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Transforming the Gap into a Growth Engine via UU Campus Centers

General Assembly 2007: Event 3006
Presenters: Doug Jones, David Gross and Joseph Santos-Lyons of the Channing-Murray Foundation and the Unitarian Universalist Campus Center at the University of Illinois, Urbana Illinois.

A vision for the future of Unitarian Universalist Campus Ministry and a plan for making it a reality were offered by the speakers at this workshop. Through a multi-media program, they presented a future that serves our bridging young adults and grows the movement by sixty thousand UUs in twenty years by creating fifty Unitarian Universalist (UU) regional campus centers.

The Channing-Murray Foundation (CMF) is located adjacent to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is known throughout that campus for its good music, great food, and the opportunity to engage in nonjudgmental spiritual exploration. Writing, dance, and arts workshops flourish, and their chapel hosts a wide array of community forums, concerts, poetry slams, and student theatrical productions.

There is a gap in UU ministry between children and adults, and representation drops off markedly in this young adult segment. Drawing on the CMF's one hundred years of experience ministering on campus, the presenters created a vision in which this gap is transformed into a source of growth and strength for Unitarian Universalism.

They presented a plan for thirty to fifty regional campus centers spread across North America. Each center would draw from a region of the country and sponsor hundreds of events per year, including worship, social action, poetry, and concerts—programming that is relevant to UU young adults.

The presenters drew on their experiences with the CMF as a UU Campus Center hosting five hundred events per year. Its roots go back to congressional based "Campus Clubs" started 100 years ago. After the merger of the Unitarians and the Universalists in 1961, it was incorporated and run as a Congregational Outreach Campus Ministry for thirty-six years. Since 1991, the CMF has been a self-governing, financially independent UU Campus Center.

The presenters spent considerable time discussing the costs and return on the investment of such an expenditure. They estimated that it would cost about a thousand dollars per high school graduate, or about three million dollars per year. 

Concentrating our resources on these UU Regional Campus Centers will better serve the needs of our UU Young Adults by providing a "UU evangelical presence" of comparable visibility as other denominations' campus centers.

It would give UU high school graduates a clear "next step" option they do not have today. Our youth have clearly expressed that they crave a UU home for the next step in their spiritual journey, but few see joining a congregation as the next step.

The session attracted many attendees who are involved with youth ministry, and there was an active discussion after the presentation. People questioned whether a regional facility would be sufficient, as students often have limited ability to travel. Additionally, several people asked about the importance of having facilities as close to campus as possible as opposed to a regional center.

The audience was clearly interested and felt that young adult campus ministry is an important component to ensuring the future of Unitarian Universalism.

Reported by Dean Goddette; edited by Pat Emery.

For more information contact web @ uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Wednesday, February 22, 2012.

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