I'm sure this past Christmas you encountered more than one rendition of Do You Hear What I Hear. Originally written as a plea for peace during the Cuban Missile Crisis, it has gone on to enjoy great popularity. What, you may ask, does this song have in common with campus ministry?
To be honest, not a lot, apart from the title. Well, that’s not completely true, as the cry for peace and justice remains strong on our university campuses, coupled with what seems like, in the words of Cornel West, “hope on a tightrope.” Those within academic communities across our countries are asking one another, “Do you hear what I hear?”
I do want to riff off the title and ask what you hear, when you hear the words “campus ministry”? One of the challenges of the combined mission agency in the Christian Reformed Church is where does campus ministry fit within our 3 named outcomes—mission-shaped churches and ministries; developing missional leaders; and holistic mission networks. In many conversations, my impression is that most people hear “developing missional leaders” when they hear “campus ministry.” While missional leaders are certainly produced, they are a by-product of the larger work of campus ministry.
To get a better idea of where campus ministry fits, and what they are, I’d invite you to look over these workshop topics from the 2016 conference of the International Association of Chaplains in Higher Education. Even a quick perusal will give you a sense of the breadth and depth of approaches to campus ministry, to the challenges and opportunities there, and to the shape ministry takes. My hope is that as you read through them, you will see that these chaplains and their communities, like our CRC campus ministries, are mission-shaped communities that seek to engage in and with the larger academic communities to which they belong.
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 or Classis is trying to do as it turns to face the community(ies) to which it belongs, and to engage in and with it? Do you hear what our campus ministries hear? Do you see a call to prayer, prophetic living, and participation in God’s mission? Do you know what they know, that God has gone out before us and God’s Spirit is moving and active in these places of higher learning? I hope so, and I hope we will see campus ministry not in an instrumental fashion of supplying leaders and faithful young adults for our congregations, but as mission-shaped communities with whom we can partner for God’s greater glory, and for the good of this world.