UKIRK – thatʼs University Church in Presby-talk!

12 Jul

Some of you may remember.  A few years ago, when the PC(USA) seemed to be
dumping collegiate ministries, campus ministers came together and asked the
denomination to reconsider that.  Doing ministry with college students is just too
important – for the students, for the denomination, and for the Church – for them to simply walk away from!    2008 statistics showed that only 8.8 percent of our members were between the ages of 18 and 34 years old.  Rather than shrugging our shoulders and walking away from them, wouldnʼt it be better to try to engage them? A Task Force on Collegiate Ministries was formed, and this month at the denominationʼs General Assembly, they delivered their report and unveiled their new look:  UKIRK Ministries.
UKIRK means University Church, but it deliberately encompasses any ministries
intended to reach college students whether they happen on a college campus or in a congregation or as a collective effort of several congregations.  The driving idea behind it is that the Body of Christ has to be present where students are learning, growing, and changing.  And itʼs a reminder to the church of our baptismal vows to nurture one another through all stages of life.
Like many of the things the denomination is doing now, UKIRK is designed to be
flexible.  Understanding that so many old structures do not work very well anymore and not yet being clear on what new structures might take their place, the church finds that adaptability is a virtue.

The church is channeling their resources into a movement called “101 Collegiate
Ministries.”  In conjunction with the new “1001 Worshiping Communities” movement, the goal is to create or renew 101 collegiate ministries around the country.  While there are some funds available, the thrust of these initiatives is networking and resourcing churches and people who want to do ministry with a population that isnʼt currently being served.
Some of these 1001 new worshiping communities have gotten up and running, and they have taken some unusual approaches – centered around food or coffee, recreation, and community outreach, among other things.
Connecting collegiate ministries with the 1001 movement seems like a natural fit.  In my experience, campus ministry has always been about being a flexible worshiping community, responding to the needs and characteristics of the college where we serve.
So many people in the denominations we are connected to, from the people in the pews to the people in the national offices, have some anxieties about the direction the church is going.  Down in numbers, obviously, but the real challenge is not knowing what the church is going to look, sound, and act like in the years to come.  The 1001 movement is intended to let go of the leash and allow the church to figure out for itself at the grassroots level what shape it will take.  Thankfully, the PC(USA) has decided to continue supporting collegiate ministries, in a new way, and allow us to continue doing this “front lines” work of figuring out what the shape of the church might be…at least in our own corner of the world.


Maggie Gillespie is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and is in her fifth year as Director of Protestant Campus Ministry (PCM) at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania.  She has lived in Bloomsburg for 18 years with her husband, Kim, and their four children.  Her favorite pastimes include reading on the front porch, hanging out in the kitchen with family and friends, and screaming her head off at high school soccer games.  Maggie holds a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin, a Master of Divinity from Lancaster Theological Seminary, and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Illinois.


One Response to “UKIRK – thatʼs University Church in Presby-talk!”

  1. Nan Williams July 31, 2012 at 9:05 pm #

    Another arm of support can come from home churches. We have students away at school and attending school locally. The CollegeCARE Ministries programming at my church, First Presbyterian Church of Arlington Heights, in Illinois, seeks to nurture students and families at this major transition point in family life and personal growth.

    Students have spiritual lives even if they do not seek out campus ministries. God went to college with them, whether the students recognize that or not. Even if we keep in touch via email, cards, our blog, care packages and occasional programs during breaks, we send love and strength and courage.

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