Mother Teresa, a nun who devoted her life to serving the poor and destitute around the world, once said: “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” In our day and age, there are many people who have created ripples, good or bad, across communities, the country, and even the world. Within the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, an amazing stone was cast causing many ripples throughout college campuses, and that stone was the idea of starting public campus ministries. Public Campus Ministry is a ministry that takes place on public college campuses, with a goal to reach out to students seeking God and Adventist students who need community and nurture, to bring them all into Jesus’ arms. It is a vast mission field, full of students from all different backgrounds and countries, and through this ministry, these students will be brought into unity in Christ.
With a great mission, it is easy to see why public campus ministry is important, and even more important is the impact students can have any work they can do as young people if they serve God. A quote from Ellen White says “[Satan] well knows that there is no other class that can do as much good as young men and young women who are consecrated to God. The youth, if right, could sway a mighty influence. Preachers or laymen advanced in years, cannot have one-half the influence upon the young, that the youth, devoted to God, can have upon their associates…You can do a work that those who minister in word and doctrine cannot do. You can reach a class whom the minister cannot affect”. (White 204,207) This inspiring message shows how much good can come out of the ministry, and that students who are starting and growing their ministries are doing a work for Jesus that no one else can do.
The importance of this ministry starts at how it affects and impacts the students ministered to. The whole point of the ministry is to show people the love of God, and bring them closer to Him, and as that happens, lives are truly changed. As an individual learns of the love God has for them or finds it again on their own in school, the fruits of the changes they are making become obvious. There are so many people in secular settings that are lost. There are many who suffer from drugs, drinking, depression, bad relationships, emptiness, or whatever sin and life problems they are going through. These people are either consciously or unconsciously yearning for something to fill that hole in their hearts, and as a ministry, our goal is to bring them what they are deeply craving: Jesus. As we do that, and as the individuals have real and genuine interactions with Him, their lives will instead be filled with love, joy, peace, and so much more, and it will be noticeable. These life changes can lead to baptisms, and full commitments to live for God, which is the greatest change someone can make.
Another big importance of this ministry is that it creates a community. It gives students a place to come together, to feel comfortable together, to learn and grow together, and to be friends together. On your own, many things can be hard, but having a community who can not only help you grow spiritually, but also help with the many things life and getting an education can throw at you, is truly a blessing, and is one thing that this ministry can bring to people. It brings people together and gives them people to rely on not only friendship but also fun. As students, they are all working towards the same goal, and having the same beliefs and wanting to bring more students together with them, creates such a loving and warm atmosphere to be a part of.
There should be an emphasis on building strong, spiritual connections and bonds with other Adventists and friends. This type of ministry reaches many diverse people that create this community made up of the non-Adventist students, the students who were raised Adventist but have drifted away, and the Adventist students who want to get involved. This creates such a wonderful balance of mentoring and support from everyone involved. With public campus ministry, not only is it a want to bring new Adventists into the church, but inspire the youth to become soul winners, inspire them to reach out and care about the salvation of others. Lives being changed, baptisms, and communities being formed are all wonderful fruits of the ministry, and within it, there is a structure in place that is essential to the function and effectiveness of the group. Although the only thing needed to be a student group, according to the university, is be registered and meet the requirements, there are many different things that go into starting and maintaining a successful public campus ministry. This includes the leadership of the group, connection to the local church, and the determination and passion of the group.
The leadership of any student group, but especially this student group, is vital to how the group will run and is the first essential aspect to look at. Great spiritual leadership starts at the heart of the spiritual leaders, and their dedication and commitment to God. People who will be leading others in this group should be people who will encourage spiritual atmosphere and conversation within the group. Leading a student group is always a big task, and when you have the task of winning people to Jesus, those leaders need to be passionate and have daily experiences with God. The leaders should be students who prayerfully lead the group and their fellow students, and enjoy serving God.
Another important aspect of the ministry is the connection between the group and the local church. A relationship between the church family and the students provides many different things for all involved. It gives students the opportunity to serve at the church they attend, and get to know the adults and young families in the church. This can lead to great mentorship, not only spiritually, but professionally as well, as church members have different jobs, skill sets, and education levels. Great bonds can form through the interactions at church, and in addition to the relationships, support and help can also come from the church. Funding, or even just more manpower can be provided by the members of the church, and the members could be eager or excited about helping the ministry on campus.
With whatever help the student group may be receiving, or however great the leadership may be, the determination and the passion of the group is an aspect that applies throughout everything. Without passion for what the group is doing, things will get done, but the fruits from the group, if people are passionate about serving God and ministering to others, will be so much greater. If the group is determined, and get back up every time they go through trials, that is what makes the student group great. They will get these traits from God, and with them, they will keep pushing on and forward to win people to Jesus.
Combining all the different aspects that make up the public campus ministry, everything that the group does will be dependent on the resources and people they have, but the typical things the group does include: Friday and Saturday night worships to bring in the Sabbath, Bible studies, small groups, outreach events, and in reach events. All of these things are ways the group will get people involved, nurture them, show them God’s love and truth, and continue to form a strong community.
Unfortunately, with every group, there are challenges that will be faced. There will be ups and downs in different areas of the group, and rough patches that the group will go through that will test the group. Those challenges include finding solid leadership, getting funding, coordinating events, working together with others, unity, interest levels of the students, and finding ways to reach students.
The first of these challenges is finding solid leadership. Finding dedicated, spiritual, responsible, and passionate leaders to guide a student group can be a hard task, and one of the most important aspects that we have to tackle. This can even sometimes lead to discouragement when trying to keep the student group active and dedicated when there aren’t enough leaders. Another issue is often not having enough people to fill all the roles and responsibilities the group has, causing the few people leading the group to have a lot more responsibility than normal. In addition, putting people where they can best serve is a hard task as well, and when putting someone somewhere they don’t do well may lead to them not wanting to be a part of the group anymore.
Secondly, finding funding for the group can also be the source of a lot of stress within the group. When trying to plan events and ways to reach out to the students and people within the group, money is needed. Especially if the group wants to feed people for Bible studies or vespers, creating more of a home environment, it can be very expensive. Without the money to do what the group is planning, that can also cause discouragement, and cause people to stop coming up with more ideas that might not be able to happen. Money controls a lot of what the group does together, and could possibly affect the appeal of their events.
Thirdly, coordinating events can be a challenge. There is so much planning that goes into everything the group does and determines the outcomes of the event. Planning is an important aspect of all events and takes lots of time and effort. With a smaller group of people, the planning can often end up falling on one or two people, causing them to stress about the events. This could even possibly cause conflict between people who might not be contributing to the events or the planning of them.
Next, is working together with others. This challenge can be hard for many student groups. With the different things the group does, there may be differing opinions or methods of how things should be run or what should be done. These situations can also cause conflict between people and can divide the group if these problems escalate. As the group goes through different things together, when there is a divide, it can cause many problems for the student group and the ministry to other students.
Going hand in hand with the previous challenge, group unity is another problem that can come up. If everyone does not have the same mindset or goals for the student group or are not all on the same page, it can make it difficult in the planning stages, and executing different plans. When people are in disagreement, it can truly affect the whole ministry.
In addition, it can be challenging to find different ways to reach students. A lack of ideas, or effective methods, can make it hard to keep trying new things or going with the methods that work. Students are all reached in different ways, and it is hard to choose one thing to focus on when trying to plan events. Being able to gauge what events work for different people is difficult, and sometimes different methods will be successful in some cases, but not as successful in other cases, causing confusion on whether or not that method of reaching people should be used again.
Lastly, there is the challenge of a leader in the group keeping their own spirituality. As a full-time student and leader in the group, it can be hard to juggle those two things alone, but trying to keep a relationship with God during those busy times can be hard. While so busy, even with ministry, it can happen that the reason why an individual is doing something gets lost. This really affects the atmosphere of the group, the decisions made, the attitude going into everything the group does, and most importantly, it affects that person’s relationship with God. Everything that person does flows from their heart, so if it isn’t purified and consecrated to Him daily, it will affect who they are as a person and a leader.
With all of these challenges, it may seem that having a public campus ministry might be more negatives than positives, but that definitely isn’t true! Ministering to other students and bringing them to Christ is worth all of the challenges, and with prayer and planning, these challenges will be taken care by Him who cares for us, loves us, and who is with us always. There is always a way to problem solve and not just manage, but mend the problems presented to the group. With the challenges the group is facing, there are always solutions to them, and the challenges may be heavy, but God is mightier than they are.
The first challenge was finding leadership for the group, and although this one is a tough one, there are solutions. The first thing that should be done, is to pray to God and ask him to bring people to the group. He always sends people at the most unexpected times and from places we won’t even expect. The next board member could be a student the group ministered to and ended up getting baptized. Or, they could be an Adventist student new to the university. With the students and peers available to be on the board, inspiring commitment can be a worry, but a solution to this is to try and discern the students’ spiritual levels and leadership interests. As a leader in the group, the student should be an active member of the church, and be responsible and interested in serving as a leader. With these requirements, it will benefit the group with having the leadership it needs. As a group finds leadership, it shouldn’t find students just for numbers in the group, but find people who are passionate about doing the ministry. Once students become a part of the group, one big thing that will help a lot is putting the students into positions they will thrive in. This can come by observing what each person likes to do, or you see would be good at, and give them the opportunity to do those things. Each person has unique gifts and skills, and certain tasks will suit different people, so finding where that person thrives can really boost the desire to be a part of the group and help in the ministry.
Next, was the challenge of funding. Although stresses about money are very real and common, there are many places to turn for help. Every group on a public campus is a student group through the school, and universities have money set aside for all of the groups to use. Having this money available, as plans are made for future events and things the group need money for, a proposal to the school should be made requesting the funds. The school may say no to some things, but start trying to find funding there. Another option is going to the local church board and writing a proposal requesting help with monetary needs. While the school might not provide all the money needed, the church is there to help support the ministry as well, so asking for help there can be a huge asset to the student group. Fundraising is also an option, and can be a fun way to bring the members of the group together as well.
Another challenge, coordinating events, does take a lot of work and effort, but there is a solution to the issues. With the planning of the events, different tasks should be delegated to different people in the group. The planning should be a group effort, not only to prevent one or a few people from being overburdened, but also the whole group has a part in the planning, all feeling needed. There are many little and big things needed to be done in everything planned, so giving everyone those individual roles is the best planning you can do.
The solutions to the next challenge, working well with others, will improve the whole ministry. As a group, the students will be working together frequently planning events, giving Bible studies, leading out in worship services. Although all of these things do bring people together, having relationships with others is so important to the growth within and outside of the ministry. Being friends with each other and knowing the group can minimize conflicts, and also help with resolving the issues that will come up. When those problems do come, because having a friendship with the other members is ideal, it will be easier for a friend to go to a friend and work things out that way, or just talk through the different opinions or disagreements. As friends, students can get a lot more done, especially because people will want to be there. One way this can be encouraged is putting time aside separately from meetings, events, or planning, and everyone spending time together. This will help the more personal relationships to grow, and will bring everyone together.
Next, the unity of the group is also essential, and with this challenge, the solution is attainable. With different opinions and wants for the group, it is important to have meetings where those things are discussed and worked out, and making meetings specifically for that at the beginning of the year can really help this early on. Everyone should be on the same page to continue going forward with the mission and purpose of the group, and this way future problems will already be resolved before they start.
Another challenge was meeting students. Finding ways to reach students is the way the group will meet people, and there are many ways they can do this. By doing outreach, the group will have the opportunity to meet those who are lost and seeking God, and one of the main ways the group can do this is by going on campus to do events. A great outreach method is doing surveys to get students who are interested in Bible studies to study with. The survey asks questions about their religious background, their beliefs, and other things to lead into asking if they are interested in learning more about the Bible, and when the person says yes, Bible studies start. Another idea to get Bible studies or more involvement in the group is to have a weekly table to set up on campus that is easily seen/accessible by students walking by or in the building. At this booth, information can be shared about the group, different materials can be passed out like glow tracts or flyers, Bible study surveys can be done, or whatever else the group chooses to do there. There should also be a booth set up at the club fair at the school, so freshman and other students looking for a club to join can learn more there as well. A prayer booth is also a way to reach people, especially other Christians, and just pray for people on the campus. In addition to these ideas, different signs can be made to meet people as well. These signs can say things like “Free Bible Studies,” “Free Intelligent Conversation,” “Do You Have Any Prayer Requests?” and whatever else you can come up with. There are many other ways a group can meet people, but one of the methods that can be the most effective is through ministering to friends. As students, there are so many people that can be reached through everyday interactions, and being intentional about them and being their friend can often lead to Bible studies or interest in the lifestyle the student has that is different from normal students. It is a person’s life that can be the biggest impression on an individual. Some people have had bad impressions of Christians or Christianity, and to them “A kind, courteous Christian is the most powerful argument that can be produced in favor of Christianity.” (White 122) This, in addition to all the other ways that can be thought of, can be used to reach others.
Lastly, was the issue of the individual members losing their spirituality from being so busy. Taking time daily to read God’s word, to communicate with Him, is vital to a healthy Christian life, and a healthy Christian student group. WIth having so much to do, especially with school, priorities must be in place so that God isn’t lost in the daily shuffle of life. Setting aside special time with God is so vital, and with that relationship with Him the days will be so much better. When in communication with God, an individual will have so much guidance that will help them everyday with every situation they are in, and will especially help the student group. Without the love for God and the dedication to Him, the motivation and want to serve Him might fade, so by spending time with Him each day and truly reflecting on how much He has done will keep that motivation and want to serve Him strong.
In conclusion, public campus ministry makes a difference in all the lives involved, and although there are challenges that each group has to face, there are solutions that can be found through prayer and following God’s will. So many lives have been affected by the efforts made by these ministries, and without them, I myself wouldn’t be an Adventist today. I was ministered to by students and young people just like you who wanted to change a college campus and the students there. So I encourage you, whether you are starting a student group with few people, or are maintaining your student group that has been around a while, if you follow God, and persevere throughout the challenges, God will use you in mighty ways. As it is translated in the New International Version, in Hebrews 6:10, it says “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” This ministry helps bring people out of darkness, and into the beautiful light of God, and as you serve Him in this way, He will never leave your side.
“About Us.” Public Campus Ministries of Seventh-Day Adventists, pcm.adventist.org/about-us/.
White, Ellen Gould Harmon. Messages to Young People. Review and Herald, 2002.
White, Ellen Gould Harmon. Reflecting Christ. Review and Herald Pub. Association, 2010.