Congregational Connectionalism

26 Apr

In addition to being a campus minister, I am a local church staff person.  Our congregation has the benefit of being just a block from a very large state university.  That’s a big part of the congregation’s call.  To do campus ministry.  We do a lot of other things too, including some really great youth ministry and spiritual formation for folks of all ages.  Recently, a young adult (beyond college) ministry began.  In all of these ministries, there are opportunities to consider the crossings, the “bridges” as Cody mentioned in his blog last week.    One of the things raised in the blog was the “where” that we’re sending students to as they leave college.   He ended the blog by asking for our thoughts.  So, I gave it some thought…..        I would like to suggest that this work could (and should) begin long before campus ministries graduate their college students.  In the Synod of the Trinity, we are working toward an understanding of college ministries that works best when the ministry is connected to congregations.    We’re not trying to create a model of sorts, because we recognize that the context for each ministry, for each campus and for each congregation (or collection of congregations) is going to be different.   We are hoping to help our existing campus ministries, and the many congregations that are near college campuses, to recognize the opportunities to do the ministry of connecting college students to the congregations that are near their campuses.  We are hoping to have the bridges in place already, so that when the young adults leave the campus, they are already familiar with what it means to be involved in the life of a congregation.

     Sure, many of these students were youth in a church and know church life from that perspective.  But being involved in a church as a maturing young adult in some way (again, the context is different everywhere) gives the young adult experience with taking responsibility for their own faith journey.  It can give them the opportunity to live into the gifts that God has given them (as youth leader, choir member, usher).   
A congregation that offers hospitality to students during their college career not only benefits from the students’ presence (talk about good energy!), this church is also living fully into the baptismal vows that we all take each time we baptize a child.  That vow is communal.     As a congregation that is part of the community where those youth/young adults live, we get to remember those vows with them.  And, we get to re-member them to the church.
Church should be a place where all sorts of bridge building for our children, youth, young adults and adults happens.  Because college is just one of the stages in our lives that we move in and out of.  At each of these stages, we the church hope to encourage folks to know themselves as God’s beloved and to have the confidence to continue growing into that relationship.   
     Is your campus ministry connected to a congregation(s)?  I hope so –  for you, the students and for the church.  What opportunity for all of us!
Diana is the Advisor for Westminster Presbyterian Fellowship on the Penn State Campus, working with the State College Presbyterian Church where she also works (plays) with middle-schoolers.  She enjoys walking, reading, family & friends, and considering how to live life well/more sustainably (including growing lots of her own foods and caring for egg-laying chickens Patty, Dumpling, Little and Nugget).

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