Campus-ministry group wants to link colleges, congregations

Note to outreach-minded congregations:  If you’re near a college or university campus, a huge mission field is right in your own back yard.
 
That’s the message of the Lutheran Campus Mission Association (LCMA), a newly formed LCMS mission society that has signed a “partnership agreement” with LCMS World Mission to promote campus ministry on its behalf.
 
At present, the Synod includes some 720 “campus ministries” that serve about a quarter of the country’s 3,700 colleges and universities, according to Rev. Greg Fairow, LCMA’s vice president.  But those ministries run the gamut — from those with full-time campus pastors, to those that consist of a nearby congregation that opens its doors to students but has little, if any, on-campus contact.
 
“We want to emphasize partnerships,” said Fairow, between congregations and campuses, and between similar campuses and similar congregations, so that they can learn from one another.  Part of the LCMA’s responsibility will be to “put similar ministries in touch with each other,” Fairow said.
 
More and more responsibility for campus ministry is falling on the shoulders of nearby congregations, echoed Rev. Dave Dressel, campus pastor at Michigan State University, East Lansing, and LCMA president.  But that outreach need not be costly, he said.  It can be something as simple as bringing minivans to campus to drive students to Sunday worship, donating used furniture to students, or providing a free meal on a monthly basis.
 
Campus-ministry congregations simply need to “meet the needs of students where they are,” Dressel said.
 
Some 75 percent of students who worship in high school “stop when they get to college,” noted Fairow, who serves as a campus pastor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.  So, campuses are “huge mission fields, even in The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod,” he said.
 
At the same time, the college years are one of those “transitional” periods in life when young people — moving from dependence to independence — may be “more open” to Christianity.
 
“They’re making decisions about who they are going to be and whether or not their faith is going to impact the rest of their lives,” said Dressel.
 
That’s why congregations can’t just wait for students to show up on their doorsteps — rather, they need to go to the students.
 
Effective campus ministry, Dressel said, “is an active, eager, excited movement to grow people in faith on college and university campuses.”
 
In its quest to link those who need help with those who can provide it, the LCMA hopes to launch a Web site by next spring, and plans to offer resources and sponsor workshops — all will be outreach-focused.
 
“We are participating fully in the spirit and intent of what Ablaze! is doing,” said Fairow.  “And we see the work of missions in college and university communities as a key part of that.”
 
For more information about campus ministries, contact Dave Dressel at dresseld@msu.edu or LCMA Facilitator Kent Pierce at kpierce@kent.edu.

Posted Oct. 4, 2004

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