RUF began in the south and has its greatest strength there. You may be surprised to learn that we are working presently on over 160 campuses, including thriving RUF ministries at major schools such as Clemson University, University of Virginia, Penn State, Stanford, and Harvard University. Although there has been an interest for many years in heading north and west, it was only in 1995 that Eric Molicki began an RUF group at Towson University in Maryland. Since then groups have begun at Lehigh University, University of Maryland, University of Pittsburgh, and other schools in the northeast. We are also working at Stanford, Berkeley, University of Missouri, Northwestern and other schools in the west and midwest. RUF is rapidly gaining recognition all over the U.S.
RUF has several other divisions. There is also RUF-I, “Reformed University Fellowship International,” which ministers to international students, and RUF-G, “Reformed University Fellowship Global,” which are our overseas ministries.
These organizations have been doing fine work with students on college campuses. Since the church largely has been absent from the campus, they have covered part of her responsibility. There are three reasons, however, why it is important to begin RUF ministries.
First, RUF is Reformed, both in its message and in its methodology. We teach the sovereignty of God over all things, and salvation by grace in Christ alone. It is a strong message with power to save. Our campus ministers adhere to the Westminster Standards, insuring theological integrity. Our Reformed methodology shows up in our working as part of the church. We have a high view of the ministry of the word and the sacraments, and pass this on to the students.
This leads to the second reason to begin RUF ministries. It is our responsibility as a church to proclaim the gospel throughout our land. We are greatly remiss if we deliberately overlook such a significant aspect of our society as college and university campuses. Third, RUF is the campus ministry of the PCA. Surely we want to support our own denomination.
It is true that there are people in other ministries who are more or less Reformed in their theology. But there also are many who are not Reformed. As parachurch organizations, these groups out of necessity are characterized by a commitment primarily to a certain methodology. Representing all churches, they are able to affirm the theology of none. Consequently, they are methodologically strong, but theologically weak. An isolated staff worker may be somewhat Reformed, but the supervisors, programs, and literature will sometimes teach things we believe to be erroneous.
We are not opposed to the work of other organizations. We cooperate with other groups on campus and appreciate their efforts. But there are certain things that are central to the life and ministry of the church. Preaching the gospel is one of those central aspects of the church. Along with discipline and the sacraments, we consider preaching to be one of the essential marks of a true church. We do not send our members to someone else to be baptized, and neither should we solely delegate the ministry of the Word to someone else.
An analogy with the family may be helpful. As the head of my household, I am responsible for the provision and care for my wife and children. Some of this care can be done by others. I send my children to a neighbor to learn French. I pay a hairdresser to trim my wife’s hair. But there are certain things my wife and children need from me only. I would never delegate these. So the church should never totally give over the gospel ministry on college campuses to someone else.
Very good question. No, RUF is an outreach ministry. Like chaplains in the military or prisons, our ministry is of the Word. We cooperate with local churches, and it is there that we participate in the sacraments and are subject to discipline. RUF campus ministers are like evangelists to the campus, or like extension pastors, preaching and counseling those in a situation which requires special attention – attention the local pastor does not have the time to give.
In addition to the strong theological grounding already mentioned, the students will be involved in the church. The better parachurch organizations try to encourage students to attend church on Sunday, but some communicate an unhealthy attitude toward the church. The students miss the richness of life in a whole congregation, and when they graduate often feel adrift. No longer attending a college fellowship, and uncomfortable with church worship and life, they find it difficult to settle into a good church. RUF makes that connection all through their college years. When they graduate, joining a church and getting involved seems the natural thing to do.
Far from it. For one thing we take the gospel to unbelievers, regardless of their background. Then we find that students from all sorts of backgrounds are attracted to our groups. In fact, a minority of our students came from PCA backgrounds. RUF focuses on the word of God. Our campus ministers are placed on campus to minister the word. We do not ask people what church they come from before they can participate in our ministry.
Students are attracted by the warmth and friendliness of the student groups and by the opportunity to fellowship with other Christians, but they are attracted especially by the teaching. Over and over, students come to RUF groups because they find the gospel, not cultural Christianity or moralism. They find life and freedom in Christ. They find a campus minister who preaches with a depth and power many have never heard. As Reformed Christians we are not surprised, are we, that the scripture has such a powerful effect on people.
This seems to be true in many cases, but it is clearly not the case with RUF.
The primary secret is God’s mercy and blessing. The instruments He uses, however, are the campus ministers. RUF does not use just anyone in a campus position. All the campus ministers are ordained teaching elders. They come with a Masters of Divinity degree from a seminary, and are committed to Christ, the scripture, and the Westminster Standards. In addition, they are carefully trained before they are placed on campus, and they receive regular on-going training. These men understand the uniqueness of the campus setting and are able to interact in a compelling way.
The short answer is that you get what you pay for. A church could find a single guy fresh out of college who would work on campus for a lot less. But RUF provides ordained ministers. Reformed Christians believe there is something special about the preaching of the Word by pastors. Many campus ministers are married and have families. Some have been in campus ministry for a couple of decades. It takes more money to support someone ordained, with a family, and with maturity and experience. But we think it is worth it.
Another aspect of the budget is the cost of operating a long-term ministry. There is practically no overhead for someone who just walks onto campus and begins talking with people. When we start providing conferences and interacting with the church and public, certain office expenses become unavoidable. Related to this is the cost of maintaining a national organization. Part of each campus minister’s budget goes to pay for supervisory support.
One reason for a national office is to coordinate the ministry across the country. They act as a clearing house for ministers looking for positions and presbyteries looking for campus ministers. They provide the materials necessary for the ministry and handle the financial aspects. The national office also provides the training the campus ministers need to be effective on campus. Without this training we would be much like other ineffective denominational campus ministries. They provide continual support for the campus ministers throughout the year as well.
Perhaps even more significant, however, is the conviction that the church is not just the people with whom I worship on Sunday, but is a universal fellowship of believers. Although this is poorly expressed throughout the world, it is necessary for us to do what we can to express our unity in one body. Thus RUF functions simultaneously at the local level, the presbytery level, and the national level.
In some ways the presbytery is the central aspect of the support behind the campus minister. They call and ordain him, and are responsible for his budget. It takes involvement and commitment from all three levels to start an RUF ministry, but without the support and initiative of the presbytery, the ministry does not even get off the ground.
Some local churches do sponsor campus ministries, and some do quite well. Most cannot, however, due to the time, expense, and skill required to have an effective student ministry. Most pastors (and other church members) have not had the training or experience to have a strong impact in the campus environment. Most of those local church efforts at student ministry struggle, and many close after awhile.
By joining with the whole church, in its expression as a general assembly and presbytery, a local church is able to have a significant, successful, on-going involvement with students. The local church is positioned to carry on the day-to-day and week-by-week ministry students need. The campus minister worships in the local church and encourages students to attend and join there as well. The local church is the front-line in ministry to these students.
But the idea that the local church is all that is needed is really a congregational idea. The Reformed approach to the church is to involve each level in its appropriate manner. In this case, since most campuses draw students from a wide area, it is most appropriate that the presbytery be the focal point sponsoring the ministry.
The presbytery has to play its role in the RUF ministry, as do the local church and the national office. Presbytery’s role is to fund and provide local supervision to the ministry in its bounds. The Campus Committee of presbytery prepares the budget and oversees the actual campus work. This committee reports to the whole presbytery which then adopts the budget and provides the funds.
Well, it is a presbytery position, after all. You do not call a man to pastor a church unless the congregation is prepared to pay him. A particular church does not expect the denomination, or the pastor’s friends and relatives to pay its minister. Neither can a presbytery expect others to pay for its campus minister. The campus minister is paid from the RUF office, but the funds are provided by the presbytery.
Presbyteries can handle this in a variety of ways. Usually the budget is covered by a combination of contributions from individuals, support from particular churches, and presbytery funds.
The most important way to help is by praying for God’s guidance and blessing upon this ministry. Then you can urge your church to join us by praying and supplying the financial support necessary to meeting the budget. You can also make your own donations to RUF’s ministry. Just go to “Support RUF“.
You may contact David Green, the area coordinator for the Northeast at:
631 Fourth Avenue
The RUF national office can be reached at:
Reformed University Ministries