Connecting Students with God – A Conversation with John MeinenWritten by admin on Feb 20, 2020 in - No Comments
Connecting Students with God
A conversation with John Meinen
John Meinen is a UVM campus minister with RUF (Reformed University Fellowship) who grew up in Northern Virginia and loves mountain biking, fly fishing, and writing. (He is currently attempting to write a poem a day. Ask him about it!) John and his wife Megan, the Director of UVM ‘s Adventure Ropes Course, attend Church at the Well and live in the Old North End with their 4-year old daughter, Willa, who loves unicorns, and their black lab, Fella, who brings much joy.
Would you tell us a little about RUF?
Our mission is: Connect, Experience, Channel. In our campus ministry, every student is invited to connect to Jesus, experience his goodness, and channel his love (in that order). There are just shy of 70 students actively involved, gathering for Wednesday Night Fellowship (pizza, worship, and a sermon), as well as small groups throughout the week. About half of our students came to UVM looking for Jesus. The other half, mostly invited to RUF by friends, did not come looking for Jesus but are discovering that Jesus is looking for them.
As a campus minister at UVM, what are you noticing about students these days and the challenges they face?
We’re starting to see an entire generation of students who have grown up on social media. They have high levels of anxiety. They are a post-9-11 generation and have a lot of fear. Many probably saw their parents become unemployed in 2008 – 2009 and wondered if they, too, would be unemployed. With terrorism, political turmoil, global pandemics, and climate change, the future seems so uncertain. I want to speak hope into their lives.
Could you share a little of your own coming-to-faith story?
I graduated from the University of Colorado in Boulder and was chasing a career in international development. I lived in Bangladesh for half a year in 2005, and I burned out. I didn’t have spiritual resources. I converted to atheism. I had one more project in Uganda in 2006, and there I encountered Christians who leaned toward suffering. They were living lives that begged a question only Jesus could answer. I asked them, “Why are you doing this?” They talked of a God who moves toward suffering. I always thought, “Oh, Christians,” but their witness brought me to the table in a new way.
Long story short, I was invited to participate in the Falls Church Fellowship Program, a church-based leadership development program for recent college graduates, and that year I became a Christian. From there, I went to Gordon Conwell Seminary. I didn’t intend to become a minister. I just wanted to learn to read the Bible in the original languages. Here I am now.
What is your greatest hope for the students you work with?
My hope is for students to be connected to God, for his love to flow into them and come out of them, and for them to be who he has always wanted them to be—for their good and the joy of the world. In the benediction in Numbers 6 (The Lord bless youand keep you;the Lord make his face shine on youand be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward youand give you peace), the final word is peace. Someday there will be shalom. Until we get there, there’s a God who is in the midst of the chaos with us. God is not a distant observer but an imminent presence in students’ lives: Emmanuel, a good shepherd who will guide them home. That’s what I want for them.
What is one of the joys of your work with students in campus ministry?
I’m meeting people who, for their entire lives, have been home. Now they’re being led into a wilderness. For the first time, they are living as “exiles,” and I get to give them a roadmap for how to navigate life with Jesus going forward. I enjoy sitting across the table from students and seeing them light up when the gospel connects with some of their loves. I also enjoy helping students connect with other students. Megan and I do a lot of hospitality and enjoy providing a home away from home. We intentionally bought our house within walking distance to campus so any student can walk to our house.
What is something you find challenging about being a campus minister?
Fundraising is always a challenge. We don’t pass the hat at RUF. Campus ministry happens because people who are not currently in college give. We can’t minister without finances. Someone has to pay for the pizza.
What are a few ways people can support you and the work of RUF?
– Sign up for John’s monthly newsletter so you can learn more and be praying for John and the students of RUF.
– Bake cookies for a Wednesday Night Fellowship so students can enjoy a homemade dessert as they gather to worship and learn more about Christ.
– Buy pizza so students can enjoy dinner as part of Wednesday night Fellowship ($100).
– Scholarship a student to RUF’s summer conference in Florida in May, where about a thousand students will gather to hear great teaching and grow in their walk with Christ ($375).
– Contribute to John’s support so that he can keep ministering and reaching out to students at UVM.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
You don’t need anyone’s permission to show hospitality to a college student and take an interest in their lives, or to invite them into your home for dinner. Pay attention to the college students in your midst and tell them that you’re glad they’re there.
To learn more about RUF, visit http://rufuvm.org
To help out with food for an RUF event, email Abby at Abby@wellchurchvt.com
To sign up for John’s newsletter, contact John.Meinen@ruf.org
To give directly to the support of John and the work of RUF, visit http://rufuvm.org/support