In working with leaders and congregations in the area of campus ministry, one encounters a few myths along the way. If we are to be effective in this area, we need to find ways to put these old myths to rest, and to help our congregation and denomination tell a different story, a story that is about the whole gospel, the whole campus, and whole life. Here are a few of the myths I come across, along with suggestions as to how we might change them into more helpful stories.
Myth #1 – A good campus ministry will attract young adults to our congregation. No, it won’t. At least not in the long term. A good, healthy community that welcomes young adults as full participants will. Focus on building a community that is engaged, and engaging, that is joining God in the neighborhood, and we will no doubt discover young adults wanting to do life together with us.
Myth #2 – The campus is a dark place, antagonistic toward Christianity and a place where people go to lose their faith. Again, false. Marilynne Robinson, in a recent letter to Harper’s Magazine says this sort of assumed hostility has not been something she has experienced. She portrays universities as “great public environments where everyone feels equally welcome.” What is respected is dialogue. When we come thinking the dialogue is one way, because we have the answers others need, then, yes, our we, and any campus ministry we produce, will face antagonism. But then it probably should.
Myth #3 – Campus ministry is all about young adults. Dare I say “Wrong!”? Campus ministry, in a fully-orbed Christian understanding, is about the whole campus, the pursuit of wisdom, the understanding of the world, and the ways in which God is revealed to us in it. Like good church, good campus ministry is intergenerational, and creates ways in which all those who are part of the academy can gather in meaningful community, seeking the good of the institution of which they are a part, and through their vocation, seeking the greater good of the wider community, and to join in the work of God in this world.
No doubt these myths are portrayed in stark terms, and truth is always more nuanced. Still, which of these myths do you see operating in your congregation or region, and how might you tell a new story?