For most students, making the transition from high school to college is a major change, and the adjustment to a new lifestyle takes some getting used to.
When classes begin it doesn’t take long for the student to realize that college is much more than writing papers and studying for exams. There are new people to meet, new ideas to ponder, risks to take, risks not to take, emotional ups and downs. In this time of growth and questioning, ELCA Lutheran campus ministries are there to help.
One campus pastor puts it this way: “I see campus ministry as being like Ananias: (we are) there when the scales fall away at a moment of crisis, to help people see Christ, find a new direction for living and enter into ministry.”
In a typical week, people in Lutheran campus ministries do many things. They gather for worship around word and sacrament, wrestle with God’s call in their lives through a Bible study or spend an afternoon serving in Christ’s name at a tutoring program.
Behind all of these specific opportunities is an overarching vision to be there in the fleeting second when someone is most open to being touched by the Spirit.
If the conversion of Saul were a Hollywood blockbuster called Damascus Road Turnaround, Paul would be the clear star, but there would be no story worth telling without Ananias.
Acts 9 would be merely a story about judgment on one who opposed the gospel. It becomes a story of transformation and redemption because Ananias is there at a pivotal moment to embody God’s love to a broken man, bring healing to him, and show him a new way forward for his life. Because of Ananias, Saul the persecutor becomes Paul the apostle.
ELCA Lutheran campus ministries are in the tradition of Ananias, helping people move from confusion to clarity, letting people know that God is always with them no matter what.
The college experience is filled with crises: relationships bud, flower, and wilt; long-held occupational dreams become impossible; simple answers to life’s deepest questions seem hopelessly naive in the glare of new knowledge and experience.
Kari, a student at Northern Illinois University, explains, “When I was a freshman, I didn’t really feel like I fit in at school until I started going to Lutheran Campus Ministry. The people there were really laid back and cool, and the worship helped me feel focused and centered on God. I don’t know if I would have stayed at Northern if I hadn’t had Lutheran Campus Ministry.”
Campus ministry is committed to being present for students, faculty and staff when the old is dying and the new is struggling to be born.
Celtic Christianity speaks of “thin places — those times when the membrane between the sacred and the ordinary is particularly permeable, moments when we are especially open to seeing the holy and being transformed by it. A thin place can open up any time and at any place — in an office cubicle, on the assembly line, at the playground or by a waterfall. But at collegiate crossroads, where so much is in flux, the church has a chance to change lives by speaking much as did Ananias, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus has sent me.” (Acts 9:17). That is why this church is committed to bearing witness to Christ on campuses.
ELCA campus ministries are available to all students. They provide an ELCA presence at more than 180 state and private colleges and universities, with cooperating congregations in campus ministry at an additional 400 campuses nationwide. Contact them to refer a student, find a ministry or contact campus ministry staff.