Campus ministry leaders have a lot going on during regular times: reaching out to students, guiding discussions on moral and spiritual issues, and acting as Christ’s ambassadors to a whole academic community. The COVID-19 pandemic brought new challenges but also an opportunity to share hope in meaningful ways with a world asking a lot of questions.
Michael Wagenman is the Christian Reformed Church campus minister at Western University in London, Ont. Working with young adults at local CRC Forest City Community Church, he gathered donations from other nearby CRC congregations and several businesses and assembled them into 400 midterm care packages to give to Western students living in residence.
Sara DeMoor, campus minister at Guelph University, also assembled and distributed care packages, driving with her children to deliver them to 40 students connected to Guelph Campus Ministry. She appreciated the chance to connect face to face rather than through an online conferencing tool.
Many campus ministry leaders have moved most or all of their programming and resources online to help students connect while following public safety guidelines about gatherings and physical distancing. Brenda Kronemeijer-Heyink, a chaplain with the CRC ministry at the University of Toronto, appreciates the possibilities. “We continue to do what we've always done and are a bit surprised by how well Zoom has allowed us to continue to meet and connect. It's also been a gift to have folks from further away, including alumni, join us at different moments.”
There are downsides, says Wagenman. “We have to deal with students who are absolutely sick and tired of being online. Zoom fatigue is real.”
Related: The Kids Are Not Fine: Engaging the Pandemic Generation (Faith Formation article on The Network)
However, Wagenman also appreciates the opportunity to connect more widely. Another benefit? “For students who are religious seekers, being online, surprisingly, has meant that students feel safer to explore important questions of faith in the secure knowledge that if the conversation gets too uncomfortable they can just end the call. This means that my campus ministry has been forced to think about how we express—in very tangible ways—the love and compassion of God. That’s how the care packs started.”