What Does It Mean to Be Faithfully Present on University Campuses?
Campus ministers and student leaders from throughout Canada and the United States gathered May 28-30 at Loyola University in Chicago, Ill., for the Christian Reformed Campus Ministry Association (CRCMA) conference.
There, they wrestled with questions surrounding diversity, gender, sexuality, and power within relationships so they can better share their faith with all students.
Campus Ministry in a Changing Culture
“Universities have changed. Culture has changed,” said Mark Wallace, Resonate Global Mission’s campus ministry leader.
Supported by churches, Classes, and Resonate Global Mission, CRC campus ministries are active and growing on more than 35 campuses across North America.
“These public universities have extended peace to us and so we are dwelling with them,” said Wallace. “How do you do that well ... knowing [that] being faithfully present a decade ago looked a little different than being faithfully present now?”
Campus ministries love and care for students from every culture, background, and sexual orientation. Seeking to provide a space where all students can belong and explore what it means to be a follower of Jesus, campus ministers and students wrestle with questions of diversity, gender, sexuality, and power relationships every day on their campuses. That’s why Resonate partners with CRCMA to equip and resource campus ministries.
“I don’t ever want to avoid conversations on hard topics, like sexuality or racism, in our ministry—especially since I know that an avoidance of difficult topics is why some people have said they’ve left church,” said Brenda Kronemeijer-Heyink, pastor of Campus Edge Fellowship at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich., and current chair of the CRCMA executive board.
“I also believe that much of what we talked about … have been places where a lot of pain and distress has happened and continues to happen,” Kronemeijer-Heyink added. “I’d like to be equipped to know best how to bring the hope of Christ to those [who] are hurting.”
Equipped to Be Faithfully Present
Supported in part by Resonate, this year’s CRMCA conference was a resource for campus ministers and student leaders. The conference equipped campus ministers and student leaders to bring the gospel in their campus contexts.
Briana McCarthy, who currently serves at Reconciliation Church in Illinois, spoke on race and ethnicity. She noted how many people from minority cultures often struggle to belong to ministries, such as campus ministries and churches, due to a facade of diversity.
“The facade of diversity looks like this,” said McCarthy. “You have your black fellow come up and pray. You have your hispanic women come up and [sing contemporary Christian music] with the praise team. But the culture that is created within the ministry does not reflect the diversity on display. [The facade of diversity] is inviting people to the table, but not giving them the opportunity to speak. Or if they can speak, not listening or putting into action what they have contributed.”
Campus ministers and student leaders discussed how they could invite, listen to, and actively include students from diverse cultures and backgrounds. They also listened to stories and discussed diverse perspectives on power relationships, gender, and sexual orientation.
“I’m grateful both to gain further wisdom from others on these topics as well as [to share] what wisdom I’ve gained in my ministry experience,” said Kronemeijer-Heynink.
But the conference workshops, panels, and speakers are just part of what make the CRCMA conference valuable. CRCMA’s community and network of support is essential.
“Part of it is getting to know other campus pastors,” said Helena Allan, who recently stepped into the role as campus minister at Fanshawe College in Ontario. “If I have questions, I have other people I can draw on … there’s a lot of support and resources. I’m not in campus ministry alone.”