January 4, 2019

Happy New Year!

For many of us, West Michigan is a place that that approaches problems differently. That’s certainly the case when it comes to campus ministry. At True North Campus Ministry we engage with the students at three downtown college campuses: Grand Rapids Community College, Kendall College of Art and Design, and Grand Valley State University. Few campus ministry programs anywhere pay attention to the commuter student, let alone those in community colleges; we do.

On behalf of the Board for True North, I invite you to join with other churches in our Presbytery to support  this unique Presbyterian campus ministry.

We focus on our students and who they can become. Our mission is to help college students consider God’s abundant possibilities for their lives and recognize their vocations as they make significant life decisions.

As True North’s campus minister,  Nancy Janisch brings a Christian presence that is inclusive and welcoming to young people from throughout the state. Many of our activities will be familiar: Bible study, pastoral care and service opportunities. On the urban, career-focused campus there are other activities where we engage students:

  • Connections. What does faith look like in the real world? Our guest speaker series at Kendall, bringing in respected artists who are persons of faith to discuss how their faith impacts their art
  • Hospitality. Our “Random Acts of Lunch”  is hosted by Christian Fellowship for their peers to nurture community on their commuter campus. For some, this may be their only meal of the day.
  • Listening. It’s no secret that many students (and staff) can feel alone. Every Tuesday at GRCC we set up the Listening Post to listen to whatever students want to talk about, their struggles, their joys, their prayer request. This table is staffed by members of  local churches.
  • Solidarity. Nancy regularly attends meetings of student groups such as the Native American Student Organization (NASO)  and Standout, the LGBT group at GRCC. Although these may not be typical places for ministry, we walk alongside students because what happens there is important.

While the Presbytery of Lake Michigan funds the campus minister’s salary, all other support for True North comes directly from churches and from individuals. The combination of volunteers and the gifts and regular pledges of these Covenant Partner churches keep our program stable and growing.

For 2019, to fully support our ministry to college students in downtown Grand Rapids,we need to raise $5,250. If each church in the Presbytery participates as they are able, we have no doubt that we will reach the goal. This year, for every new congregational donation of $100 or more, we are excited to announce that we have an anonymous supporter who will give an additional $100 to the ministry.

Will you be a partner with True North Campus Ministry this year?  

I have attached the different ways of contributing below and I hope you’ll look them over and consider a heartfelt YES !

Yours in Ministry,

Diane McElfish Helle

Board Chair, True North Campus Ministry


Helping Downtown Students Discover God’s Call and Direction

Church________________________________   Phone ________________________

Address________________________________   Email_________________________   

City, State and Zip_______________________________________________________

Church contact

Name_______________________________              Phone_______________________________


                          PLEASE COUNT ON OUR SUPPORT

For 2019, all new church pledges or gifts of $100 or more will be increased by $100 thanks to an anonymous donor.

[ ] Enclosed is our gift of $_____________

[ ] We will pray for the True North Campus Ministry.

[ ] We would like to be a Covenant Partner and pledge $_________for the coming year.

[ ] We would like to know more about the Listening Post or other volunteer       opportunities.


Return this form to:

      True North Campus Ministry, 47 Jefferson SE Grand Rapids MI 49501-1530

OR  Pledge online at

OR  Email Nancy Janisch at

True North Campus Ministry is a 501c3 organization and your donation may be tax deductible.

August 2018 / Newsletter

Looking back over the past year of ministry, we had a wide range of activities with Nancy and a wonderful group of volunteers, continuing to invest their time and energy in building programs and relationships. 

At GRCC the “Listening Post” hosted 133 conversations ranging from the celebratory (“I just got an ‘A’ in the class I’ve been so worried about”)  to the anguished (“My Mother died on Saturday”). On the nursing floor, Nancy’s invitation by the faculty to visit and be available to students has led to several significant interactions, including a long talk with one student about certainty (or the lack of it) and our knowledge of God. Nancy also continues to attend the LGBTQ student group, “Stand-Out” where her presence brings the Christian message that “absolutely everyone is welcome” to young people who have often heard a very different message from their church.

At Kendall we were able to offer four of our “Random Acts of Lunch” as we had wanted – two each semester. New for the  Kendall Christian Fellowship this year was Animate-Faith, a Bible series which uses short DVD segments to provoke discussion along with  journals (very artist friendly!) for personal reflection.  Nancy reported “Some students were, at first, perplexed – expecting Bible study to be simply a lecture. The student leaders, however, understood the purpose of the series and the group wound up having a lot of good discussion with high participation by everyone attending”. Finally, growing out of True North’s emphasis on Vocation, we continued our practice of bringing a well-respected professional artist to campus to talk with art students about the intersection of their faith and their art. Last semester artist Matt Plescher came and gave a talk about the creative process. 

At GVSU, Nancy continued to meet weekly with a Bible study and fellowship group, “The Garden”. (We support this along with Campus Ministry@GVSU). They spent the year studying James and Mark – finishing the latter just as the semester ended.

 Nancy wrote “  I was pleased that over the course of the year the students are now more comfortable talking about the literary structure and the author’s intent. In the fall, their default method of interpretation was to read the text as straight history, sort of like reading a newspaper account of events. I am pleased they are now able to think about why the authors of the gospels choose to tell certain stories and why the stories are ordered and juxtaposed as they are. Similarly with the Letter of James, they started thinking about the New Testament letters as letters, a response to a situation and a congregation rather than simply as proscriptions for all places and times.

So what’s ahead? 

We are still working on getting “chaplain” status at GRCC and at GVSU we will be taking over full responsibility for supporting “The Garden”. All our other ministry activities and groups will continue with, we hope, some additional volunteer listeners for the Listening Post, new opportunities for Service/Learning, and more gatherings around meals, including Random Acts of Lunch at Kendall. 

June 2017

Hello ______________

On this lovely June evening – wearing my True North Campus Ministry board chair hat – I’m writing to invite you (entice you!) to join me in supporting this unique Presbyterian ministry that serves the three downtown Grand Rapids campuses – GR Community College, Kendall School of Art and Design, and GVSU- all just a few blocks away from Westminster.

I got to know True North Campus Ministry when I was Elder for Community Ministries and I was so taken with it that I joined its board immediately after my term as elder ended. True North’s focus is on vocation –  exploring with students how their faith can influence all of their choices, from where they live and what work they do, to their relationships and how they want to serve their community.

As True North’s campus minister, Westminster member Nancy Janisch serves on all 3 campuses, bringing the open-arms and open-handed Christian practice of our Westminster Welcome and Charge to the young people who are flocking downtown for higher education.

You’d recognize a number of True North activities that are also a part of most college ministries – Bible study, pastoral care and service learning (in our case, mission trips to 1st Presbyterian Church, Benton Harbor).

But there are unique ministries, too. To name a few

• our guest speaker series at Kendall, bringing in respected artists who are persons of faith to discuss how their faith impacts their art

• “Random Acts of Lunch”  hosted by Christian Fellowship students for their peers in order to nurture community on their commuter campus

• the Listening Post at GRCC, staffed for 3 hours every Tuesday by members of local churches including Westminster, who are there listen to whatever students want to talk about.

• Nancy is also a regular participant in Standout, the LGBT group at GRCC,a very important and unusual place for a campus minister to be involved.

There’s much more to tell and I would be happy to meet you for coffee or chat on the phone or respond to an email if you want to know more. If you prefer to read, you can check out our Facebook page:  or our website:

I hope I’ve aroused your interest  – and here comes the “ask” (as promised above).  

All of the support for the program expense of True North comes directly from churches and individual church members like us. Presbytery pays only for staff salary (officially “half time”! ).  Beyond that, we depend entirely on volunteers, gifts, and the regular pledges of our Covenant Partners to keep our program stable and growing. To support the ministry that is planned for this year, we are committed to raise $5250 in donations.

I’ll attach the different ways of contributing below and I hope you’ll look them over and consider a heartfelt YES!

Will you join me in supporting this wonderful ministry of ours?  

All the best,


Diane McElfish Helle

Enthusiastic Board Chair

True North Campus Ministry


P.S. I meant it about the coffee!


Ways of Supporting True North Campus Ministry

Share your time – Expand your world

–  Join us as a volunteer at the Listening Post.

  •  Sit down with us at Random Act of Lunch.
  • –   Keep us in your prayers.

–   Friend our Facebook page for events.

–  Visit our website ( to keep up with our activities.

Make a financial Gift  – Consider the impact

–  $250 supports a Listening Post for a year.

–  $200 covers the cost of one Mission Immersion Weekend at First Presbyterian in Benton Harbor MI.

–  $100 supports the Finals Breakfast Boost for GRCC during their finals week.

–  $50 provides one “Random Act of Lunch” at Kendall

1. You can pledge or donate online at  (This is easiest)

2. You can mail a check to True North Campus Ministry, PO Box 1530, Grand Rapids MI 49501-1530.

        (I’ve attached a pledge card )  

3. You can reply to this email and we’ll contact you.  


True North Campus Ministry is a 501c3 organization. Your generous contribution may be tax-deductible.