Campus Ministry Matters

Like a Freshman

I’ve now worked on three college campuses.  In July I officially began here at the University of Minnesota.  And once again, I’m a freshman.  I still get lost on campus.  I still don’t know where all the buildings are.  And I’m still nervous about being here. I’m a freshman.

What does it mean to be a freshman?  How do we work with this group of students, especially at this time of year.  I have this sense of urgency to form a community of students who are hanging around all the time, having a great time, connected with one another and are planning events and taking the lead.  But can I expect this right now? I guess I’ve always had those upperclassmen we all love to be ready with the first few weeks of events and community building.  In the future, they will be there again.  I see a year from now a group of at least 10 of them who should be around.  But right now, we’re a group of freshman.  And those freshman, much like me, are somewhat terrified and overwhelmed.

So, how do we as campus ministers channel that feeling of being a freshman all over again?  I can’t expect a lot of leadership yet, I can’t expect people to show up every night and students to be ready to plan events. So what exactly do I do to make sure those freshman can feel welcome and we can grow a community that consists mostly of nervous and not fully grounded individuals. Essentially, how do I help a community live like a freshman but yet keep our  feet grounded and provide reassurance to those who come that it’s going to get better.

And how do I as a freshman campus minister on this campus get connected to those students?  Should I go to the atheist club or sneak into the Campus Crusade gathering to see what’s going on.  Should I just connect with professors and staff, should I host lots of events that have some publicity but don’t necessarily do more than provide hospitality.  Do I just connect as hard as I can with as many people as possible over coffee, lunch, random chance meetings?  Oh, to be a freshman again. But even if I’m not, I certainly feel like a Freshman all over again.

Thoughts, suggestions and more questions to ponder are welcomed.




2 thoughts on “Like a Freshman”

  1. You know… my sister (one of them) and I have this theory that no one ever really grows up, or in this context, we never really get to be seniors. That we’re all still kids making things up as we go along, and the ones who act like they know what they’re doing have just learned how to not take themselves too seriously… or on the other hand, take themselves too seriously to realize we’re are kids. Meh, what do we know?

  2. Beginner’s mind. Whenever we approach any topic, any situation, any exchange, we can have beginner’s mind. That is an open and receptive mind. A flexible mind. A mind that has room to see and feel new things. To not be jaded or feel too out of it. It does not matter my age.

    This is a term which originates in Zen Buddhism and also used in Martial Arts.

    This is an old Zen Buddhist story.

    Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who cam to inquire about Zen.
    Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.
    The professor watched and the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”
    “Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

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