Can you feel it? It’s electric, isn’t it? How can we not feel the change in the air when over 48,500 students converge on Bloomington? That’s how many students were enrolled here on the Bloomington campus last year, you know: over 48,500.
For many of those students, it’s the first time they’ve ever been away from home: from their home towns, their friends, their families, their home churches, for some even their countries. Away from everything that’s familiar to them. College is exciting and fun and challenging, but it also can be overwhelming and scary and a place where they may feel a little lost. Especially in a place like Bloomington and a campus as large as IU.
This week I’ve had the joy of working with the Jubilee Interns during their orientation week in anticipation of the start of the new school year at IU, and – perhaps as important – the kick-off of a new season with Jubilee Ministries. We have three returning interns – Grace, Josh, and Steven – and two new interns – Evan and Claudia. This week was a chance for us all to become acquainted (or reacquainted, for them); to dream about the possibilities for the year; to learn new things; to pray for the incoming students, faculty, and staff at the university; to plan; to laugh; and – as always when we gather – to eat!
Jubilee is a designed to provide a safe haven to college students, a “home away from home.” It’s an authentic, Christ-centered community for college students and young adults who wish to be the hands and feet of Christ within the university setting, the Bloomington community, and with each other, while loving God, each other, and themselves. Does this sound familiar? It should because it tracks with First Methodist and The Open Door values.
Jubilee is not a ministry out on its own; it’s part of us. And we’re part of them. Over the years I’ve learned – sometimes the hard way – that we never get a second chance to make a good first impression. These next few weeks are critical, friends. Students will be looking around, seeking those places that welcome them, that make them feel at home. This isn’t the job of only Pastor Kevin and the interns at the Jubilee gatherings on Wednesday nights – although those are important. This is about all of us.
The Jubilee interns and the students who’ll be joining us shortly are not simply the leaders and the church of tomorrow; they’re the leaders and the church of today. They’re full of energy and ideas and passion. And they want to work with the rest of us, not apart from us. I know you’ll enjoy spending time with them as much as I have this week.
While we’re speaking about leaders and leadership, we can’t forget about where we are in our sermon series based on The Story. This week we take a look at the fall of the southern kingdom, Judah. Despite the repeated warnings from the prophets God sent to them, the kings of Judah followed the same foolish path their counterparts in the north had, leading their people away from God’s ways. Through the prophet Jeremiah in particular, God has much to say about bad leaders and bad leadership. Those with responsibility for God’s people will be held to higher standards. Higher standards don’t mean less love, though. God’s love is eternal. Be sure to join us Sunday to hear this timely message.
Remember, we do love students, and welcome them as part of our church family while they’re here in Bloomington. One tangible way you can show that is to wear your “We <3 Students” t-shirt for the next two weeks during church services, and on September 10 at the all-church picnic. If you don’t have one yet, you can still purchase one Sunday at the tables in the Gathering Space at the Sanctuary service or in the Lobby at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater at The Open Door. See you Sunday!