The Vision of True North

Sometimes in the blogging world, a group of bloggers will agree to write on a single topic and post their efforts on the same day.  Such an effort is underway in the Presbyterian Church and this post is part of the new Presbyterian Bloggers Unite group whose first topic is “campus ministry”. You can read what everyone else has to say, here.

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I write this with more than a little fear and trembling, considering the brevity of my involvement in campus ministry. I did a part time year long internship while I was in seminary and have been at my current job, ministry coordinator for True North since July 2008. My experience in campus ministry pales in comparison to the 20+ years experience I have in my previous career. But two things prompt me to do this.

Mainly, I want to share the distinctive focus of True North. Let me be clear, this focus was not my idea. True North’s approach to campus ministry is the vision of its governing board. These folks had the vision long before I showed up. I just think it’s a great idea and I’m glad I’m part of it.  Secondarily, sometimes it is helpful to hear from someone new. I hope that is the case today.

True North Campus Ministry serves college students in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan. We are currently at Kendall College of Art and Design and Grand Rapids Community College. Next year we hope to be active at the Pew Campus of Grand Valley State University.  True North’s mission is to help these students integrate their Christian faith with their daily lives, academic work and future careers. We ‘re here to help students discern God’s call in their life.

As part of the Reformed tradition, True North understands God’s call to extend to every aspect of our lives, not only the jobs we do, but also where we live, the transportation we use, the schools we attend, the neighborhoods we live in, the relationships we form. So our focus is on helping students think about what it means to live as a Christian in our world. 

How do we help students think these things through? So far, it’s been a book study group, movies, and speakers. We have also had student artists show their work at a local church and speak about their understanding of the relationship between faith and art. Because I am new at this, I’m willing to try all sorts of things to discover what helps students think as Christians about the choices they are making.

One of the more interesting and difficult things we do, is to match students with particular career interests with Christian professionals in that field. They meet for an hour to ninety minutes to talk about how faith shapes the way one does a particular job. The student hears one person’s story and has the chance to ask the sort of questions that their formal classroom education in a secular setting might not address. The Christian professional has the opportunity to reflect on their faith and work journey and to offer some advise and encouragement.

While we are a Presbytery supported campus ministry, we are not a campus ministry for Presbyterian students. We have, I think, one Presbyterian student. And that’s fine. True North is the  Presbyterian Church’s gift to the college community. We’re not here to tell students what to think or do or believe. Our call is to walk with them-to encourage, to support, to be a resource, to care.

And we do this because we take baptism seriously. As part of the very large household of faith, we promise to care and nurture each other. That promise includes college students. When our students leave their home church and travel to college, we trust that someone else is there, waiting for them.  That someone is me, and every other person in campus ministry.

This first year for me has, at times been frustrating as I try to figure out how to do this job, but also so much fun. These students are hard working, sincere, funny, friendly, and serious about their faith. They are a fabulous bunch of people to spend time with.

My brief experience in Grand Rapids has been that students want to live authentic Christian lives. They deeply want to honor God in all that they do.  They want, and need, and appreciate a campus ministry willing to help them discover God’s call on their life.

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