by Erin Storm, with Sanctuary (formerly Houston Lutheran Campus Ministry)
In my work in campus ministry, I discovered that LEAD and campus ministry are partners in mission, working in different realms, yet anchored by similar practices and goal. And guess what? You are too! Let me show you what I mean.
On campus we are called to tune into the ever-shifting community formed there. We ask, “How do we extend Christ’s love and grace to this often-forgotten corner of our greater church community?”
Have you ever considered that your community is “ever-shifting” too?
We look with intention at the pressures and stresses of the college years and engage in these communities purposefully, in an effort to be Christ’s life and light on campus. For some, this might mean reaching out to students, who feel that their identity is completely connected to worldly success or perfect grades, in care and conversation; for others it may be helping students to find flexible work, or adequate housing. And often, for many students, the act of engaging a minister in an open and non-judgmental way is healing in itself, as many students have distanced themselves from their faith after negative personal experiences of church.
What does this look like in your congregation?
Within our communities on campus, we are constantly digging down beneath the surface to ask hard, complex, and vulnerable questions. In my experience with Houston Lutheran Campus Ministry, my heart is so often filled by how engaged and open-minded our students are. They are ready to dig deep, if we create the trust and space to allow the work of the Holy Spirit to happen.
Where is this happening in your congregation?
And finally, we are all constantly working out-side of our comfort zone to reflect the diversity of God’s creation.
A quick look at the demographic information from the 2017 Annual Campus Ministry Report reveals how ELCA campus ministries are doing this vital work of extending God’s message of welcome to those who are yearning. Here are just a few highlights:
- Ethnic and Racial Background: 96% of the campus ministry sites reported working with white/Caucasian students, 60% of the sites reported working with African-American students, 41% with Hispanic/Latinos, 38% with Asian/Pacific Islanders, 24% with Middle Eastern/Arab-Americans, and 12% with American Indian or Native Alaskan students. These findings indicate a significant increase in the number of campus ministry sites working with student populations other than white/Caucasian.
- Religious Background: Almost all of the campus ministry sites (90%) reported working with Lutheran students, 82% with non-Lutheran Protestants, 55% with Roman Catholics, 29% with Muslims, and 20% with Jewish students. These percentages indicate a significant increase in the number of campus ministry sites serving students from other Christian denominations and from non-Christian faith traditions. Over 70% of the Lutheran Campus Ministry (LCM) sites reported working with students who have no religious affiliation, “Nones.”
- Sexual Orientation: Over three-quarters of the sites (78%) reported working with students who identify as gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender. This represents an increase over previous years.
- Disability: About one-third (34%) of the Lutheran Campus Ministry sites reported working with disabled/differently-abled students, which also represents an increase over previous years.
What do these demographics look like for your own congregation?
And finally, what ideas from campus ministry might you use to extend God’s message of welcome to those who are yearning in your own neighborhood?
I urge everyone to find your local campus ministry representatives and show them your support. If your congregation doesn’t support a campus ministry, build that connection. The college years are vital to developing mature faithful leaders for the church today and in the future.
Check out these LEAD resources to help your congregation:
Tune In to your neighborhood and the world
Wake Up to God’s mission
Dig Down into theology, staffing, governance and generosity
Work Out to expand relationships beyond your comfort zone