Campus Ministry can be a lonely mission field, even though the job often means working with young adults during one of the most exciting times of their lives. This work also comes with some unique challenges and a much smaller population of church workers than other types of ministry.
For starters, there’s not a clear career path or degree program that equips people to work with college students. While greatly rewarding, this lack of a clear path also means there are not as many opportunities for professional development as other ministry tracks.
Plus, the number of colleges and universities is in each state is dwarfed by the number of primary and secondary schools and congregations. This leads to a smaller pool of campus ministers people in this field can turn to for fellowship and camaraderie. While college students have great energy, they also have a transient presence and every four years there’s almost total turnover. This can often lead to turnover of the church workers as well. Funding challenges often exacerbate these challenges.
On Wednesday, June 12, Rev. Bill Geis of the Missouri District and Rev. Kent Pierce of Campus Lutheran Church teamed up to unite and empower campus ministry professionals and volunteer leaders in Missouri. Rev. Pierce had approached the district about getting campus ministry people together. He’d realized that with some turn over the past few years, there were church workers in the district who’d never met. He wanted to get everyone in the same room.
Once everyone had the chance to get acquainted, they discussed their ministries more in-depth and shared their needs and challenges together. Rev. Anthony Cook, Vice-President of Global Ministries of Lutheran Hour Ministries, was the facilitator for the conference. Attendees also participated in learning sessions led by Don Everts, the content development manager in the Global Ministries division for Lutheran Hour Ministries, in which they focused on learning about the latest research and trends of campus ministry.
There was an emphasis on digital conversations with students, discussing the role of being “plugged in” constantly and the changing landscape and usage habits of college students and social media. For example, many campus ministry workers are familiar with Facebook. While many young adults have Facebook accounts, they’ve shifted their primary usage in recent years to platforms like Instagram and Snapchat.
Many campus ministries offer Bible study, worship and fellowship opportunities to Lutherans on campus. These campus leaders learned from each other and their facilitators how to equip these students to be effective evangelists to their peers. Rev. Pierce says, “When students come to Bible study, we try to use that time with them to equip them and help them be comfortable inviting and talking about their faith with peers and that’s how we get more people to come to bible study.” He also notes that when people attend their events with established friends, it’s a lot easier to keep them engaged than if they come alone.
Joyce Cronin, the Campus Ministry Director at Hope Lutheran Church in Maryville, has recently returned to working her role after taking time off to care for her children full-time. The event allowed her to meet some new people and share space with people with the same passion for this work.
One of her favorite parts was seeing a new book by Don Everts, that included specific details about a more personal approach to evangelism. She says, “Instead of being so intentional about it and having a spiel, it’s about analyzing the situation seeing where the person you’re talking to, receptive, unreceptive, or seeking…I think the college kids are going to really feel like they can do that.”
This uplifting experience is only the beginning. The Missouri District will continue to work with campus ministry professionals on capacity building, effective communications and resourcing congregations to share the love of Christ with college students across Missouri. The goals for these efforts are:
- Add capacity for our campus ministries
- Support, encourage and equip, campus ministry leaders
- Resource and release students as missionaries in their communities
- Communicate vision and opportunities for more congregations to engage student ministries
When considering the future of campus ministry, Rev. Pierce says, “I think it’s going to continue to be a very relational kind of ministry that’s going to require resourcing students in particular to be able to share their faith with their peers and creating inviting community spaces for people to gather together.” in the Word.”
It’s an important goal, and one that will require a lot of support. Ms. Cronin says, “There’s a lot of programs starting from zero again, so we really need support from our churches and lots of prayers. And if your student is going to college, please encourage them to seek out campus ministry. In fact, we need churches to tell us when their kids are coming, so we can connect with them.”
If you would like to be a part of the forward momentum campus ministry is gaining in the Missouri District, please contact Leah Sieveking at firstname.lastname@example.org or (314) 590-6211.