(Written by former LCM-Bemidji Campus Pastor Jim Holthus and adopted by the LCM-Bemidji Directing Board, 2009)
There are many perspectives students bring with them to college. We have students who have been active in their churches and want to continue in their faith; on the other end of the spectrum we have atheists and agnostics. In between we have students who may have been baptized and/or confirmed in a congregation but have moved away from their faith community. We also have other Christian groups on campus that we work with when possible. Our task is to give the solid Christian students ways to continue to deepen their faith and to provide "entry-points" into our ministry for the others who may have had a negative experience with a congregation or group of believers and have never found a "safe community" to belong to where they can discuss issues of faith.
By definition, an "entry-point" is where a student can make contact with a member or two of our ministry or attend an event we offer where the student can carefully "check out" our building or members and feel safe and not pressured to join or get involved beyond what he/she feels comfortable doing. It is an opportunity for them to "test the waters" of us and our ministry. During this time they usually want to find out the following: 1) Are they friendly? 2) Am I either ignored or overwhelmed by the 'regulars'? 3) Are my personal boundaries respected? 4) Can I find out more information about other things this group does without needing to commit to future attendance?
Our regular weekly entry-points are programs like the Listening Post at the student union at BSU or in the cafeteria at Northwest Technical College, Food for Thought on Tuesday noon and Supper for a Buck on Thursday evenings. Our individual entry points are our Fall Backyard Bash, our hayride, our haunted house, and game or movie nights.
We also realize that students' schedules vary widely from semester to semester which impacts which events they can attend. For this reason we try to offer one event every day with the hope that they can still connect with us at least once every week. Here is our sample schedule: Mondays Bible study on campus at 8:00 p.m.; Tuesdays we offer a free home-cooked lunch at the Lutheran Campus Center called "Food for Thought"; Wednesdays we worship on campus at 9:00 p.m. in an informal style with a student worship band; Thursdays we offer a home-cooked evening meal at the Lutheran Campus Center from 5:00 – 6:30 we call "Supper for a Buck". Many local congregations volunteer to bring meals for this event. Weekends are for fun activities or retreats or speaking in local congregations or working with nearby church groups.
Invite/Include/Encourage Discover/Develop/Disciple Celebrate/Serve/Send
The first 3 words remind our returning active students of the need to reach out at the start of each semester to new freshmen and transfer students. Since we lose on average 30% of our core students to graduation or transfer each spring we continually need to rebuild our ministry.
The middle 3 words remind all of our students that college is a time of growth, discovery, and maturity. We give them opportunities to learn how each of them is gifted by the Holy Spirit and opportunities to develop these gifts through projects, retreats, or leadership opportunities.
The final 3 words are a reminder to us of how we live in community. We gather together weekly to praise God and celebrate Holy Communion; we also gather to serve and volunteer in our community. Every spring we honor our graduates and send them on their way with a special worship service as well as many tears. We are a transition ministry and accept that gladly; yet we grieve every year for the students we see leave us even as we do our best to create new emotional space for the new students who will arrive.
Lutheran Campus Ministry of Bemidji . . . .