As part of TAFES Go Conference I recently ran a webinar on ‘Engaging the whole campus’. A ministry like TAFES is focused on students, yet students are part of a specific place, the campus. What if that place has its own significance, and the significance of students is connected with that? Of course there are other people on campus too: researchers and teachers, administrative staff and governors, grounds and catering staff. What might it mean if this is not just a student ministry but also a campus ministry?
We can begin by posing two questions:
- Why are we on campus? (Is it just by accident?)
- Whose place is this? (Are we just visitors passing through?)
The main idea here is this: let us take responsibility for the place in which God has placed us. We are people on campus, but we can also begin to see ourselves as people of the campus and for the campus.
We can begin to discover more about the campus through the following mapping exercise. (I first learned about it from Dr Stephen Ney—here you can see him exploring similar territory.)
- With pen and paper, using a bird’s-eye view, simply start drawing the parts of the campus you’re familiar with. Work with others to add to it. For example:
- Grounds and built environment
- VC & directors’ offices
- Finance offices
- HR department
- Faculty offices
- Library and labs
- Chaplaincy and religious groups
- Student accommodation
- Canteens, cafés, shops
- Social and sporting venues
- The idea is to reveal the intended + unintended purposes of the campus. Consider what each part represents spiritually, morally, ethically. We ask God to help us grasp the inner workings. There are themes we can delve into across multiple areas – like truth, hospitality, or justice – but we can also be more specific:
- Faculty offices – What is being taught and learned? To what end?
- Classrooms – What sort of environment is it in terms of communicating, collaborating and listening?
- Library and labs – What are these spaces being used for and why?
- Student accommodation – What sort of environment is it in terms of safety and friendship?
- Use your map as a shared tool for ongoing learning, prayer walking, and event planning. As you do so, seek to include all parts of the campus, both physical locations as well as intangible aspects.
For each area, we can pose ‘horizontal’ questions such as:
- Who is involved in this place?
- How did they come to be there?
- Where are they going? What are they seeking?
As well as ‘vertical’ questions like:
- Why might God be interested in this place?
- How might God already be working in this place?
- What might God want for this place?
We do this mapping exercise not necessarily because we want to be strategic (because universities are significant social melting pots, or cultural drivers, or their graduates become the leaders of tomorrow, etc), but it certainly is because we believe that being ‘salt and light’ means committing ourselves to real places and communities. We don’t just want to skate over the surface but to become part of things. And this is not just to get the word out, but to see all sorts of good things come to fruition, because we hope to see communities ‘glorify God when he appears’.
The map tool should help us press further into prayer, learning, and service. As one participant put it, ‘This will demand my commitment to GOD expanding my knowledge and helping others.’
If you’d like to continue exploring these things alongside others, there are new cohorts starting for the engaging the university e-course. Details are in the card below. Simply send them an email.
Arthur Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.