Out of crisis can come great opportunities for growth.
Participants at a recent meeting discussed closing the Asbury Campus Ministry at Drexel University due to financial challenges. The Wesley Foundation endowment that had supported this campus ministry for many years could no longer sustain it because of depleted funds.
When this dire situation came to the attention of our Bishop and the Connectional Ministries Office, we felt the need to look at our campus ministry opportunities with a different perspective. At a subsequent Cabinet meeting, we decided to not close the Drexel campus ministry but rather staff it with a part-time position. We also considered expanding our outreach to other campuses in our conference area.
The Methodist movement was started in England on Oxford University’s campus when John and Charles Wesley gathered with others to study the word of God, to pray and to grow in community. This so called “Holy Club” later became a powerhouse that started a movement some jokingly called “the Methodists.”
As we know, from those humble beginnings came an influential movement that spread over much of the world. A small campus ministry effort grew to be one of the largest denominations in the world.
Currently our conference has two other related campus ministries: Albright College and Lebanon Valley College. Additionally, there is a campus ministry at Millersville University facilitated by nearby Grace UMC; and there may be similar church-related campus ministries we don’t yet know about.
Our conference Cabinet concurred with a proposal to have at least one campus ministry on every district, supported by local churches there. District Mission ConneXion groups could be directly involved in these potentially vital ministries to reach, invite, support and accompany young people on their life paths and faith journeys into adulthood. The possibilities and opportunities for impactful ministry are immense, and we should take advantage of them.
One way our generation can reverse the trend of decline and revitalize the Methodist movement is through campus ministry. What the Wesleys experienced and cultivated could surely happen again. It could begin by recognizing, embracing and praying for our college students on Campus Ministry Sunday and giving them opportunities to share their experiences, their hopes and dreams with congregations.
We are asking EPA congregations to please celebrate Campus Ministry Sunday on August 24 (or on another more convenient Sunday) and consider receiving a second-mile offering to support new campus ministry efforts in our conference. Congregations already involved in campus ministries may designate up to 50 percent of their voluntary, second-mile offerings to support those ongoing ministries. The rest should be forwarded to the Conference Office to aid in our connectional, conference-wide efforts.
Our newly formed Conference Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry is looking for ways to help our districts and congregations enhance their work in this significant ministry area. As we progress in this new initiative, we will share more information with you.
Let us demonstrate our commitment to young people by supporting the dedicated efforts of this new board, led by the Rev. Jason Perkowski, a pastor and teacher. And let us expand our own outreach to young adults to include campus ministry. In all our efforts let us always focus on the most important thing: sharing the love and liberating gospel of Jesus Christ with others.
Thanks for your continued support for all our ministries. May God bless you all, and may you have a great summer!
By the Rev. Dr. Christopher Jacob Kurien
Director of Connectional Ministrieis, EPA Conference