Campus ministry: a place of authentic connection
By Mallory Moore
Illinois State University Wesley Foundation
I HATE doing dishes.
A few Sundays ago, during one of ISU Wesley’s weekly Sunday Suppers I was (secretly begrudgingly) doing dishes with one of our students who volunteered to help that night. As we were scrubbing, washing, drying, and putting the dishes away, this student and I were chatting.
When the conversation would hit a lull I would ask her a simple question like, “What’s your major?” or “What’s the best thing about college?” After just a few of those surface level questions, this student started telling me her story.
She told me about her family, what her faith background was like and how just before finding our ministry she was ready to walk away from faith completely. She told me how important our ministry has become for her, and how, in just a few short weeks, she felt completely at home in our ministry. We finished up the dishes, I thanked her and she hugged me goodbye. I continued to think about this moment and the things about which this college student shared. This moment went from just a weekly task to a time of deep connection with a college student.
While I will always hate the task of doing dishes, I now love the dish washing time on Sunday nights with students.
Five months ago I started as the Campus Minister/Associate Director of the Illinois State University Wesley Foundation. This ministry was once my home as a college student, and is the place that led me to and encouraged me into my call to ministry. As a recent seminary graduate, and having six years of youth ministry experience, I was excited to enter the world of campus ministry. I knew I had been equipped with skills and knowledge that would serve me well in this new role. I knew I was passionate about ministry with youth and young adults, and was excited to jump in to this new role for me at ISU Wesley.
As a “newbie” in the campus ministry world, I continue to be surprised and amazed by the students I have met and am getting to know. While being a leader in worship, preaching, leading trips, and organizing events are critical and meaningful parts of my job, what has stood out to me is how quickly college students open up and share their stories with me.
The moments of this first year in campus ministry that I will remember forever will not be the sermons that went especially well or the details of a spring break mission trip. Rather, the moments I remember will be the time a young woman came up to me with tears in her eyes expressing just how grateful she is to have found a ministry that loves and accepts her. Or, the conversation over Chipotle with a student who shared with me the challenges she has faced and how that has in turn challenged her faith. Or, the moment when a student realized that his passion for social justice can and should be paired with his Christian faith.
These moments have shown me how deeply college students have a desire to be known, a desire to find people to have authentic connection with in a world where that authenticity can be difficult to find.
They are reminders that the role I play in this campus ministry is important to helping these students find that genuine connection. Most importantly, these moments have taught me that our campus ministry must always be a place where these authentic connections happen. These students have stories to tell and so much to teach the rest of us, and they are looking for a place to do just that. I’m excited to be on staff at the ISU Wesley Foundation where students are finding a place to share their stories, and where they are finding authentic connection.
(Mallory Moore is the campus minister/associate director of the Illinois State University Wesley Foundation)