Here's a few numbers to consider:
In 2012, there were 4,726 higher education institutions eligible for Title IX funding. Of those, 3,026 offered at least Bachelor's degrees ("4-year institutions") and the other 1,700 offered Associates degrees ("2-year institutions").
How many ELCA campus ministries do you think there are nationwide? Finding number is hard to come by, in large part because the ELCA is currently decentralizing campus ministry from the churchwide office to a national network of practicioners. This means much of that information is somewhere in the ether. On the ELCA website, you can find about 300 campus ministry sites reported. However, some of those offer no contact information. Others seem recorded twice. But let's be generous with our numbers and say that the ELCA has 300 campus ministries across the U.S.
Of course, we don't know how many of those serve multiple campuses either. For instance, Highlander Lutherans, our campus ministry to Radford University out of Christ Lutheran in Radford, VA, plans to start an outreach to New River Community College in the Fall. One ministry reaching out to two institutions. I know of ministries that reach out to as many as five in large cities. So, for the sake of argument, let's be generous again and say that 1/4 of the ELCA campus ministries reach out to at least two schools. Of 300 campus ministries, that means we reach 375 campuses.
Now, do the math in your head really quick.
Ok. I'll help.
That means that, with our generous assumptions, the ELCA carries some sort of presence on 8% of campuses nationwide. Conversely, that means we have 92% of colleges and universities unmet with the uniquely Lutheran voice of new life by faith through Christ's grace. My goal, though, is not to lament or to judge.
It's to challenge.
Across the country, there are ELCA congregations in cities with colleges, towns with universities. Across the country, there is a mission field in the back yard of each of our congregations. There is a great harvest, and there are workers in each of our congregations that God equips to send into that field.
If you've got a campus within driving distance of your building, consider what God might be saying to you about campus ministry. There's a huge opportunity for ministry outside the walls of our buildings, and one that can make a lasting impact on future generations. College doesn't need to be a place where faith is lost. If our congregations take to the campuses with messages not of condemnation but instead liberation in Christ, then what kind of new life might we see both on campus and in our congregations?
Now, this isn't easy work. Of course, not much is easy when it comes to faith. But it is fun. It is friutful. It is enlightening. And in the challenges of campus ministry, I've found inexplicable joy. I've seen hearts on fire for Christ, and the deepest questions of doubt. I've seen faith like a child and faith like a philosopher. I've seen groups bridge the conservative/liberal divide, such that it looked much more like this: conservative + liberal. On campus, we may learn how to live with the cross at the center, with Christ as the one who binds us together, for the good work of bringing life abundant to the untapped mission fields in our backyards.
All 92% of them.
Simultaneously a sinner and a saint.