What is Campus Ministry?

You found your way here to the website, maybe directly, or after finding our Instagram, and looked at the blog.  You might be a student looking for a Catholic community, a student hearing about Toronto Met Catholics, or even a parent or community member checking us out.  One of the first questions you might have, even before what is Toronto Met Catholics and what do we do, is what is campus ministry?  If you’ve done youth ministry, maybe you wonder what’s different.  Really what you are probably asking is: I know youth ministry, and am finally comfortable here, why do I need anything else?  Or, you might even be asking what is this ‘ministry’ word I keep using?

Let’s go with the easiest one first.  Ministry in the Bible is based on the Greek word “to serve.”  It was Jesus who taught Christians they should seek to serve others and not just be served.  In the context of campus ministry, we seek to serve the campus community, wherever that campus might be set.  That serving can take a number of forms, but is guided by Jesus’ Great Commission to go and make disciples of all nations.  Now, that doesn’t just mean telling people about Jesus, but showing them Jesus in our words and actions.  That means learning about Jesus, for sure, but it also means so much more: creating a welcoming community where people feel free to be who they are and ask questions; develop opportunities for fellowship – which is a fancy way of saying solid friendships based on more than just how you make others feel; and realizing you are loved not because of what you can do, but because of who you are.  YOU are a beloved child of God.  Which brings us to the second question.

So why not just stay helping in youth ministry?  It’s nice and safe, after all, and I feel needed.  Why do I need campus ministry?  Another simple answer: campus ministry is to youth ministry, what youth ministry is to children’s ministry.  You were probably excited to finally move up from children’s activities and be part of what the older youth were doing.  It is the same with the move from youth ministry to campus ministry, but with the added weight of it being scary as it means going into a whole ‘nother community apart from the parish.  On the plus side, it means meeting a whole community of people who are going through the same life experiences you are, and can understand your particular challenges and questions. Now, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t help out in youth ministry at your parish, but as the saying goes; “You cannot give what you do not have.”

And wouldn’t it be great to have a place where you could ask the questions, not just be expected to answer, and I mean your questions, not just listening to what a curious grade 10 student asks!  Speaking from experience, one of the best ways to start a conversation with almost anyone working in campus ministry is, “Excuse me, I was wondering if I could talk to you.  I have a question…”  Answering your questions, helping you even come up with and understand your own answers is a key part of campus ministry.  But wait!  There’s more!  Wouldn’t it also be nice to be around a group of people your own age, facing the same situations at university and life, who understand you and can share in the journey?  Yep, that’s campus ministry too.  And we definitely help (and commiserate) with the difficulty of Catholic adulting!

At the heart of campus ministry is providing a place where students feel like they truly belong, and are loved as themselves.  Through that belonging, they are open to learning what it means to believe as a Catholic, and why we believe what we do.  In believing, students realize that God sees in them something more and greater than they ever thought themselves, and God is offering the chance – and the grace – to become who they were meant to be.

Campus ministry at its heart is all about the simple journey from belonging, to believing, to becoming.  Come take the journey with us.

Nathan Gibbard

Nathan Gibbard is the Director of Toronto Met Catholics, with a Ph.D. in Religious Studies and 14 years experience working in campus ministry.

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