By Mindy Roll, Campus Pastor at Texas A&M and Blinn College
Having spent the first couple decades of my life inside the Gulf Coast Synod, I knew virtually nothing about our reputation until I spent the next several years outside it, in seminary in the Northeast.
And that’s when I started to hear things about the Gulf Coast Synod… things I had always taken for granted. I came to realize that our focus on youth & family ministry, justice & advocacy, and visionary leadership, to name just a few, were not “givens” in other synods. In fact, these made – and make – our synod stand out. Nowadays, it’s not uncommon to hear from colleagues in other synods, with just a tinge of jealousy in their voices, about something exciting and cutting-edge that’s cooking in the Gulf Coast. It’s true, we’re getting a reputation.
The things for which we are known are the things that we value as a synod. These are the things that inform the culture of our synod. And as your synod Campus Ministry Team, we have a goal: to build a culture of campus ministry, right here in the Gulf Coast.
Surely, you’ve read the research. About college students and the church. More specifically, about college students leaving the church. More specifically, about the two-thirds of young adults who leave the church during college, most never to return. Yowza! Is that scary? It should be.
Enter campus ministry. As one graduating Texas A&M student recently commented, “Campus ministries can often be overlooked, but it is stationed on the front lines when young adults need it the most.”
So… why do young adults need campus ministry, and why do they need it so desperately?
Think back to your own young adult years, specifically the college-aged years. These are among the most intense years in one’s faith formation. It’s the time when you (should) wrestle with the faith of childhood, ask hard, hard questions, put everything on the line, and make critical decisions about who you are and how faith will or will not inform your life. For many of our college students, the decisions they make about faith in college will have a profound effect on the years to follow – including who they become and how they will live their life.
When I began in campus ministry, one of our regular students had the “Sunday School” answer to every question: “Because Jesus died for my sins, so I can go to heaven.” But what does that mean, we’d challenge her each week – what does it mean for your life, and your identity, and your major, and your relationships? She’d just shrug– she had never been challenged to think deeper.
But recently, in Bible study as we studied Matthew 25, she offered an insight that stunned me. You know, when I began college, I used to think that the most important thing about being a Christian was figuring out how to get into heaven. I thought I had all the right answers.
But now, I realize that I am free in Christ to not have to worry about heaven. Now I realize that I have this one life – just one life – to be the love of Christ for my neighbor. I feel like that’s where God’s calling me – to learn how to really love my neighbor and make a difference as a disciple of Jesus.
This insight led this student to change the focus within her major and re-imagine where God might be calling her. This is her expression of discipleship. That is campus ministry.
Join us in hearing and sharing the stories of our Gulf Coast campus ministries. Consider visiting your local campus ministry. Ask questions. Connect your students. Take a love offering or include us in your budget. If nothing else, pray for all our young adults as the Spirit continues to move and call and challenge and shape.
After all, we just might be getting a reputation.
Pastor Mindy Roll can be reached at email@example.com