Twenty-two B.C. pastors, university chaplains, and campus workers gathered in Whistler, B.C., for a two-day retreat Oct. 28–29, to think, pray, and plan toward more effective engagement of college and university students.
Because post-secondary students face particular challenges (e.g., secular academics, new freedoms, fresh responsibilities), and because an increasing number of students leave Christian community – and faith in God – during the university years, the B.C. MB Conference launched a campus ministry committee at its 2009 convention.
Spearheaded by church planters Andrew and Rebecca Stanley (Urban Journey, Vancouver), the campus ministry committee has been working to help MB churches, pastors, and mentors care for Christian and non-Christian students as they prepare themselves for careers.
B.C. Mennonite Brethren currently have a presence on university campuses in Abbotsford, Kamloops, Langley, Prince George, Vancouver, and Victoria. The Whistler retreat brought together a province-wide network of churches and individuals that are ministering in the areas of administration, teaching, pastoral care, and outreach to Canadian and inter-national students.
Campus workers reported that the university environment, which encourages questions and experimentation, creates a space in which some are willing to consider the good news of Christian faith. In fact, there were numerous reports that students and university officials are increasingly open to a Christian presence on campus.
While B.C. MBs are discovering numerous opportunities for on-campus ministries, retreat participants acknowledged that a lack of funding has demanded creativity when it comes to resourcing workers and programs. Perhaps even more challenging is having enough time and wisdom for students as they sort through the many tough questions they face in those pivotal years of study.
Even so, retreat participants left Whistler encouraged and more fully committed to bringing an evangelical-Anabaptist voice to the province’s academic realm.