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It’s Fall! What can we learn from school?

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.

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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

Throw Away Your Mission Statement

Originally published at digitalpastor.org

by Pastor David L Hansen, Director of Communication and Innovation – LEAD

Every church I know of has a mission statement. Your church probably has a mission statement. And the first thing I think you need to do with that mission statement is throw it away.

Out of Date

Often mission statements are out of date in congregation. They were written 10 years ago or 15 years ago for a church that no longer exists.

Maybe once upon a time, this mission statement was great for the congregation. But since then, it has become embedded in the culture of the congregation. And we all know how much institutions love change.

So, even as the congregation has changed, or the neighborhood around the congregation has changed, its mission has not.

Throw away your old mission statement.

Uninspiring

Usually, a committee is in charge of writing a mission statement. And those missions sound like they are written by committee. The number of people who get excited by things written by committees is exceptionally small.

Mission statements written by committee more often than not have no passion in them, no excitement in them. They are bland. And nobody is getting excited about your bland mission statement. Throw it away.

Non-Specific

God set your church in a unique neighborhood. Your congregation has specific gifts – gifts that only your congregation brings to your unique setting.

Your mission statement however is not unique. Chances are I could take your mission statement and use it at any other church in this country by just changing the name of the church.

We should not be able to take a mission statement from large suburban Minneapolis congregation, and use it at a small rural Colorado congregation – but far too often we can.

Your church deserves a mission as unique as the gift that God gave you, not a bland one size fits all universal mission statement.

Throw it away.

Mission That Changes Lives

Your congregation is in a specific location, with unique gifts given by God. You need a mission that inspires passion about the unique role you play in the Kingdom of God.

If the problem is deeper – you don’t know your neighborhood, or you can’t think of the unique gifts of your church – that is a big conversation that you need to have.

Get started by throwing away your out of date, uninspiring, and non-specific mission statement. Then get to work naming the exciting and unique work God has called you to in your neighborhood.

I highly recommend the resources of LEAD. Tune In” can help you to reconnect with your neighborhood, while “Wake Up” is designed to help identify the unique values and purpose of your congregation