Explorations in Mainline Campus Ministry

Tony SigWell it happened like this.  Sometimes blog contributor Reed Carlson had been attending St. Matthew’s Episcopal parish for a rather short amount of time but was quickly in an energetic relationship with our wonderful rector and her husband, from whom he had taken a class on Anglicanism at Luther Seminary.  The Episcopal Church has some money set aside for grants for those brave enough to risk campus ministry.  At the initiative of our rector, in a very very short amount of time, Reed and our friend Aaron composed a plan and vision for a campus ministry to be developed at St. Matt’s.  We just so happen to be right on the border of the St. Paul campus of the University of Minnesota and quite near a fair number of other colleges in the area.

As it turned out, the Episcopal Church was excited enough by their proposals that we received a grant to fund the ministry!  So in the matter of a few months Reed and several others organized and planned this new flowering ministry and as of a week ago we are up and running.

Via Media (who’da thunk it right?) is a gathering which takes place every Sunday evening.  Starting at six we have a free communal meal – lord knows how we college folk love free food – and at seven we move to a simple service.  One Sunday a month the service follows a Taize order, and the three others are an ever-so-slightly simplified Evensong, of which one includes a Eucharist.  We are already a part of the various campus groups at the U of M and we even have a sign painted…as well as a Facebook page, and most importantly fancy website.

Now in  our second week, we’ve already had multiple visitors.

It has been of upmost priority that this ‘ministry’ be one of the local parish and not a pseudo-para-church organization.  We’ve gotten nothing but support from them and we are very thankful for it.  The goal has been, not to portion off a specific age group – 20-30 yr olds – and ‘target’ them, but that this be a gateway into the larger multi-generational life of the parish.

Additionally it has been hoped that students will quickly become a part of the life of Via Media.  Already a visitor from the first week has played guitar the second and we are hoping to encourage this kind of thing.

Having spent time cutting my teeth on both ‘Street’ and ‘Relational’ evangelism, this has drug all sorts of questions on missiology out for me; questions I hope in time to raise here and there on the blog.

For now, pray that we will be successful in bearing witness to the Gospel.

I wonder if any have had any experience doing this sort of thing.  What were your experiences?  What would you have done differently and what did you find worked well?  Given that we have for a long time as the Episcopal Church relied on our cultural inheritance to the expense sometimes of evangelism, in what ways might we learn to become a missional church?



  1. Awesome Tony, I’m really excited about this ministry for you guys. As (I think) you know we’re planting a church in Detroit in the next 6 months and campus ministry has been really on my mind. As you guys move forward I’d love to get your lessons learned and ideas.

    Blessings, I’ll be praying for Via Media.


  2. Woodward is our other brain child for Detroit and is much more open ended. With that we’re just hoping to foster theological reflection in the area (which is lacking due to a lack of institutions and theological learning).


  3. I’ve been excited about this ever since I saw the link to the fancy website on Reed’s FB. It looks really cool. I am going to have to come visit. In our own diocese there is theoretically a campus ministry, but by what I’ve seen it caters more to professors, than students. I like your goal of making the via media multi-generational.


  4. You’re raising some great questions, but I can only think to myself, “That is so rad. I wish I could be a part of it.”

    Selfish, I know. I love the ideas behind it…the via media moniker has so many applications going on here beyond its traditional definition. Go for it.


  5. This sounds so wonderful, I am hoping to start a Church meeting for homeless in a city park someday. Like “Common Cathedral”.

    I love to see how creative the Spirit can be, and how people can team up with God to make things happen.


  6. We have a similar type of service at our church that I have been fortunate to participate in as a musician. It’s once a month and generally caters to youth and people in their 20s and 30s but it’s never been advertised as such. The main reason for this is because a central part of the service is loud Rock music, both contemporary Christian and secular. We get alot of visitors because of this.

    ‘The FIRE’, as we call it, is informal but is structured around a central message/theme. There is usually a discussion within the service and people will get up and give testamonials, etc if they are moved to.

    The most effective form of advertising has been through word of mouth, facebook, and posters. Nothing else has come close.

    One thing to keep in mind is that people gravitate towards activities that are well-organized and structured even if that structure and organization is designed to be flexible. We have tried to include as many
    participants in the service as possible, but each has their own role. For example, one group of individuals/artists decorates the sanctuary with candles, etc before the service starts. Some work on multimedia alone. Others help cook but the great thing is that everyone who wants to be involved has a role and knows how to be involved.

    Good luck with the new service! I hope it serves
    your congregation well.


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