Most campus ministers I know occupy an unusual position in the campus structure. On the one hand, they are involved with the lives of students and faculty on a very intimate level, dealing with personal beliefs, family relationships, major decisions and crises, and so on. They address needs that the rest of the university may not even acknowledge.
On the other hand, campus ministers often exist on the margins of “normal” campus life. They aren’t part of the student-faculty-administration structure that defines the contemporary university, and their budgets, agendas, and priorities may have little to do with the university’s. On some campuses, they don’t even officially exist — the campus ministry is, technically, organized by the faculty advisor and student representatives, with the campus ministry staff person having no actual role as far as the university is concerned.
(By the way, I think this marginal position can actually provide great power and freedom. But more on that another time.)
The result is that campus ministers may have only tangential knowledge of the university’s core activities: teaching, research, service. So here’s the question that I have for students and faculty:
What should campus ministers know about your campus?
- Where do you see God moving on your campus?
- Where does sin affect the people, ideas, and structures of the campus?
- What’s absolutely vital to your campus experience…but gets little attention from campus ministry?
Leave your thoughts in the comments. You can also email me if you would prefer.
Photo credit: Velovotee via Flickr
About the author:
The former Associate Director for the Emerging Scholars Network, Micheal lives in Cincinnati with his wife and three children and works as a web manager for a national storage and organization company. He writes about work, vocation, and finding meaning in what you do at No Small Actors.
I love seeing when Christians totally surprise nonchristians–like if we enjoy partying, or if we aren’t all republican, or if we support science. I think it makes an impact and bridges a divide of the “other.”
I love seeing Christians on college campuses being on the forefront of diversity and inclusivity movements. That is EXACTLY where we should be.
I don’t like seeing the oppression that Christians put on each other. The silence that happens because we are scared to share our shames, struggles and burdens with each other. We nod and smile at bible study but inside are struggling and feel guilty. It is silly to stay silent in the struggles. I want to tell you that I struggle with reading the bible regularly, and with the sins of the church, and with the paradoxes of God. And I want you to smile and say you have and are going through similar things and that it is ok and that God is big enough for our struggles and that we don’t have to protect him from our own fears. I want you to walk with me and hold me accountable in love, not in condemnation. And I want to know that you’ve got my back. I want us to be bound in Christ. And a week later, a month later, a year later, when I have forgotten all about telling you, I want you to ask me how those struggles are going and what you have learned about it recently. I want you not to back away from my problems.
I don’t like having to hide aspects of ourselves from other Christians, if we drink in moderation, if we believe in evolution, if we don’t think that homosexuals are going to hell, if we have had sex, or just short of it….even if we feel comfortable with the decision….but still feel we can’t tell a soul about it. The conversations just can’t happen and it stifles learning about what God would have for us.
I don’t like feeling alone when I walk through the science building doors. Even if there are other Christians around me, we don’t’ talk about it. We nod in acknowledgement and go about our days. These fears of being “less Christian” squash ideas and conversation and leave us in isolation.
I don’t like the culture of business that is infused through campus culture and often supported by the church. We may say “be still and know I am God,” but we laud those that attend bible study, lead another one, coordinate large group, volunteer with the needy, serve in leadership meetings, all while maintaining the activities of nonchristian students (choir, sorority, club soccer…oh yeah….and two majors’ worth of school work).
I love seeing ministries involved in the dining halls, the dorm rooms, the main quad, the sports events. I love seeing ministries be fun and quirky. I love seeing ministries provide random fun activities for campus that may have nothing to do with Christ, but are off the wall enough to show that we have fun in Him. We are not boring, we are not stogy. I love going to the beach at 3AM with IVCF, playing laser tag, learning to square dance, playing volleyball, and just being wacky. It is a great example for the campus on how to live the life abundant.
Micheal Hickerson says
A faculty member shared the following comment with via email and agreed to let me post it here with the names of the schools removed so to not offend any well-meaning campus ministers. It’s a great example of why it’s important to pay attention to the nature of your campus. It’s also comes from the uncommon perspective of someone who was both an undergraduate and faculty member at the same university.
“Hi, Mike. I really appreciated your blog post “What should campus ministers know about your campus?” It really resonated with my experience as an undergraduate at Mid-sized Private University, and now as a faculty member there. I definitely agree that a campus ministry needs to be based on an assessment of the campus community’s structure & needs.
MPU is a unique social, intellectual, and spiritual environment (because of a number of factors like the size, university structure, student demographics, & faculty demographics). It’s also near the U.
of Big Public, which seems to be a more “typical” environment. When I was an undergrad, many campus ministers would set up ministries on both campuses, usually trying to replicate at MPU what had succeeded at UBP (which was usually a strategy that had worked at a large state school). They soon discovered that this was not the key to success.
For example, while Big Public is primarily a commuter population, Mid-sized Private’s population has a significant percentage of on-campus residents from out of town. This made it difficult to schedule pre-semester gear-up events, since the MPU students simply weren’t in town (or, if they
were, they were helping to run orientation). Because of the smaller student body size, many MPU students hold leadership positions in multiple student organizations, meaning they’re not always free for every campus ministry event, whereas Big Public students are typically involved in only one organization.
I’m thankful that, a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to dialog with a campus minister who is going to be starting a ministry at MPU next Fall. I got to describe the environment from the perspectives of both a student and a faculty member.
Thanks again for bringing up this topic, and for the opportunity to discuss it with you via e-mail. I wouldn’t want to offend any past or present campus ministers with my observations. ;-)”