Toward the end of last semester, a student walked through the door at St. Francis House, the campus ministry I serve, and abruptly stopped, standing inside the entryway. Frozen. I was passing through the space, which connects the chapel and the lounge, and stopped to introduce myself. "What brings you in today?" I asked him. His answer expected the question.
The question is one my first boss liked to ask at staff meetings. It's important to say he was asking through the perspective of visitors. First-timers or travelers. Equally for people who would come to make the church their home and those who would never visit town again. For all of these, on a Sunday, when does a church first feel strange?"When you go up to communion," one of us offered one time.
At lunch with a friend recently, I asked him about his first few years in campus ministry. It's been wonderful, he said. "Slow, patient, immensely rewarding. Frustrating. Growing." Like me, my friend's work on campus is of the church-planting kind. We started talking about learnings. I mentioned my from-time-to-time loneliness.