Part of our role in Campus Mission Canada is preparing the student for life in the real world. Having said that, we need to begin preparing our youth for life on campus.
A testimony interview with Dr. Robb Powell, national co-ordinator for Campus Mission Canada
t: You’ve mentioned that it’s important to prepare students in high school for their transition into post-secondary education. Could you elaborate?
RP: I often think about transitions. And this one is huge. This is the point where the youth becomes an adult. They head out on their own and learn to negotiate a new, fascinating and powerful world. It’s a drifting cosmos in which there is intense pressure to conform and to consume. Memories of camp and youth group can quickly grow dim, crowded out by new opportunities, experiences and ideas. Their professors are often brilliant and persuasive and profoundly committed to pushing God into the periphery.
If Christian students have any desire to preserve their spirituality or grow in it, they need to know the cost—and there is a cost. There is often an initiation into campus culture which a sincere Christian simply can’t accept. So it may mean learning to live with loneliness—and scorn. It is often a hard boat to row alone. But it’s not one they should have to row alone.
t: So are you saying young people shouldn’t be excited about going off to college?
RP: Far from it! I am saying that pastors, parents and young people need to be realistic about what lies ahead. And I am also saying that it can be an incredible opportunity for spiritual growth. Whether it is properly identified or not, there is a profound spiritual hunger and thirst on the campuses of our nation. The levels of student stress and struggle are off the charts. In this environment, we are able not only to offer real solutions, but to see students flourish in their faith.
Part of our role in Campus Mission Canada is preparing the student for life in the real world. Having said that, we need to begin preparing our youth for life on campus. That begins in high school. Rather than simply making educational choices regarding what he or she may want to do in life, they also need to make choices based on who he or she would want to be for the rest of their life. While marks and careers are certainly important, they are only part of a much bigger picture. Jobs can change. Who and what you become in Christ is ultimately everything.
t: Can you give some personal examples?
RP: We have a lot of examples. One that comes to mind is a board member of a nearby church who shared his deep concern about his daughter, who was attending university in Ottawa. As it turns out, his concerns were well founded. I was able to connect her with Jonathan Hutchison, who in turn connected her with our campus ministry. They surrounded her with the multiple levels of support and encouragement she needed in order to break away from powerful cultural currents and to grow in her relationship with Jesus.
When my late eldest son first went to the University of Waterloo, I was able to connect him with Pastor Brandon Malo, who started the PAOC campus church, The Embassy. It was an environment of service and growth where Dave’s faith simply went nuclear. It was incredible. My other kids have been impacted by our campus ministry, University Christian Ministry (UCM), in B.C. and by LIFT Church at McMaster. They are part of a revolution. I am not only responding as a pastor or campus missionary. I am a dad who is walking out the educational choices of my young adult offspring.
t: When many people think of the PAOC, they often don’t think of campus ministries.
RP: That is not only changing; it can’t help but change. We are on roughly 50 campuses across the country and we will soon be on more. Our vision is to reach/touch every campus in our nation with an intentional Spirit-filled missional presence in the years to come. There are over 2.1 million students on Canadian campuses this year. In the course of a decade, this works out to over six million students coursing through classrooms, hallways, cafeterias and libraries. And we are committed to being there and to “bringing it” in Spirit and in truth.
t: How can we help more students to manage this transition?
RP: We can do it better together. For the past several summers, I have emailed the pastors of all of our churches to inquire whether they have students who are making the transition to post-secondary education. I ask them if there is any way they could give the students or their parents my contact information so that I could help them make connections to ministries we have on or near their campuses. In the vast majority of cases, I have been able to make introductions and to offer information and support to navigate this transition. Honestly, I cannot tell you how deeply gratifying this is.
We have only scratched the surface, though. I pray that this service will become better known throughout our congregations, among pastors and parishioners alike, so we can all make better use of it. If you are a pastor, board member, youth leader, parent, or student … or an interested party … contact me. Check out our website. This is such a crucial hand-off. Let’s work together to find ways to do it better. This is not only a huge challenge, but an incredible opportunity.
About Campus Mission Canada: We are a national network of campus ministries connected to the PAOC with a vision for creatively reaching every campus in our nation. Find out more about it at www.CampusMission.ca. Dr. Robb Powell is the national co-ordinator for Campus Mission Canada.