I just got back from the 180˚ Symposium at Andrews University, sponsored by the Center for Youth Evangelism. Kudos to Ron Whitehead, Japhet De Oliveira, Steve Case, Ron Pickell, and all others involved. Our topic: public campus ministry. I presented a paper on Ellen G. White and the Secular Campus.
Adventists have a spotty record when it comes to ministry on public and private (“non-Adventist”) college and university campuses. We have good examples at places like Berkeley and Knoxville, active student organizations at schools like Texas A&M, and promising new ventures like that led by Sebastien Braxton in Boston. We have some training resources, like The Word on Campus (available from Advent Source) and a Campus Spiritual Life Certificate Program at the seminary that can provide quality training (but it is under-advertised and so few have taken advantage of it).
But we have little money. Our NAD coordinator is a full time pastor and works on a meager stipend and travel budget.The same is true at the conference and local level. Because of this, you can count on the fingers of one hand the number of full-time Adventist chaplains. There are only a couple who have bothered to seek endorsement from Adventist Chaplaincy Ministries (and none of us can name those people). There is little stability in ministry, and so little wisdom gained from years of experience (again, we’re talking fingers on one hand when we speak of the number of campus ministers with 10 years or more of experience).
And yet there are 19,000,000 students at these colleges and universities in North America–the combined population of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and Phoenix. 70% of Adventist students are at non-Adventist colleges.
We were reminded in an NAD report last year by Monte Sahlin that Adventism is “graying.” The median age is high, and not just because Adventists are living longer than the general population, but because we are losing young adults in their 20s, and have a dearth of members in the 20-45 age bracket.
How much wisdom and experience and giftedness have we lost through this attrition? How much tithe money has the church lost because today’s young doctors, lawyers, business entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, and video game programmers did not find the church there for them during college and grad school?
We spend millions of dollars on evangelism, throwing much of it away on mass mailings to tens of thousands of people that will result in one or two baptisms. Why not spend this money to evangelize college and university campuses that are full of seekers–and our own young people?
The harvest is ripe–where are the workers? Where is the passion? Where are the resources?