180 Symposium Focuses Spotlight on Secular Campuses

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?


About A Allan Martin, PhD

Jeremiah 24/7
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7 Responses to 180 Symposium Focuses Spotlight on Secular Campuses

  1. Todd says:

    I found an interesting article on this same subject on the last “Adventist World” (http://www.adventistworld.org/article.php?id=630) where Dr. Paulsen identifies some of the things you talked about here.

    But there was a GLARING omission in the article, which you nailed in your very last sentence: WHERE ARE THE RESOURCES?

    I would say it’s obvious. Look at the median age of the church, and you can see where the bulk of the resources are going. Take any Camp Meeting, and 70% of the resources go to the “adult” meetings, and everyone else has to carve up the remaining 30% of the budget for children, youth, young adults (if there’s even a YA program), and everyone in between.

    I would say those of us in the median age range of the World Church have identified that the problem, at least in the NAD, is that we aren’t really wanted. Maybe that’s harsh, but when you treat anyone under 50 as an after thought, after awhile they decide to go find a group that treats them like a person.

    There are young people out there with an earnest passion to lead and are willing to work diligently to tell people about Jesus! Unfortunately, they are generally unacceptable to the majority of NAD churches. Some get discouraged and walk away from church (and often times God), others find a church that will accept them and encourage their evangelism (there are quite a few former SDA YA in non-denominational churches).

    Don’t forget that our church was FOUNDED by young adults, and look at all they accomplished! Why should we then stifle young adults who have a burning desire to do the same work? Sadly, because it threatens the “Institution” and “The way things are.”

    What’s the solution? To me I challenge our Adventist world leaders to put their money where their mouth is. Give 70% if the funding to YA and see what happens! You want to see the Spirit move, I dare our church leaders to stop ignoring and patronizing our young people, and EMPOWER them! Because, let’s be honest, if they don’t, once that generation moves on, there won’t be an Adventist church left to speak of in North America.

  2. Steve says:

    Why wait for money to be handed to young adults? When I read about the Adventist young adults who started our church, they weren’t given any budgets? Convicted that God had called them and that what they studied in Scripture was true, they first went to their own churches and shared that. When they got kicked out, they simply started sharing with others.

    Why whine for money? Just go for it with what you have and trust God to provide! Don’t limit yourself to being a consumer who threatens to take your business elsewhere.

  3. Bill says:

    We are not talking about young adults whining for money. We are talking about a mission field of 19,000,000 people that is ignored. There is lots of evangelism money that is thrown away on mass mailings that are not effective. That money can better be used to place missionary personnel at the heart of college and university campuses.

  4. Mike Stevenson says:

    I like what Steve urges us to do. I am also drawn to Bill’s call for re-directing of funds that currently make certain publishing companies very rich. Every effort needs supply lines. Efforts get the cold shoulder and still flourish……early Adventist movement. Some get financed and flourish for a while until they are stymied by burocracy. Hard to know which is better to start with.

  5. Tony Anobile Jr. says:

    I think that this is a great idea! As spiritual leaders, we need to find ways to inspire and direct the next generation to come. Time, energy, and commitment are a vital part of that and I truly believe that this idea of tithing not only our financial assets, but our love, devotion, and time is refreshing and visionary. Keep up the good work, and let’s spread the word!

  6. Sean says:

    I was surprised not to see CAMPUS mentioned. The Michigan Conference supports a major campus ministry under the leadership of Samuel Pipim.

  7. Bill says:

    That is an example of a conference that is doing something. Sebastien Braxton, whom I mentioned, is affiliated with them.

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