I’m currently at a conference with about 120 church leaders throughout the Episcopal Church. While no one has their age on their name tag, it’s not difficult to discern that I’m likely the youngest person in the room. Don’t worry, when you’re a priest in your early 30’s you get used to it.
I don’t have a problem with this and I’m not sure I should. I’ve heard the argument that we need more “youth” in the room, and God knows I like young energy, but what I like the most is in leaders is great quality, passion and inspiration.
With that said, many “older” people that I speak with about campus ministry are always curious about what the current college student wants. This is certainly true this week. They want to know what sparks a college student’s interest, what keeps them busy, how they respond to the rigors of college life, and most importantly how college students like to worship.
In the Episcopal Church we call this churchmanship. Simply put, it’s the preference that someone has for a type of doctrine and liturgy. And not unlike the polarizing secular world in which we live, it’s natural to want to categorize everyone and put them in a neat and tidy churchmanship box. Are you high-church (smells and bells)? Are you low-church (snake handling)? Are you broach-church (boring suburban worship)? We love labeling things, even if it is extreme stereotyping!
So the same goes with Campus Ministry… people want to put it in a box and label it with the correct information.
Unfortunately, like so much in this world, it’s not that simple. And I really wish it were. The bottom line is that many times the only thing in common with students at a worship service is that they are students who are at a worship service. Some like it simple and plain and from the book, and some like it to be a free flowing and expansive spiritual exercise with many adaptations to the prayer book, that is, if there is a prayer book. Many students look for home comfort, while others are look for something refreshing and new.
So it’s impossible to label what a student wants in worship because they are all different. So the one rule that I try to make sure I follow is to lead it with great quality, passion and inspiration.