One aspect of campus ministry that every campus pastor/chaplain understands is that we work with young people not for the long term benefit of our own ministry, because in a couple years those people, those students, will be gone. What campus pastors/chaplains understand clearly is that our work is for the benefit of others – other churches, other towns, other pastors/priests. We work to form students not for ourselves but for others. That ministry, that church, that pastor/priest reaps what we sow in the formation and development of students.
Students are transitory and are only with us for a few years, so we have to be very targeted and efficient with and in our evangelism, Christian formation, and leadership development efforts. Every student will leave the campus and continue onward in their life – this is just a fact of life.
What the Church must understand is that in our day and particularly among urban emerging-adults, our work as pastors/priests is and will be much more like campus ministry. We invest in the lives of young-adults not for what they will contribute to our parish over time, because young-adults will more than likely only be with us for a short time. Our presence, work, and efforts with 20-somethings will by necessity need to mirror the approach and attitude of campus pastors.
If we don’t change our expectations of 20-somethings in our churches, we will become incredibly frustrated and perhaps resentful because they are not “stepping-up” in responsibility and commitment the way 20-somethings generally did over decades past. This is just a fact of life and a fact of ministry in our day.
We invest our time and efforts in the lives of 20-somethings, but we will not reap the benefits over time in the majority of cases. We work in the formation and development of emerging-adults and young-adults for the benefit of others. Campus pastors revel in this, so to must we.