My connection with Presbyterian Campus Ministries came during my second year of seminary at Princeton. I did my Field Education with Princeton Presbyterians, the Presbyterian campus ministry at Princeton University. The year I spent working with that ministry was a great experience learning about college ministry, what that looks like in a large university setting and and experienced some of the joys and struggles of Presbyterian campus ministry.
Like many Presbyterian campus ministries, Princeton Presbyterians was not a huge group. The Campus Crusade groups and other evangelical campus ministries would get 80 kids to worship on a Friday night, and our numbers never usually surpassed 20 students.
It was a really unique and diverse group. We had some students in the group who were just cradle Presbyterians and so “of course” when they went off to college they were going to find the closest Presbyterian group they could join up with. So we had students who had been to Trienneium and had served as youth elders in their home churches. But then, we also seemed to attract the students who didn’t feel like they fit in any of the other campus ministry groups. And that is where I think Presbyterian campus ministries can really strive.
Certainly it’s important to work with other ministries on campus (although, it was my experience that the larger “evangelical” groups really didn’t want anything to do with the Presbyterians), but I think Presbyterian campus ministries really have a unique role within the campus. We were known as the group that would accept anyone. Many students came to us after getting burned by the evangelical ministries on campus. We were the place where students knew they could come with their questions, doubts and imperfections and be accepted for who they were. Sure there was more to our group than just questions and doubts, but it didn’t seem that many groups on campus were comfortable with that.
It’s my hope that Presbyterian campus ministries can continue to be places that students view as safe havens, places where their faith can be nurtured and challenged and places where they can experience loving and accepting Christian community.