Archive for Saturday, August 15, 2009

Is campus ministry different than ministry to the general public?

August 15, 2009


Ministry focused on finding truth

The Rev. Alan Estby, campus pastor, Immanuel Lutheran Church and University Student Center, 2104 Bob Billings Parkway:

Campus ministry is relationship. Students coming to the university arrive with many established relationships that will mostly change with friends, parents and other family. They will begin new relationships with friends, fellow students and faculty. Campus ministry at Immanuel Lutheran Church and University Student Center intends to nourish all those relationships and center on the relationship that they have with God through his son Jesus.

One of the main differences you find in campus ministry over the general population is that the students’ present vocation is in developing a career through education. This developing time frame is a temporary time. The relationship in campus ministry is usually short and needs to grow quickly, but is striving for a relationship with God that is intended to be long term, lasting an eternity.

Campus ministry is striving to meet the needs of students who can be both hungry for the truth and starving for the capacity and time to search for the truth.

Thank God that he has made the effort to establish relationship with us through his son Jesus. As he feeds us the truth of his word for the development of our lives both body and soul.

— Send e-mail to Alan Estby at

Faith in its purest form found on campus

Rabbi Zalman Tiechtel, Chabad Jewish Center, 1203 W. 19th St.:

The short answer is: Yes! What a difference.

Now for the long haul: A general ministry deals with an individual’s entire life cycle. In Judaism, we start with either the Bris or naming ceremony, and then there is religious education, Bnei Mitzvoth, weddings, funerals, holidays, weekly prayer services, etc. Traditionally, a person had an unbroken connection to his or her religion, reinforced by family and community.

With the development and popularity of the residential college experience, this model broke down. There is a whole age cohort that is missing today from traditional ministry. In its place college ministry try to fill the gap.

But the two ministries are extremely different. It is strange for a religion to deal with such a narrowly defined age group. On one side, there is a positive. Students feel comfortable examining and participating in religion when there are no adults around. The gray hair at a normal church or synagogue can be unsettling to our youth. On the other side, there are few role models that can show how religion is a natural part of life. There are “professional Jews” or “professional Christians,” people whose jobs are to promote and run the ministry. But those looking for an avocation rather than a vocation have few mentors.

The location of campus ministry is also very different. Unless one is particularly devout, the chances that one will live within walking distance to a place of worship is highly unlikely. On campus, all the places of worship are centrally located. The barriers to entry are the lowest they will ever be.

Membership is also not a barrier to entry. After college, there will be dues and fees that a person will incur to explore religion and spirituality. Synagogues and churches have salaries, mortgages and utilities that need to be paid. Campus ministries do not follow the consumer model. They raise money from people that do not necessarily use their services. In many ways, this makes the campus religious experience the most authentic. There is no profit motive, no contributor or board member that the clergy have to cater to. There are no board presidents soaking up honors and attention. Everyone is equal.

That is why I love working on a college campus. I see it as the purest most genuine expression of religion and spirituality. I encourage everyone to make the effort and pull oneself away from beer pong and basement parties. Because as far as religious expression goes, it doesn’t get better than this.

— Send e-mail to Zalman Tiechtel at


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