More Than Extracurricular
As a campus minister, the first week of classes doesn’t mean any actual classes for me, and it doesn’t involve navigating slimy dorm showers or meeting a new roommate (which I’m thankful for).
But it does mean some of the other first week stuff, like Involvement Fairs and trying to go against the herd in the HUB stairwell. I’ve also been meeting with many new students, which is one of the things I enjoy most about my work as a campus minister. Whether freshmen, transfers, or just new to me, it’s a blast to meet interesting people and hear their stories.
People often talk about their families in our meetings, which is pretty transparent (and maybe a little disconcerting) when we’ve only known each other for about 45 minutes. But a common theme I hear is some brokenness in the biological family. Maybe Dad was absent, or Mom was irresponsible. Maybe “It’s complicated,” and the kids had to grow up making sense of that. Regardless, it’s usually an issue.
Recently I met with a student who talked about his broken family. He said he hadn’t really experienced “home” since he was 11, but had been praying for one here at Penn State. And he said he really felt that the other night at our first meeting. I was really moved by this, because “home” is one of the things we aim to be. It’s one of the things we pray for.
I firmly believe that a campus ministry–particularly one connected to a local church, as we are–is far more than just one more extracurricular activity. We are your spiritual home. We are your family, as brothers and sisters through Jesus Christ. Being “family” means some of the headaches of close relationships, but the pros FAR outweigh the cons. It’s especially poignant to be family when our biological families have left a lot of hurt and brokenness. I’ve seen the spiritual family of campus ministry/local church have a HUGE impact on the lives of students.
So if you’re a student–whether freshman, transfer, or returning–I’d urge you to make finding a spiritual family while you’re at Penn State your #1 goal for the first two weeks. People sometimes talk about “putting God first,” and I this is one of the best ways to do that.
A campus ministry is not just one more extracurricular to squeeze in between studying, exercising, and hanging out. It’s more of a “co-curricular.” It’s not an add-on; it’s the community of Christ-formed relationships through which you can experience everything else. With apologies to every other organization, whether it be an honor society, a sport, or a club, your campus ministry is different. It’s family.