TALLAHASSEE – For Rev. Mike Toluba, the biggest appeal of shepherding a campus ministry is working with people on the brink of adulthood.
|Rev. Mike Toluba|
“I think the university years in a young adult’s life are critical,” said Toluba, a 10-year veteran of campus ministry currently serving at Kansas State University. “I think it’s critical for us to also bring Christ to people (at that time).”
The coming years also are critical for Florida State University’s Wesley Foundation, one of the oldest and largest Methodist campus ministries in the nation. The Florida Conference has embarked on a campaign to raise money to replace the aging facilities there by 2018.
Toluba, who will visit FSU Wesley this week to meet students and check out the existing Wesley complex, said by phone that he welcomes the challenge of working with the Wesley Foundation and Florida Conference to replace the facilities and make the transition. He will take the helm from longtime FSU Wesley minister Vance Rains on July 1, when Rains will receive an appointment to pastor a local church.
Rev. David Fuquay, director of Higher Education and Campus Ministry for the Florida Conference, called Toluba “the right fit” for FSU Wesley.
“Mike is passionate about campus ministry,” Fuquay said by email. “His approach to community building, worship, small groups, mission, leadership development and fundraising is a close match to what is already in place and working at FSU Wesley.
“With all of the transition taking place over the next few years with the FSU Wesley facilities, Mike’s campus ministry experience and deep spiritual humility will provide strong and stabilizing leadership in a time of upheaval.”
Toluba grew up in Savannah, Ga., and was an education major at Armstrong Atlantic State University there when he received his call to ministry.
As he pursued his Master of Divinity degree at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky., he knew he wanted to combine ministry with education. Working with college students seemed like a perfect fit, he said.
Before his assignment at Kansas State five years ago, he was a campus minister in his home state with experience in a multisite, urban setting in Savannah and also at a rural campus in Americus.
He received the Denman Evangelism Award from the Kansas East Conference last year in recognition of the growth of the Kansas State Wesley Foundation to more than 100 students. While there, Toluba oversaw the renovation of a former fraternity house that was transformed into a residential Christian community that last fall attracted 39 students.
Toluba said he and his wife, Kathie, and young daughter, Natalie, are looking forward to relocating to a campus closer to their home state of Georgia. Also, Toluba has been impressed with the reputation of FSU Wesley among United Methodist campus ministries across the nation.
“We’re excited to serve such a faithful and strong campus ministry in Florida,” Toluba said.
This week will mark his first visit to the Tallahassee area apart from the interview and discernment process with the Florida Conference Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry, but Toluba is hardly a stranger to Florida. During many years of leading youth and young adult groups, he said, he has tallied no fewer than 25 trips to Disney World.
Toluba said he anticipates that FSU students will share some characteristics of their counterparts at other college campuses, primarily those related to the search for identity that’s typical of the university experience.
But he also expects students to be different. The Kansas State ministry was different from his previous assignments in South Georgia, Toluba said.
“Probably the biggest difference is being beyond the hold of the Bible Belt,” he said. “But I kind of have a missionary’s heart to share the Gospel with people who have not yet met Christ or aren’t living for Christ.”
In Florida, he is readying himself for a campus culture that reflects the great diversity of the state’s population.
“There are different cultures throughout the state of Florida because of the influx of people from across the states and across the world.”
Fuquay predicted Toluba will fit right in at FSU.
“Mike is a great addition to our campus ministry community and, through his leadership, FSU Wesley will continue to be an important part of the Florida Conference’s mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
-- Susan Green is the managing editor of Florida Conference Connection.