Campus Ministry as Community Center

peter-adams-coffee-shop-amsterdam-netherlandsSo I’ve had this image for awhile in relation to our student center, and I’ve been unable to escape it. Have you ever seen that movie Stranger Than Fiction? Really good movie and worth a “watch” (pun intended, for those who’ve seen the flick). For those who haven’t seen it, there’s this funky little dive owned by Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character. It’s one of those places that has fliers on the walls advertising art film festivals and poetry readings and political rallies. It also so happens to have coffee and cookies…  lots and lots of cookies. It’s just one of those places where people from all walks of life– hippies and Republicans, suits and tie dye– come in to sit down and study and read and talk about the world and philosophize and eat some homemade brownies.

I’m kinda envious.

There are a good number of campus ministries out there that masquerade or double as coffee shops. I actually like the concept and am drawn to it, although I’m not sure how attractive I find the business side to it (not my cup of tea… or coffee as the case may be). There’s something very hip and postmodern about it. Create a space that doesn’t look like “church” in which “church” takes place.

Yet, it’s more than just a coffeeshop, per se, that I’m envisioning. It’s like Strip Teas ‘N’ Coffee (local place) meets the classroom meets the arts museum meets the library meets the place on campus where people use thumbtacks to pushpin notices about varying campus events.

I guess you could term it as a sort of community center, where there’s an exchange of ideas and information and perhaps even theologies. And it would be missional. I don’t know what that means, but it’d be important.

This kind of thing is probably being done all over the place. I mean, I know people have student centers and do a lot of cool things from them. It’s my guess, though, that people who aren’t involved in campus ministries normally associate them with worship and Bible study and evangelism/evangelicals, and I wonder if that’s comprehensive or good enough. I wonder if campus ministries are, outside of mission trips, ignoring the least of these within a university community or the university itself. I wonder where Jesus would hang out if he went to college and question if campus ministries are present in those spaces.

Because, when I watch Stranger Than Fiction and I see the mixed bag of people in that shop and I see Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character giving a homeless man an extra cookie, I think to myself, “Ya know, I think Jesus might hang out in a place like that.” After all, Jesus does eat a lot in the Gospels, and who doesn’t like warm cookies with a large glass of milk?

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~ by presbytide on October 21, 2009.

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