Kendall College of Art and Design is a commuter school of 1071 students in downtown Grand Rapids. Sixty nine percent of KCAD students are full time. Kendall is a four year college and part of Ferris State University. At KCAD, classes stop for a lunch break every day which helps us have regular student meetings. Ministry on this campus is collaborative between Campus Ministry @GVSU interns and True North.
a weekly meeting
a weekly meeting
This year during weekly meetings, students rotated leading discussions using the Animate Faith Video Series. This resource had a short video introducing a topic, such as the meaning of the Cross, what is salvation, etc, designed to encourage the students to think and discuss. The material also included journals for writing, drawing and reflection what were ideal for engaging art students.
We also hosted three speakers. Local fine artist Virginia Weiringa after her talk commented “That was a great group of young people with very thoughtful questions.”
Matt Plescher, painter and calligrapher, spoke on the creative process. One student commented that she needed to give a class presentation on her creative process and she was not sure what that was. Hearing Matt helped her identify her own creative process.
The Rev. Charlotte Ellison spoke on giftedness as call.
The students organized an overnight retreat that four students attended. They organized a “Friendsgiving Dinner”, game and movie night, an Easter dinner, and end of semester party, and a day trip to the Chicago Art Museum.
our annual gingerbread house making party
our annual gingerbread house making party
our annual gingerbread house making party
Art students bring a certain level on intensity to the project
Students also organized and led a weekly lunchtime prayer meeting.
We hosted four Random Acts of Lunch (September, October, February, April) These are days we bring in a hot meal and serve any student who wants to eat. About 20 students, most of whom are not regular attenders of weekly meetings, participate each time.
Random act of lunch
our students serving
Random Act of Lunch
Each year graduating students have a show, here are some of the art created by our students.
medical illustration student
art education student
art education student: assignment create 3D work from a piece of furnature
Here is a summary of what happened this past academic year at GRCC.
Grand Rapids Community College is a commuter campus of a little over 13,000 students. Twenty six percent of the students are full time (the highest percentage since 2010), and 74 % are part time. The average age of a GRCC student is 24 years old, Twenty five percent of students are 25 or older. Because of these realities, many of the traditional ways of doing campus ministry are not as effective at GRCC. It is a school where we practice “loitering with intent” as a way to connect with students.
One regular program of ours is the Listening Post. Every Tuesday of the academic year from 11 am – 2pm volunteers from local congregations and the Ministry Director are at a table in the Student Center available to listen to whatever students wish to talk about. Sometimes we only see a student once. For example I spoke with a young man whose mother had died four days earlier. That was our only conversation. Other students stop by weekly. One student, a self identified atheist comes every week to talk about his life. Here are a few examples of the kinds of conversations we have.
Two Listening Post volunteers
Luncheon for Volunteers from GRCC and GVSU
A student stops to tell us they do not feel safe on campus, because someone from their past knows they are at GRCC. They are using different routes when going places. Listener asked and learned, they have an appointment with school counselor to talk about this. The next week they return and tell us that they did tell counselor about safety issue. Today they are encouraged, saying “I’m going to do what I need to do!”
Two weeks later they stop by to say they have all “A”s, but are tired. Another two weeks later, they tell us they had dental surgery the day before, they are moving this week, and feeling stressed but still have all “A’s. The community college honor society was tabling across the way. We suggested they go talk with them because the honor society can help them get scholarships. They went to talk, came back and said,” they have scholarships to the two schools I’m thinking about transferring to.”
A Muslim student stopped was discouraged about failing math test. The listener and the student talked about using math lab and free tutoring. Students can retake the test up to three times. Next week: stopped to say they passed the test.
An LPN student had noticed our Suicide lifeline cards earlier. They stopped this day to share “Logics” suicide prevention rap video with the listeners. This person is an older student returning to school, and they tell us their father completed suicide 30 years ago. The Listener and student talked about Survivors of Suicide event coming up, co hosted by GRCC nursing department. Then one of the nursing staff who is organizing Survivors of Suicide event stopped by to talk. Next the advisor from two year college honor society that was tabling across the hall came over and said they overheard the discussion about the SOS event and their students decided they want to help with the event.
We also connect with students by supporting existing student groups, offering our presence and encouragement. Our Ministry Director attends the two hour weekly meetings of StandOut, the LGBTQ student group on campus.
At the request of the Nursing Department faculty, the Ministry DIrector is present in the Nursing department to pray with students. Faculty actively refer students and students are free to stop and request prayer.
We also work to maintain connections with students via our weekly newsletter and our social media sites. Students contact the Ministry Director as needed through Facebook Messenger and text messaging. This can result in one on one in person conversations. This is especially important to students who cannot attend events because of work schedules and family responsibilities or who have heavy academic loads. (one of our students was taking 19 hours in the Winter 2018 semester!) Often these encounters are quite practical, we helped one student understand how to make airline and hotel reservations online. We also have accompanied students to the hospital for surgery when they did not have local family support.
Along with our ministry colleagues ( Jabez Ministries and Fellowship of Student Athletes) we host the Breakfast Boost on the Monday and Tuesday of Finals Week. We give students free bagels, donuts and coffee. We serve and interact with approximately 190 students each semester through this event. We also host a Thanksgiving dinner at Westminster Presbyterian Church. We have students who regularly attend this even and who we only see at this event, but do encounter on campus informally.
GRCC facts to know:
Office of Student Life survey: 45% of students report being food insecure
35% report being housing insecure
9% report being homeless at least one night in the past year.
In addition to a more traditional food pantry, GRCc has several of these “Food Exchange” sites. In both these photos, I had put out several items, individual oatmeal cups, fruit cups, etc and after 60 minutes, not much was left. Hunger on campus is a real issue.
If you want to keep up with what is happening at GRCC in real time, follow us on your favorite social media site
Campus ministry, as you might imagine, is mostly focused on students and what happens on campus. However there are other things that happen and here is the update on those “other” things.
There are other regular and one off meetings and events that occurred over the semester.
I met weekly to talk and coordinate with other campus ministers about shared projects at GRCC, KCAD, and GVSU. I attended an evening service and supper at LaGrave CRC to support one of my colleagues and to talk informally with people about the Listening Post.
I am the membership secretary of the National Campus Ministry Association and thus part of the coordinating committee. In addition to maintaining the membership list and mailing membership gifts, I also am in charge of maintaining our job posting sites (Google group, website, Facebook and Twitter). I am also part of the organizing committee for our national conference. The conference will be July 26-28 at Illiff School of Theology in Denver with the theme “Campus Ministry in difficult times”
My work also involves visiting local congregations.
Going to visit area churches and to tell them about campus ministry is a great joy for me.
I also regularly attend the meetings of the Presbytery of Lake Michigan. This is an opportunity to connect with pastors and elders from PCUSA churches in west Michigan. As well as reconnect with other campus ministers in the presbytery.
I attended Interfaith Advisor luncheons at GVSU. At these luncheons people (administration and faith based organization advisers) have the opportunity to talk about what’s happening on campus.
I am a non voting ecumenical member of the Wesley Fellowship Board at GVSU.
Continuing education is an ongoing process. There is always something new to learn or skills to improve. I use online resources (Interfaith Youth Core webinars, NCMA webinars, PCUSA podcasts ( Pastoral care) and a Trans Faith Allies course), in addition to my summer reading list and attendance at the NCMA conference. I also received a certificate in Youth Mental Health first aid.
I spoke with a young man referred by his spiritual director about campus ministry. This person is in a process of discernment about a possible call to campus ministry.
I had coffee with two Young Life staff persons about GRCC students and campus life.
I worked with the True North board to develop fundraising materials and launch a fundraising campaign. If you think you might be interested in serving on our board (it’s a great bunch of people), let me know. And if you would like to donate to the ministry of True North, you may do so here.
I maintain the True North website, Facebook page and Twitter feed, as well as the Facebook presence at GRCC and Kendall for our collaborative site specific groups. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter and you will be able to find out what’s happening as it happens.
As you can see, there is a significant amount of “off campus” work that happens. Some of it is making connections with others in campus ministry, both for mutual support and continuing education. Some of it involves making connections with the faculty, staff, and administration on campus. Without their support I cannot do my work. Some of that work is making sure that folks in congregations remember that we exist! If you are not on campus it is easy to forget that campus ministers are around and meeting with students. Some of this work is just the administrative and management “stuff” that needs to happen for our work to continue.
One of the best things about this job, besides the students, is the variety of things I do!