Building on a Legacy of Campus Ministry
Dear Greenhouse Family,
Many years ago I came to know Christ through the work of a Young Life chapter that was involved in my high school. The Young Life leaders invited me to events and meetings, shared the good news of Jesus with me, listened to my questions, and cared for me as I made the decision to follow Christ. And their work didn’t stop then. They mentored and discipled me; they helped me learn more about Scripture; they named my gifts and gave me concrete opportunities to develop them; and they encouraged me to use these gifts for the good of Christ’s Kingdom. Those Young Life leaders were used by God to set me on the path that led to the ministry of Greenhouse. I am very grateful for them.
A campus ministry made an incredible difference in my life, so it is no surprise that Greenhouse’s college campus ministry is very dear to my heart and that it was one of the earliest movements we started. College students are wrestling with the big questions of life and developing their own world views apart from their families. What a ripe moment to introduce them to Christ! Yet, as Paul wrote to the church in Rome, “How are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?” It is for this reason we began reaching out to students at Northwestern fifteen years ago and why we went to great efforts to begin a ministry at University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), the city’s largest and most diverse campus. Greenhouse holds church services that are specifically geared toward students and the questions they are asking in this very pivotal, unsettled time in their lives. Greenhouse missioners also spend time on campus to reach out, form friendships, and walk alongside students on their journeys. This has led to a vibrant ministry in which students are being discipled to reach out to others with the gospel and to draw them into the fellowship of the church.
We are now in a very pivotal, unsettled time as a nation and as a world. This has only heightened the urgency of the questions that college students were already asking. What really matters and is truly meaningful? How can I approach the future without fear? Right now they are not even sure what college will look like this coming fall. But in this time of closed campuses, online learning, and social distancing, our campus missioners are finding that their ministries are flourishing! Because Greenhouse has been a steady presence on campus and because missioners have already formed relationships with so many, students are reaching out to them with their questions and uncertainties.
One missioner has even found her opportunities with students have increased. “The limited options of phone and video conference calls have actually made introverted students more willing to reach out,” said Lizzy, who happens to be more of an introvert herself. “From the comfort of their own spaces, they are more open to share their fears and struggles.” And missioners like Lizzy are able to sit with them in these uncertainties—while holding out the certainty of Jesus.
I am so thankful that college students are hearing this message! I still have so much to tell you—about our vision to reach 30 campuses right here in Chicago, about what Anglican churches are doing in other places across the U.S. and around the globe, about our partnership with Cru that allows us to take this multiplying work onto any college campus (and how that partnership came about!)… So think of this letter as a Part 1, with a Part 2 coming in August, closer to the start of the school year.
It is in the midst of storms that we understand best the certainty of Jesus and the amazing and great ability of our God to work good out of harm. I pray that in the midst of this storm the Spirit is encouraging your soul with this unshakable truth.