As a campus pastor at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Ed Laarman faces a daunting challenge: how to introduce the gospel to students who are skeptical about God and religion.
But Laarman, who leads the school’s Geneva Campus Ministry, funded by Christian Reformed Home Missions, believes that his ministry has something unique to offer the university’s 30,000 students.
“By bringing a Christian worldview to life on campus, we help students and faculty see that faith doesn’t conflict with learning and professional service, but complements them,” says Laarman, who has directed the ministry since 2005. “Our students will bear this witness throughout the world. That’s a pretty powerful vision.”
With his wife, Joan, Laarman leads a host of activities designed to challenge students to consider a biblical, Reformed worldview.
Raised in Michigan, Laarman attended Calvin Theological Seminary and earned a Ph.D. in theological ethics at Notre Dame, which led him to three visiting assistant professorships.
“I loved university life,” he says. “But when I couldn’t find a permanent teaching job, God called me into parish ministry. It seemed like a whole new career path.” In fact, it was the same path, just a different leg of the journey that eventually brought him to Geneva Campus Ministry. “Twenty years later I realized where I was being led,” he says. “I’d done campus and I’d done ministry; God had prepared me for campus ministry.”
Now it is Laarman’s task to prepare students to be followers of Christ. “Geneva is steadfastly committed to equipping students, faculty, and staff to be mature disciples of Jesus Christ,” he remarks. “But a campus is a dynamic place, always in motion, and our ministry taps into that.”