As we prepare for a new school year and the return of students, I’m appreciating how much has unfolded during our two years in campus ministry at Penn State. I (Campus Pastor Ben) felt much more prepared as this past fall began, this being my second chance to experience many of the seasons and rhythms at Penn State. 3rd Way Collective had a much larger student network, and a much bigger group of supporters and allies in the local community. Our student officers were more active and engaged, and our presence on campus was enhanced by the vision and dreams of students who connected in some way. Students have begun to recognize 3rd Way Collective as a safe space of support and connection. It has been touching to have students reach out to me for pastoral care, prayer, or just simply for conversation.
This year 3rd Way Collective created or partnered to create more than 145 events on campus and in the community focused on peace, justice, and faith. These involved more than 1600 participants including students, staff, and community members. These numbers almost doubled our first year programmatic impact – last year we were involved in 68 events with just over 800 participants. Despite these numbers, many of our most meaningful connecting points remain as small gatherings of 5 students or less. As our new team of officers and advisory team get ready for the fall, we are considering again the balance between programmatic and relational ministry, and whether one requires the other.
Our most meaningful experiences are when we have partnered with others – whether that be other campus ministry organizations for our service and learning trips, or community advocacy groups, our work is enhanced and multiplied when we collaborate rather than trying to always create something brand new.
Our new 3rd Way Collective house will provide a physical center for our community building endeavors, and will offer a space to create new visions for connections with students. Five students have committed to living at this house seem excited for the new semester to begin!
I continue to feel blessed and supported by my incredible Advisory Committee from University Mennonite Church. It isn’t easy creating something from scratch – especially when we do not have a blueprint or an Anabaptist example to build from.
We are grateful for your prayers and support, and we are looking at ways to shift our financial support network to a broader base than just UMC. If you or your congregation would like to support this ministry as a mission/giving project, please be in touch with Jim Rosenberger, University Mennonite Church’s treasurer.
A year-in-review video can be found here – https://youtu.be/0KNerGtFN2E