Archive | August, 2013

Like the Other Campus Groups

29 Aug

In 1 Samuel chapter 8 the people cry out to Samuel and to God that they want a king so that they can be like the other nations. It is expected, like mentioned in 2 Samuel 11, that in the springtime the kings go to war. So like the kings of old, in the fall of the year, we campus ministers work hard to recruit new student members. There is a desire to be like the other campus student groups. We participate in all the back to school recruitment activities the myriad other student groups do. We host information booths, have activities, print posters and banners. We do this because this is how recruitment works in the college environment. There may be a mechanism to receive student’s names based on denominational preference, but in my experience this rarely achieves the goal it desires.

Our student leaders are also leaders in other groups like TWLOHA, fraternities, and the Harry Potter Club. They know how those operate. There are advantages in working like they work. There are campus resources available by playing by their rules, paying attention to their methods, and knowing the right people.

Yet, we are very different from the other campus groups.

No one else runs a faith-based group from a farm-house surrounded by a student-run organic garden.

No other faith-based group keeps our high standard of inclusion, nor do most groups welcome the breadth of humanity that we do. Our motto is “be you with us” and our tag line is “everyone is welcome. Seriously, everyone.” We work very diligently to not exclude anyone for any reason. We know that students choose not to participate in our activities, but our hope is that they aren’t staying away because they haven’t felt welcomed.

Among the 17 or so faith-based groups on campus, we are the only one that claims a Wesleyan approach to theology (we are in West Michigan, home of the Dutch Reformed), and it can be very difficult to let others know we are different. Students often lump all the campus ministries into one category and quickly decide if they want to participate based on a range of factors that may not reflect the actual character of the group. This is true for the non-religious groups, too. I don’t want to play quidditch (especially without an actual flying broom), or do cosplay, or join the mathletes, but I’m sure the students in these groups are interesting, talented young people worth knowing. We know that you cannot discount an entire group of people based on a few experiences or prejudices, right?

So, let us be bold in our differences and shine for who we are. Greet those who arrive, even if they don’t yet seem like “us.”

… In the autumn of the year, when the campus ministers engage their campuses, may God fill us with grace and peace.

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Greg LawtonGreg Lawton was hired as Director of the Wesley Fellowship at Grand Valley State University in July 2011 after serving as the interim campus minister at the Michigan State University Wesley Foundation for a semester. He has served churches in the West Michigan Conference in youth and adult discipleship since 1997 and has degrees in Applied Science (A.A.S., Ferris State University), Hydrogeology (B.S., Western Michigan University) and Christian Education (M.A., Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary). He is also trained in Restorative Justice, Mediation, and other peacemaking techniques. He lives in nearby Wyoming, MI with his cat, Bob. Greg is an ordained Deacon in Full Connection in the United Methodist Church, loves to travel either on mission or for fun, and enjoys church camp and folk music.

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