My New Campus Ministry Gig

Yesterday was my first day on the new job with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship!

As I communicated with everyone on our monthly newsletter list, this change in vocational focus could be summed up with this phrase: Less Coffee, More Church. (Want to receive that monthly newsletter? Click Here!)

What this means is that I’ll be spending less time in the coffee shop near campus and more time building relationships with churches in order to see more college & university students engaged with the Gospel—the good news of hope and peace that comes with a transformed relationship with God through Jesus.

For the past 5-6 years, The 86 Coffee Bar has been my primary context for living out my calling to show hospitality to college students and engage them in the discipleship journey. Prior to that, I spent about 5 years at the Edge House, a Lutheran-sponsored campus ministry house adjacent to UC’s campus. For these past 11+ years my “job” has been to connect with college students and be a spiritual guide and mentor in their lives.

Now, my primary job is to help resource churches for ministry with college students and young adults. (My hope will be to continue spending at least 1 full day per week at The 86 to meet with some student leaders and other campus ministry leaders. FYI)

As a result of this ministry over time through InterVarsity, our hope will be to see hundreds and even thousands more college students actively integrating faith and life within the context of a local church. Also, there are about 1800 unreached college campuses in the United States that InterVarsity would like to reach and attaining that goal by 2030 will only be possible in partnership with churches! (This is what IVCF refers to as the 2030 Calling)

 

This new role with InterVarsity, in some ways, is a continuation of my leadership for the past 5 years in the Church of the Nazarene (my “home” denomination) in the area of college & young adult ministry.

So my role as a “Church Engagement Catalyst” for InterVarsity pairs up nicely with my role as Campus Mission Coordinator for the Church of the Nazarene under the umbrella of NYI Ministries in the US & Canada. More information on that here if you’re interested.

 

For most, working in the area of college ministry requires raising money. Although that was originally a huge mental barrier for me as I entered the world of campus ministry nearly 12 years ago, I now see it as a real benefit. There is a special relationship and partnership we feel with those who financially or prayerfully partner with our ministry! It’s like having a small tribe of people who really believe in you and support your cause. We love having a team of people like that.

As we begin this new season of ministry, we are inviting more people to join this ministry team. It’s going to take more prayer and more funds than ever before. That’s a daunting challenge, but we really believe God is calling and providing this great opportunity for long-term Kingdom impact.

Would you please consider joining our team of financial ministry partners? You can give a one-time or recurring gift to our ministry here at InterVarsity’s website. Thank you so much! As I continue to pour myself into college ministry with this slight change of focus, I am very hopeful that we will see the lives of students and faculty transformed, campuses renewed, and more churches connected with all of the above.

Why the Pilgrimage?

Heading to Max Patch

After discussing briefly the “What?” in that last post, let’s back up a bit to the Why?

Why did I feel it was necessary to spend several weeks in the woods hiking a few hundred miles on the Appalachian Trail?

Sabbatical. Pilgrimage. Spiritual Quest. All these descriptors for my journey could help explain the “Why?” as I reflect on what necessitated such a drastic undertaking. And it was a bit drastic or desperate by some standards. Since I had never spent more than 3-4 days hiking or backpacking, suddenly deciding to spend about 40 days on the Appalachian Trail (my original goal) certainly made some folks wonder about my mental state, especially my mom.

But after 15 years of youth & worship ministry…then another 11+ years of college ministry at the University of Cincinnati, I found myself at an interesting crossroads of sorts. For one thing, I was emotionally & spiritually (some days physically) exhausted. This is why sabbaticals can be so critical for those serving in full-time ministry. I’d say that after every 5-7 years of vocational ministry, one needs to take 4-6 weeks for spiritual refreshment and renewal.

On top of what you might call burn-out or ministry fatigue, I was also dealing with some personal spiritual demons. About 5 years ago (give or take a year maybe), I began to have some major battles with skepticism and doubt. It may sound strange to some, but there were some foundational assumptions and beliefs that started to feel a little flimsy really for the first time in my life.

When I made the transition from high school to college, I was actually experiencing a peak season of spiritual growth. I felt a call to ministry during my freshman year of college, changed my major from chemistry to biblical studies and never really looked back (much) for about 25 years. But something happened over the past few years and I entered a (mostly private) season of deconstruction. For the first time in my life, I was giving myself space to take some beliefs and ideas apart and decide in my early 40s what really made sense to me.

So I won’t go into the gory details here, but if one has a “house of cards” model of faith (which I don’t recommend), I was definitely wiggling a few critical cards which could jeopardize the whole arrangement. And for a couple of years now, I have been in a holding pattern with my own spiritual growth…unable to heal, grow, and reconcile some of those doubts and questions. Something deep within me seemed to know that I needed a fresh time of spiritual immersion.

Like learning a foreign language, you can learn a lot from books and language apps, but nothing works like immersion. Jumping into the deep end so to speak…so that you have no choice but to learn and survive. For me, I knew that jumping back into the ”deep end” spiritually might look like 40 days of hiking on the Appalachian Trail (or something similar).

That is why this journey was necessary. I found myself, as a pastor to college students, with a less than vital and vibrant spiritual experience…questioning some core things about Christianity. I am embarrassed to admit that many of the questions were encouraged more by my own stale Christian experience than by legitimate issues which might undermine one’s faith. And what happened during the first week of my trail-sabbatical was quite surprising!

We will get into that next time.

Partnering with EveryCampus

In my role as the coordinator for Campus Mission, it has been exciting to partner with EveryCampus as a way to engage local churches with the mission of reaching out to college & university campuses.

The idea is pretty simple! Cru and InterVarsity campus ministries have collaborated to create the EveryCampus initiative whose goal is to see a Gospel community developed on every campus in the United States. Currently, about half of all campuses have such a ministry.

Campus Mission has become one of the partnering organizations and at two denominational gatherings (with the Church of the Nazarene) we have shared this mission and invited pastors, churches, and leaders to get involved.

Check out the EveryCampus website to find out how you or your church can help us reach this goal. They also have great resources for launching new ministries on a college campus.

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