The idea isn’t revolutionary—quite the opposite. It’s about going back to the basics. It’s about simplicity. It’s about Jesus. Just Jesus.
Pastor Ricky Melendez is new on the scene—new to North Dakota, new to Jamestown, new to North Dakota State University and University of Jamestown, new to pastoral ministry, and new to public campus ministry. A 2014 theology graduate of Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska, Melendez didn’t know when he was hired by the Dakota Conference that he would be building a ministry from the ground up.
While attending Union College Melendez and ministry partner Tyler Morrison started a Sabbath school called Jesus at the Center. When close friend Abner Campos took it over, the group was renamed Just Jesus.
When Pastor Melendez arrived in North Dakota he was given opportunity to initiate campus ministries on college and university campuses statewide and to bring all campus ministries in the Dakotas under one title.
“It’s like throwing spaghetti at a wall—try it and see what sticks,” Melendez admits.
He began the ministry of relationship building, which led him into a partnership with UJ Religious Life leaders. Soon after, things began to happen at the university.
One group began as a small Bible study in an apartment on the University of Jamestown campus, and has now grown into a strong group that is more like a family, acting as a support system for Melendez as well as a team serving together in facilitating larger campus and community outreach events.
The unified hands of this group coordinated the No Greater Love benefit concert that took place on campus in February. Together they collected dozens of bags of toys and clothing, 142 pounds of food, and raised $1,071 in cash—all donated to the Jamestown Salvation Army.
Jamestown isn’t the only place Just Jesus is on the move. In Fargo another group meets on Friday nights. There are also plans for a coffee shop church at Café Delight across the street from the NDSU campus. Pastor Melendez has begun working with students at the University of North Dakota as well.
The vision for Just Jesus is one that reaches into the future and is self-sustaining. A Just Jesus Conference is scheduled at Dakota Adventist Academy Aug. 7-9. Conferences like this play a key role in fulfilling that vision. This is where students partake in ministry for themselves, and also learn how to take the grassroots approach back to their own campuses, communities and friend groups, thereby fostering spiritual growth on a wider scale.
The mission of Just Jesus Adventist Campus Ministries is “…to ground university students in Christ, to grow them in Christ, thus empowering and equipping them to go out as disciples of Christ.”
The focus is not denominational, it is not exclusive, and it is not complicated. The focus is and always will be Just Jesus.
This article was also published in the July/August 2015 print edition of OUTLOOK. It was written by Brooke Lietzke, student chaplain at University of Jamestown.