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How a New Campus Pastor Trained to Reach Gen Z

Campus chaplain Ryan Farrell
Campus chaplain Ryan Farrell

As the new chaplain with Ottawa (Ont.) Campus Chaplaincy, Ryan Farrell brings unusual credentials to the role of serving this joint Christian Reformed and Presbyterian Church in Canada ministry. Besides his six years of service as a youth pastor for a Baptist congregation, a year’s internship in campus ministry with Chaplain Steve Kooy at Momentum Campus Ministries in Kingston, Ont., and seminary training sufficient to be recommended for ordination as a CRC pastor, he also helped to supervise and develop a training program for outreach to Generation Z.

“As a millennial myself, I recognize that the new Generation Z is coming into adult life with a very different set of issues than my own generation. Our issues were mainly economic, feeling anger and resentment that the boomer generation was crowding us out of the good jobs and opportunities. With Generation Z, the outlook is more hopelessness and despair, the issue of climate change and a planet that has already been spoiled,” Farrell said.

Related: ‘I Can't Think of an Endeavor That is More Rewarding’: Mentorship and Bible Study for At-risk Teens in Minnesota (Jan. 13, 2022)

Farrell’s internship took place during a year of continuing COVID-19 shutdowns, curtailing many campus activities. But his work on the “Beyond” training program during that disruptive year helped to shape and develop his own idea for campus ministry. “Victoria Sharpe, the course creator and host, is herself an early member of Gen Z. (Defined as currently aged 5 to 24.) This is a generation that has grown up with high-speed internet, social media, and devices that give them instant access. Beyond is an online training program designed to help anyone—ministry staff, volunteers, youth leaders, parents, campus ministries—better understand, and connect with this new generation,“ Farrell said.

Geneva House, the CRC campus ministry center at Queen’s University in Kingston, offers the 6-session training course as a free resource on its website. Developed with funding provided by Resonate Global Mission and Classis Quinte, the course went online in June 2022. Farrell describes the course as “an investment in Gen-Z.” The topics it covers include vocabulary to use with Gen Z, exercising spiritual disciplines, engaging in meaningful relationships, and planning for endurance.

Related: Beyond Accessibility: Involving Young Adults So That Everybody Belongs, Everybody Serves (March 16, 2022); Offering Solutions, Building Relationships: Generation Spark (Sept. 28, 2018)

As CRC campus chaplain in Ottawa, Farrell is supported in part by Classis Eastern Canada (a regional group of churches) and serves within the multi-faith office at the University of Ottawa. The chaplaincy is not supported financially by the university. 

Farrell was presented as a candidate for CRC ministry by Synod 2022.

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