Nashville, Tenn. - From San Diego State University to Northwestern University, college and university ministries across America are getting involved this fall with Rethink Church, the next evolution of The United Methodist Church's "Open hearts" advertising and welcoming campaign. Dubbed Rethink Church on Campus, the initiative seeks to introduce students to The United Methodist Church through more than 50 United Methodist-related campus ministers and their organizations.
"Campus ministries embody the Rethink Church mindset that church isn't just a place we go, but something we do," said the Rev. Larry Hollon, chief executive of United Methodist Communications. "These dynamic ministries are attracting and shaping the next generation of United Methodists."
United Methodist Communications, the communications agency for the 11.5 million-member denomination, made Rethink Church kits available to campus ministers who wish to align events and programs with Rethink Church. Kits include t-shirts, posters, door hangers, and distributable music download cards that direct recipients to www.10thousanddoors.org, a web destination where visitors can learn more about The United Methodist Church and engage in their own unique spiritual journey.
Hollon says the Rethink Church materials help campus ministers to communicate to often-skeptical students that there are involvement opportunities for them within college ministries and The United Methodist Church.
"When you look at the variety of events that these campus ministers have aligned with Rethink Church, you quickly realize that these ministries are doing just that - Rethinking Church," said Hollon.
Cal-Nevada campus ministries accustomed to 'rethinking church'
Kristin Stoneking, Director and Campus Minister for the Cal Aggie Christian Association, the United Methodist Campus Ministry at UC Davis, agrees.
"I was a bit confounded about how to structure just one event that we are doing as 'rethink church' because I really believe that everything we do on a regular basis is 'rethinking church,'" she says.
At Cal Aggie Christian students from a variety of backgrounds, as well as students seeking a Christian community, have committed to a quarter long engagement with the Church's historic creeds as well as modern statements of faith, through worship, prayer, practice, and study. From the Apostles' Creed to the World Methodist Social Affirmation, students are discussing what it is they believe, and making that faith active on a daily basis. At the end of the quarter, students will be asked to recommit or will be invited to join the denomination as they affirm, "I believe."
"We have a regular Monday night dinner and worship where we break down aspects of Christian faith and practice so that students can re-envision what it is they are doing and truly 'own' their faith; [and] we have a multi-faith living community of 40 students where United Methodist students have the opportunity to think about their faith in relationship to the faith of other students, hearing faith practices that have value and re-envisioning how the body of Christ operates in a pluralistic world. This is supported by a whole array of programming," Stoneking says, adding, "We regularly engage in service that makes our faith and our church active."
The Rev. Tarah Trueblood, appointed to the Wesley Foundation at the University of California at Berkeley, echoes Stoneking's sentiments.
"Just about everything we 'do' as a campus ministry is really about rethinking church. We have a turnover of our 'congregation' every year or two and are constantly rethinking how to reach out into the community [so that we] continue to be relevant in our context. Every year our student group creates a new 'covenant' for their new community or 'congregation.'
"While we as a United Methodist Campus Ministry have United Methodist and Christian values that are important to share with our students, we find that students are actually seeking opportunities to live out their faith - through volunteer and service opportunities," she adds. "Our ministry provides such opportunities through service projects both locally and internationally. We try to do an UMVIM trip every two years to Africa [for example]."
In addition, "This year Wesley offers a weekly Multi-faith Text Study where issues of social justice are studied around the Christian and Hebrew Bibles with Christian pastors and Jewish Rabbis.
"Wesley also offers 'Spirit Practice,' a weekly Christian event designed to free up brain power and strengthen our spirit through ancient practices such as Taizé, lectio divina, and labyrinth walking.
"We also offer a free weekly meal, 'FREE FOOD and GOOD FELLOWSHIP' (after Spirit Practice). This partially structured family-style dining experience provides students the opportunity to share life stories with the group so everyone can get to know each other and create a 'home away from home.' This meal is sponsored fully by Wesley and staffed by the Wesley Campus Pastor," Trueblood continues.
Wesley broke ground July 1, 2009 for a new student housing development project featuring eight five-bedroom intentional living communities for its new Wesley House and Campus Center. This new facility will be home to 89 UC Berkeley students.
"Wesley is committed to the development of disciplined student leadership and promotion of Christian and United Methodist values of justice, hospitality, service, and religious diversity," Trueblood says. "[Its] mission is to create a spiritual community at UC Berkeley with open hearts, open minds, and open doors."
Some campuses to raise money for Nothing But Nets
At a multi-campus Rethink Church event on October 9, the University of Miami, Georgia Tech, Florida State University, Florida A&M University, University of Florida, and Winthrop University will stage football throwing contests, competing via webcam to raise the most money for Nothing But Nets. The United Methodist-supported initiative already has raised more than $28 million to send malaria-preventing bed nets to Africa.
"I'm really excited about the Rethink Church initiative," said the Rev. Beth Bostrom of the University of Miami Wesley Foundation. "The ideals of community, dialogue, and action are already central to campus ministry, so I believe it is a great fit."
The University of Virginia College at Wise will host an evening service that will highlight The United Methodist Church's Four Areas of Focus and ways to become involved with them.
At the University of Illinois, plans are underway for a Rethink Hunger day, which will feature a representation on the quad of the 25,000 persons who die from hunger every day - while Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College will make its weekly Club Night @ the Barn a Rethink Church event.
Club Night was born out of the Wesley Group's vision to curb alcohol-related deaths and DUIs on its campus by offering its building every Thursday night for alcohol-free events.
Many campus pastors also are using Rethink Church to attract participants via student fairs and welcoming packets. Among them are pastors at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Illinois State University, the University of Nevada/Las Vegas, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
To receive information about conducting a Rethink Church-related event at your college or university, contact Igniting Ministry at 877-281-6535, or visit www.rethinkchurch.org.
About Rethink Church
Rethink Church, the next evolution of The United Methodist Church's "Open hearts" welcoming and advertising campaign, highlights the many opportunities available within United Methodist churches to engage with the world - from literacy programs to feeding the poor. Targeting a globally minded 18-to-34-year-old audience, Rethink Church advertisements appear in traditional and new media, and direct viewers to the website www.10thousanddoors.org, where visitors may interact, learn more about the church, and search for involvement opportunities. Rethink Church resources are available to local congregations at www.rethinkchurch.org.