By: Steve Moore
Dr. Steve Moore: Dr. Warner, what is it about the campus ministry summit that draws you in to be a part?
Dr. Laceye Warner: Campus ministry is at the heart of the denomination’s life and ministry. During this incredibly formative time undergraduate students often look for opportunities to deepen their spirituality and connect with communities of faith as they discern their vocational trajectories. Recently, The Foundation for Evangelism engaged in a visioning process which recognized the significance of campus ministry and the privileged role of campus ministers and leaders in that journey. I participated in that process and am grateful for the opportunity to learn from and support leaders in campus ministry during the summit.
Moore: Would you tell us a little about your own experience in campus ministry?
Warner: As a college student, there was not a Wesley Fellowship or other Methodist related organization on my campus. I participated in a local UM church with a small college Sunday school class. However, my main formation during the academic year was through Young Life, a high school campus ministry. My spiritual formation occurred largely during the summer while working as a youth intern at my home church. The mentoring and experiences of those summers cultivated an emerging vocation to ordained ministry through means otherwise unavailable in my college context.
Moore: Who are some of the people and readings that have influenced your own spiritual formation?
Warner: Key figures in my spiritual formation included pastors, youth counselors, and professors with whom I continued to work as a summer intern. In many ways, these conversations were much more encouraging and informative than the popular evangelical literature of the time. Additionally, my liberal arts education-specifically reading materials- seemed at times inconsistent with these more helpful conversations. Fortunately, my academic advisor was an United Methodist layman and another influential female professor an evangelical intellectual. Through their guidance, I was able to resolve many of the inconsistencies and remain open to the possibility of ordained ministry and theological education.
Moore: What do you see to be some of the strengths and weaknesses of our denomination, related to campus ministry, from your perspective as a professor of evangelism?
Warner: With expanding opportunities for education and an expanding population among younger demographics, it seems prudent for the denomination to maintain a focus upon campus ministry. We could rationalize such a focus pragmatically, looking merely at the numbers. However, ideally such a focus would not merely yield potential membership numbers but serious learning and guidance for discerning the role of the church in the world for current and future generations.
Moore: Where should the church look for new models for thinking about ministry in higher education?
Warner: What would it mean for the church to keep its past in view alongside its present and future? While church tradition is often dismissed as dull and archaic-even oppressive, there are rich and textured resources available to inform-and even hold accountable-our present and future ministries. The difficulty occurs when we understand tradition as a noun instead of a verb-traditioning-this is how Paul used the concept. Communities of faith are not stagnant entities, but people journeying together. Instead of asking ourselves “how might we become new and improved?” Perhaps we could ask “where is the spirit leading us? And what gifts does our Christian traditioning offer for the journey?”
Moore: Thank you Dr. Warner, we look forward to hearing more from you at the Summit!
The Foundation for Evangelism is an affiliate of The General Board of Discipleship of the United Methodist Church.
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