what is the convergence?
The Convergence is a monthly gathering for Calgary’s post-secondary students. Each month we will gather together with students from all campuses to worship God, be encouraged, and connect with other Christian students, Christian leaders, and on-campus ministries.
convergence in 2020
2020 has brought us all unique challenges, and ministry at our universities is no exception. The majority of students in Canada will not set foot on campus this year, and while we're encouraged at our University to continue to minister to students, any and all programming is mandated to take place online.
I believe that while we're at a moment of significant challenge, we're also presented with an opportunity to be creative for the sake of the Kingdom. Two years ago, we launched a service in Calgary called The Convergence. Here is a quick overview of what we saw The Convergence to be. (After a brief overview, I'd like to share with you about some ways that this vision can expand to connect a much broader group, while simultaneously diving deeper into community.)
First, some of the foundational points that helped provide vision for this movement. Here was our description of The Convergence:
"The Convergence is a monthly gathering for Calgary’s post-secondary students. Each month we will gather on one of our campuses to worship God, be encouraged and challenged in our faith, and connect with other Christian students, Christian leaders, and on-campus ministries."
Also vital were the three bridges we sought to build:
These bridges remain vital for the purpose of The Convergence. As for the first bridge, we recognize that what happens on campus does not replace the local church. College or university is an important seasonal moment in the life of a person and can be a deeply formational time. Our hope is that we can work with churches in order to help them prepare students for this season, minister in partnership with them during these years, and finally help the student transition well as they leave the academy. Regarding the second bridge, we are grateful that there are often several groups working on many campuses for the sake of the Kingdom. We are happy to connect students with various ministries so that they connect relationally on campus. Finally, we're always excited when students who don't know Jesus personally get introduced to him. We understand that we must live missionally on campus and help students to do the same.
A New Opportunity
At the end of the 2020 school year the pandemic hit. It appears that none of us were prepared for the dramatic shift that would take place almost overnight. Suddenly, life seemed to have to be lived out in a new world. In many ways, even though we've seen societal shifts since that time, we're still living in that new world now. One of the interesting things that happened as we were stuck at home was that online meeting spaces become normal. One minute I was online meeting with people in Calgary and the next I was meeting with someone in Australia or Germany and, interestingly, none of these meetings felt very different from each other. I think it started to dawn on many of us that we've always had this ability to connect more broadly, but we didn't take advantage of it. The world, almost overnight, became bigger. At the same time, many of us began to "rediscover the neighborhood," as one of my friends put it. Never in my life have I known my neighbors better. Never before have we gotten together with small groups of friends like we do now. The world is smaller.
I wonder if this isn't a moment to reimagine both the deep and wide ministry opportunities before us. With so many students being at home this year, why not allow a space for students from all over Canada to connect online for a service like The Convergence? At the same time, what if the purpose of broadening our service was to actually drive towards the local? One of the most beautiful parts of our online service has been the breakout rooms at the end. In these rooms, students connect with people from their own campus and pray together. Relationships are formed here, and out of this online connection students can begin to meet in smaller groups in person at a church or a café (as restrictions allow). Or imagine that a church only has a handful of students in university, but perhaps there is another church not too far away who also has a small amount of students at that same university. Oftentimes, students find that initial connecting point very difficult. 'Are there other Christians on my campus? If so, where? And how can I find them?' The Convergence could help students connect with each other on their own campuses. Again, the big online meeting is not our main purpose. Of course, they can receive good teaching and be challenged regarding living their faith out on campus, but the real drive is local. The goal would be to connect the student relationally in their own city. Local pastors or church leaders could host a local breakout room, allowing that local bridge between church and school to be traversed.
I'm excited about this possibility for students this fall. If this is something that is of interest to you, please don't hesitate to connect with me personally. We'd love to have pastors, campus workers, or young adult leaders to host breakout rooms in your city in order to connect students in Christian community so we can see them grow during these important years.