Hello there! My name is MacKenzie Wood and I am in my third year as an apprentice with Sojourn Campus Ministry at the University of Washington. Having recently graduated from college, I have been able to see the impact of campus ministry in my own life as a student, and now as a minister with Sojourn over the past few years. And it has been such a blessing! There have been ups and downs, and through it all, I’ve seen God work in my life and in the lives of students.
I am originally from Yakima, WA which is about 3 hours east of Seattle. Before working with Sojourn Campus Ministry, I had been a student at the University of Washington (UW) and I had been really involved with campus ministry as a student! It was where I found community and a place to continue learning about God and growing in my faith. As I was approaching my last year of college, I felt that God had given me a heart for campus ministry and I wanted to stay and work with students at UW. After graduating in the spring of 2020, I contacted Sojourn Campus Ministry, because I had seen on their website that they had an apprenticeship program. After talking with them, they invited me to the program! I moved back to Seattle in September of 2020 (I had been home because of COVID) and I was ready to begin working with the campus ministry.
Over the last two years, I have had the pleasure of working with Sojourn Campus Ministry. The 2020-2021 school year was a challenging one. The UW campus was almost completely remote. It was very difficult to meet new students and all of our bible studies had to be done over Zoom for the majority of the year. But through that time, God taught me how to trust Him day-by-day, persevere through challenging and uncertain times, and to love those God had put me with at that time. I learned a lot about prayer and about patience (especially with the 7 roommates I had at the time).
Then the 2021-2022 school year came around. We were so excited that students would finally be back on campus! Yet, a bit apprehensive, knowing that things could still suddenly change. Many students had graduated and we met very few new students the year before, so we had only a few students in the ministry at that time. It was hard to imagine how we would grow the ministry. But, stepping out in faith and trusting that God had work for us to do at the university, we began tabling in the Quad and passing out flyers. Over the first two weeks of school, we met many students, several of whom would come to be the committed members of our group. We met students who came from a variety of different backgrounds, and some who weren’t Christian, but were open and curious. And as we have begun building community together, we had weekly bible studies and nights where we took communion together and shared our testimonies. It was a blessing to watch as students opened up and shared the journey God has been taking them on.
Now, as I finish out the third fall quarter with Sojourn, I am so grateful for all the students that are a part of our ministry and have been so excited to see how God is moving in their lives.
Lately, I’ve been reflecting on why campus ministry is so important. And these are the thoughts that have come to mind:
1. College campus ministry invites non-Christians to hear about Jesus, possibly for the first time. At UW and at many US universities, there are students coming from all around the world and from a variety of different backgrounds. Many students we meet come from a Christian background, but there are also so many who don’t! Some might be too afraid to enter a church, but we are able to meet them on common ground and share the gospel with them!
2. College is a time of learning new ideas. It’s important for students to see that God cares about the things that they are passionate about. Growing up in the church, it is easy to think that if you want to live a life serving the Lord, you have to work in church ministry. Sometimes, it can even feel like there is a struggle between wanting to serve God and wanting to pursue the passions they have. Many of the students we meet often see their studies as very separate from their faith and their relationship with God. As campus ministers, we get to invite them into seeing their passions and gifting as being intertwined with the call God has on their lives. They get to be challenged on their intentions for what they want to do, and lean in to being a part of what God is doing in the world, in whatever area of work or career.
3. Campus ministry invites the church into a bigger picture of what God is doing in their community. Campus ministry cannot function well without the support of local churches and local believers. Sometimes, it is hard to want to invest in students who are constantly coming and going, rarely staying longer than 4 years. It is hard to continually say goodbye. But the reality is, the things they learn in college will go on to impact them for years to come. And they will be the ones who go back to their homes and carry the gospel with them. More than that, we have the opportunity to learn from those who come from so many different backgrounds. And we are often challenged by the perspective of others, forced to wrestle with our faith and grow in our knowledge of God. It’s not always comfortable, but it’s important that we step into the uncomfortable so we can continue to grow.
I myself can testify to the life-changing impact of campus ministry. It provided a community and a safe place to grow in my faith and ask questions. And it was for this very reason that I knew I wanted to work in campus ministry. College can be a time of great joy, anxiety, chaos, excitement, and discovery. And what a blessing it has been to be a part of this journey with students and point them to the One who sees them and loves them amidst it all.
So, dear reader, I would like you to consider becoming involved in campus ministry! If you are a student, I would encourage you to consider becoming an apprentice with a campus ministry. And if you are a leader with a church or a campus ministry organization, I would encourage you to consider creating apprenticeship programs. What a great way to invite young people to serve their peers, learn how to become a leader, and grow in their faith.
MacKenzie graduated from the University of Washington and served as a campus ministry intern with Sojourn Campus Ministry.