November 6, 2015: Ministries on the campuses of state universities and similar secular institutions kicked up significant discussion during the annual meeting of the denomination’s North American Division earlier this week. Pastor Ricky Melendez from the Dakota Conference and Nina Lim, a graduate student from British Columbia, shared stories from their experience that were so well received by the assembled church administrators that someone made a motion on the spot to add a position to the NAD staff and hire a full-time coordinator.
This is a new area of outreach in the minds of many Adventists who somehow have a hard time seeing sophisticated university communities as mission fields. His first year in the ministry, right out of Union College, Melendez started groups at North Dakota State University in Fargo and the University of Jamestown, a private institution about one hundred miles away. He baptized some young adults and his conference decided to shift him to full time campus ministry.
This year, Melendez and Pastor Brooke Leitzke are working with groups on six campuses across two states. There are literally millions of young adults on these campuses across the United States and Canada, but until recently Adventists avoided these as contexts for outreach.
Lim is a graduate student in psychology and counseling in British Columbia and has campaigned to get campus ministry started in western Canada after helping organize the first Campus Catalyst event for Ontario, Canada, in 2014. “It is time to invest in the thousands of Adventist students attending public universities,” she told the NAD governing committee. Research has shown that about half of young people growing up in Adventist families drop out of the church when they leave home and stop attending Adventist schools. Often there is nothing there for them and the local church is uninviting, dominated by older people.
“I could not have been more proud or thankful for the stories they shared,” Pastor Ron Pickell told Adventist Today. He is pastor of the Adventist congregation in Berkeley, California, near the main campus of the University of California, and coordinates secular campus ministries for the NAD on a part-time basis.