“Small but mighty” is a phrase I enjoy. Possibly because I am a petite woman of short stature, yet I like to think I’m relatively powerful. But more than that it’s because that’s how I see our faith. Unitarian Universalism (UU) is a tiny religion and a young one too, though our roots go back centuries and indeed millennia. Yet we are powerful, making big impacts in our communities with our yellow shirts and our comprehensive sexuality education, our inclusive communities and our radical love.
Small but mighty also describes our Unitarian Universalist campus ministries. We are small. Like, super small. In the fall of 2015 we did our second campus ministry census and we had a grand total of 52 groups respond. On average each of these groups has 8 active members, with an average of 23 students participating at some point in the year. If you’re doing that math that’s an average total reach of 1,196 students. Given an estimate of 20.2 million higher education students in the United States in 2015, 1,196 is just really freaking small.
BUT. Our campus ministries are mighty. Resilient. And so very necessary.
First of all, they do powerful outreach. On average about half of the students served by our campus ministries were raised UU. The other half are new to our movement, and if they are taking the time during the many demands of college to attend a campus ministry you know they were in deep need of Unitarian Universalism.
Second, our campus ministries are surviving despite limited resources and the intense challenges of college life. Funding is hard to come by, students are extraordinarily busy with classes, work and other dimensions of life. Plus the high turnover means constant transition in student leadership. Still our campus ministries survive, with a good chunk of our groups re-starting this year from old groups that dwindled. They are persistent in their desire to bring our faith to students in need.
Third, our campus ministries are so needed. In fact, spirituality in general is needed on campus as the video below demonstrates. And we’re particularly suited for this mission. On conservative campuses we can be a haven for the queer and the theologically questioning, a life-raft of support. On extremely secular campuses we provide space for spiritually rich meaning making, authenticity and earnest connection. We make great interfaith partners, justice partners, and sexuality educators.
See video below...
Our campus ministries need more support so that they can be slightly less small and a little more mighty. We can tell from our census data on how long our groups have been around that launching and surviving past the first generation of students are the hardest hurdles for campus ministries. And while 84% of our groups have some relationship with a local UU congregation, the ones that have lasted 6 or more years are more likely to have structural support from their congregation, including staff attention and a budget line item or group of dedicated volunteers.
So what can YOU do to help our mighty groups reach more students in need?
If you're not yet involved in campus ministry...
- Like Campus UUs on Facebook
- Check out this levels of engagement resource for congregations
- Buy a campus ministry kit for a UU student you know
If you're already involved in leading or supporting a campus ministry...