to create peace between scientists and the religious.   It might work for some.   But I would suggest that until people realize that the conflict is not really between science and faith, they will continue to have the wrong kinds of conflict.   The real conflict is between good and evil, between truth and falsehood, between seeking the supremacy of God vs the supremacy of man.   The conflict is really in essence today not between science and faith, but between random never-ending evolution and God's hand in creation.   The conflict is between a materialistic world view and a world view that allows the concept of God to intervene. 

Whether scripture is read as poetry or as literal events depends not first of all on science, but mostly on world-view.   Even the idea that the struggle is between faith and science is one that is encouraged by those who want to discredit faith, while Satan knows full well that both science and scripture have been used illegitimately to promote lies and falsehoods.   Today, the sun still rises in the east and sets in the west, even though we know that the earth cycles around the sun.   It is difficult to separate the literal from the figurative in this case, since our physical worldview sees the rising of the sun daily, and the cycling only through repeated observations and calculations.  Therefore the figurative explanation does not contradict what we know to be true.   We don't really know what the sky looked like before the flood, at a time when there was not yet any rain on the earth.  It is difficult to imagine the impacts of the global flood upon the earth, or the circumstances that accompanied it.  

The evolutionary worldview can only see or be comfortable in a particular parameter of scientific examination;  mostly this is because for evolutionary scientists, any question of intervention by God is a non-scientific question and thus ineligible in the discussion.   In addition, for many (not all)evolutionary scientists, their scientific approach which relegates God to irrelevance, has made even a belief in God absolute anathema, and thus their scientific objections to non-evolutionary approaches are in reality religious objections, not scientific objections.   Their objections to alternative explanations become emotional rather than scientific, because they have too much psychologically invested in their evolutionary atheism. 

It is not science vs faith.   Science leads to better crops, better machinery, micro-wave ovens, trains and planes, and the internet.   None of this is against faith.   The issue is truth vs falsehood, good vs evil, God vs Satan, the relevance of God vs the irrelevance of a god. 

Our Board is explicitly an oversight Board, with each member having a particular role. We have 10 members of the Board (down from 12 a couple years ago): Chair, Secretary, Treasurer, 2 students, 2 staff support persons, a representative from the Classis, and our 2 (non-voting) staff. To be a member, we have 3 categories: representative from London (the city where the campuses are), 2 from Classis, and 2 at large (usually non-CRC members and usually faculty from the campuses). Terms are 3 years, 2 terms max. The main tasks of the Board, besides oversight/support of the staff and the campus ministry vision, are maintaining the Budget and completing reports for Classis and CRHM.

Hi Ken,

Ron doesn't lead a church, but rather is the campus pastor at Western Michigan University. Ron's fruitful ministry there focuses primarily, though not exclusively, on working with international students. As someone immersed in the university culture, he is a keen observer of young adults and would be a good resource if you have questions.

 

Mark

Hi Mark, Good article on youth. How many kids are are in his church. Thanks

Ken

Our Halifax/Dalhousie University context is different and maybe unique.  Since it's beginning our CRC chaplain has been an official  "Dalhousie chaplain" sharing space in the University building --- university provided office space, some admin assistance, phone, copier, internet, etc.  It has changed from the University's Chaplaincy Office to a Multi-faith centre.  So, it does give us a presence on campus. Brad participates in semester-beginning student service events.  There are still challenges of being recognized in more informal and important ways and boundaries to our engagement of the campus (e.g., a brochure in the Multifaith Centre alerts students to "aggressive" religious groups). 

The annual fall lecture series has been important in connecting with various departments, depending on the substantive area of the lecture series.  And, the ties to All Nations Church for fellowship has been important to both the church and the campus ministry.  We look forward to sharing with you the dynamics of this campus ministry model at the annual cma conference in Halifax this Spring.

Hi Kory,

Student Services and the Student Federation both assign office spaces (for the year) based on a qualitative set of criterias that only they are privy to. We can guess (and when we ask) what some of those criterias are: group membership size, how active the club is over the past year, the lack of violations of rules the club has, and then the really fuzzy parts - the types of events and programs and activities the club held, and how the club is perceived to have contributed to the university community as a whole. Of course, you have to apply for an office space - non-applicants are not considered. They look at the whole set of criterias and decide among the applicants. What criteria might have a bigger value is anyone's guess. It's very subjective, let's say. And not up for debate.

With Grad students, Kory, you might also consider if some of them have homes too that can host a gathering or two. One of my student leaders 3 years ago was a grad student who chose to host a dinner and a movie discussion night. it was way off campus, but it became an outing - a special event - for us. People car pooled, some traveled on bus together, etc.

If you can get people into your home/off campus and that works, I think that's great. Location is only a means to community. If you can build community off campus, that's still great. I want to encourage you in that. It seems very hard for me to get students to off-campus at York. The only times it really worked was when a student, like my grad student did, was hosting and people came because they were her friends and knew her, and we organized transportation. And it was a one-time, or occassional event. Regular weekly off-campus meetings is poorly attended.

I have been tabling this first week back at York. Tabling means I book a table and have a promotional display with literature and brochures to promote myself and the club. There's designated areas where clubs can do this on campus and we can book a table online with Student Services at least 5 business days in advance. It's another way to build your presence.

I want to encourage you about plugging along with student services - also with the Religious Advisor's Association. We just recently, a few months ago, established a Multi-Faith Advisory Council composed mainly of religious staffs/clergy, similar to your RAA at York. Although the mandate might be a bit different than yours but it is the first time in my 10 years now at York that Student Services had asked religious staffs or clergy like myself to be more involved rather than less. There is an Inter-Faith Council that is the collection of all the religious groups on campus which is very bureacratic, etc. When I first came to campus, I got involved in it - every group sends a representative - and the initial attitude/policy was that they would rather deal with students. It was supposed to be a student-run/led council and it was student clubs that student services were interested in, etc. blah, blah. But I hung in there. There already was a Catholic priest on campus and his lay assistants. His assistant was the one who attended the Inter-Faith Council meetings.

But as I said, I hung in there, contributed positively whenever I can/allowed, always be a helpful resource and servant to the group and to student services. Over time, more and more clergy like me or staffs (IVCF and Campus Crusade) started attending these meetings. Also, over time, student services started seeing the value or benefits of clergy like me in helping organizing multi-faith events, etc. I always try to bend over backwards whenever Student Services or any university department asks me for a favor or help. For instance, Virginia Tech Memorial Service - I volunteered to help out. Haiti earthquake Prayer virgil - again I volunteered to organize it. These were calls from Student Services and the student federation, not from religious groups, but calls to religious groups for help. And almost always, it is the clergy, not the students, who answer these calls not because we care more but because we are more available than busy students, and we are also better equipped to do this than untrained students. 

Does your RAA have Student Services representatives on board? Our Inter-Faith Council is supervised by student services, so there's always at least one student service staff there. That's also how I build relationships and connections with them. Once in a while, where appropriate, I even have lunch with them and just chat as friends. 

In fact, tonight, as another example of relationship building - after I sign off here - I will compose a letter of support for a grant application to build/renovate wheelchair access at the religious chapel at York. This morning, the Student Services staff in charge of the Inter-Faith Council and the newly formed Multi-Faith Advisory Council found me at my table and asked a favor - he just found out that the grant application requires letters of support from groups using/connected to the space and they need it by tomorrow! Of course, I said, No problem! He will get the letter of support in his inbox tomorrow morning so that the grant will go through and hopefully, the chapel will have better wheelchair access! But notice that he came to me in person, because he knew I was tabling today and where I was, and he asked me first for a favor with tight deadline. I'm not bragging, but I'm saying, when relationships are built - there's trust and people believe they can count on you and believe me, they will return favors to you as well when you need one from them.

So, this is all a long comment to encourage you Kory. Keep at it! God's kingdom is like a mustard seed. It grows slowly.

Thanks, everyone, for your insights. I'd love to hear more experiences from others.

I continue to learn more about the ways in which everything works here. Residence hall staff are funded by fees of that hall's residents, so student groups have to pay for the use of residence hall lounges and conference rooms. Classroom space is free for anybody to use as long as the building is scheduled to be open at that time. There is the alumni chapel on campus, but it is mostly used for die hard Spartans who wish to hold their wedding on campus. We plan to rent it out for our large group worship services (starting the end of this month) but, as best I can tell, no other student group uses the chapel regularly.

I'm curious, Shiao, how the administration decides who gets to use office space. Is it primarily first-come/first-served?

I appreciate everybody's insights about getting to know the administration. I am doing my best to do so, but this too is hindered by the fact that as an MSU affiliate (my official title on my MSU ID) I am allowed to be an advisor to a student organization but according to MSU rules, should technically not have any official "power" over the organization. Thus, student life doesn't necessarily want to have a lot to do with the campus ministers who work with the organizations. We do have the Religious Advisor's Association, which is the "official" channel for connecting with the campus. I have found them helpful to connect with but more or less bureaucratic when trying to connect with the university.

Because of our focus on graduate students, faculty, and staff, we have opted for hosting most of our events off campus. Bible study is at my apartment, prayer groups are at River Terrace Church, dinners are also at RTC. Our large group worship will be in the chapel and we're starting another Bible Study, hopefully to be held in one of the classrooms on campus.

To be honest, this has been one of the most unexpected struggles in these early months. I look forward to hearing more ideas and experiences.

Kory,

This is I think a constant dynamic in Campus Ministry. Having physical space does give you a sense of belonging to the community, though ultimately this is really established and kept through relationships rather than occupying a physical space. The plus side of not having a physical space is it does force one out into the campus, to be a sojourner if you will, rather than someone who waits for others to come. That being said, some sort of physical space is needed if one is to gather a community and it does help if you can count on this being the same space each time. In starting out, I'd focus first on building relationships within the admin community (i.e. Student Life as mentioned by Chong), try to secure a community meeting space second and worry about any sort of office space third, if at all. I'd make my "office" in key strategic meeting places on campus that would allow me to regularly interact with students, staff and faculty. Loitering with intent can enable you to build some key strategic relationships with people and establish you as a faithful and visible presence on campus. 

You might also want to chat with Brad Close in Halifax about his experiences there. The multi-faith team there has a house on campus that until recently was shared with other services. The university has begun to see the multi-faith team as strategic in their recruiting and retaining international students and so has begun to make it more of a priority. As a result, the whole house is being renovated to better serve the multi-faith team and their activities. This has come about, however, through Brad's commitment to building relationships within the administrative community over several years. 

Hi Kory,

My campus ministry is at York U in Toronto, Canada. I have a very similar situation as you - my ministry has to be a recognized student organization with Student Services, constitutions, etc. We have our meetings by booking seminar rooms/classrooms/meeting rooms through student services.

One difference though is that as a student group, I can apply for an office space on campus. This is a competition basis for limited spaces. There's over 250 student groups and very limited office spaces. Thankfully, as a religious group, there are 10 office spaces (5 shared rooms) around the chapel that are dedicated to only religious groups, which are over 30 currently at York. I have one of these offices. But every year, I have to re-apply without guarantee of getting it back. I have to vacate the office during the summer months and if re-assigned to an office, move back in the Fall.

I still would prefer this arrangment than being off-campus. For all the reasons you noted already - it's important to be part of the community. Now, my office space is very administratively functional. That's how they built the space - a few chairs with a table/work station, and a cabinet for storage. The other half of the office is a mirror image, occupied by another group. So, it's not really set up for ministry but for administrative work.

But, it's a place to hang my hat. Location-wise, the office is central and accessible, but not visible. It's tucked away in a corner with no good visible signage. The university partly couldn't care to advertize the chapel. So, it's a good and bad situation. It's central but you wouldn't get lots of walk-ins. People can't easily find you unless they already know it's there.

It's hard to build a presence and it's hard to build community and long-term connections with people. There are other office spaces that are more visible but that's open to competition to all student non-religious groups - so the competition is harder. They are also away from the chapel. So, it's a toss-up. I always struggle with this - do I stick close to the chapel but lose visibility or do I go for more visibility but lose the symbolic (and political) connection to the chapel?

The chapel is supervised by Student Services, which I have taken many years to build up a very good relationship of trust with. The other visible office spaces are run by the Student Federation. Being at the chapel has helped me develop my relationship with Student Services. So, I wonder.

One of the things I am trying to do to build a presence despite the space limitations is to have consistency in meeting places. I don't know about your campus, but very often, it is not easy at York to get the same space/room for your meetings due to stiff competition for meeting spaces by all the other groups. I have chosen this year to go to a less popular location on campus (a little less central) but to have it there, same room, same day, same time, every week as a way to build a "home base". I hope to see if this works in the long term. The fact that it's less popular allowed me to actually book it weekly.

I don't know if any of this sharing of mine helps at all Kory. But you are not alone with this predicament.

What about a Kiosk type structure with portability? This along with with the church office? Just tossing a few ways off the top my head. Thanks for your service. Ken

Ken:

You are right - it certainly saves us a lot of money to have my office located at the church rather than on-campus (for which we are extraordinarily grateful to River Terrace Church).

The difficulty this presents is that I am aways an "outsider" to campus. This manifests itself in a couple of ways. First, it means that it is more difficult for students/faculty/staff to come to me unless they already know who and where I am. Those who do know where I am are less likely to come to me if it means a separate drive over to the church; for those who do not attend River Terrace Church this is even more likely. Now certainly, the easy response to this conundrum is for me to go to the students - but here again I run into the outsider problem, as I am not an organic part of the community into which I am trying to integrate.

Another difficulty this poses for us is a bit of an "identity crisis." As a young ministry (this is our first year), we have very little name recognition on campus. Without a designated campus space associated with Campus Edge Fellowship, it can be difficult to gain. Now, name recognition doesn't come just from being a building - as we build the community of Campus Edge, people will be drawn to it naturally. Yet, I would still argue that it is more difficult to build that community when you don't have one centralized place to call "home."

I certainly don't think that having an office on-campus would magically solve all of these difficulties. Whether you are off-campus or on-campus, challenges will go along with it. I think it is important for campus ministries to think about the limitations, challenges, and freedoms of physical space, as we often find ourselves somewhere between church and parachurch.

Hi Kory,  If the church is across the street, doesn't it save money to have free office space? Would it be more effective to be on campus under the msu rules?

I just would like to hear your personal idea's.

Thanks Ken

Hi Ken,

I'm still thinking about all the implications of the quote from Wilken's that begin's Hauerwas' article. I do think it is a good quote to start with, given where Hauerwas goes in his instructions and encouragement to college students. As you both you and Hauerwas note, there is a need for honest Christian mentors, older Christians who are willing to spend time with college students to encourage them and help them navigate the challenges they face. I know as I do this with students I am around my own faith is deepened and renewed, so it is certainly a two-way street. Thanks for you interest in campus ministry - all of us who work in academic communities covet your prayers.

Hello Mark,

  Thanks for the article. Can't say agree with Wilken, but I love the attention being paid to the college age. We can still be a influence in their lives by remaining or starting to be relational with our faith in every day subjects they face. Sometimes explaining our failings during those years , will give them hope and pause. Be honest our young adults mature faster now and need our support more than our judgement.  Thanks Mark, I know are doing work for Christ and you are blessed.

Welcome on board, Kory! You are the newest member of our Campus Ministry team and the first to post here. I'm going to try shake a few of the experienced campus ministers out of their vacation hammocks to respond, but here are a few of my thoughts.

An open, and seemingly empty calendar at the start can be a scary thing. The best advice I received when starting campus ministry was not to try and fill it up with tasks, but rather to keep open for connecting with people. Campus ministry is all about relationships, so I would recommend taking the time to meet students, faculty and staff and to start networking. Don't overlook people at River Terrace or in your local Classis who may be able to help you connect to those on campus or with an interest in campus ministry. Another thing that a number of campus ministers have found helpful in building partnerships is to join an activity or cause on campus, such as an anti-poverty campaign. This has the advantage of introducing you to a wider network as well as providing the opportunity to offer God's grace and live redemptively in that setting. So for me, the line from E.M. Forster's "Howards End" pretty much sums up the first few months of campus ministry - "Only connect."

Peace,
Mark

This post also appears in the Leadership discussion forum. To keep the conversation together, please add your comments/replies there.