Meet Michael Knapstad

Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with Michael Knapstad, our new CAM pastor, to talk about all things college-age ministry. Michael recently joined our staff and we are so excited to have him on board. We wanted to give you a chance to get to hear a little bit about who he is, his passion for college-age ministry, and how we can be involved in caring for college students in our church.

If you’re interested in serving with college-age ministry, let us know!

If you’d prefer to read, here’s the transcript: 

Tiffany: So Michael, you hold the record for the longest Pastor search ever in the history of all of Blackhawk Church. What took you so long to get here?

Michael:  I just wanted to keep everyone at Blackhawk waiting *laughs*.  No. No, it’s so interesting. When I heard that it took so long …  I just thought about where I was when this search was beginning. I was in a time where God was doing so many great things in my heart, in terms of college-aged ministry in the context of an intergenerational church. I was falling in love with college students and learning a lot of different skills to help intergenerational congregations engage with college students. In a way, God was preparing me for this new season at Blackhawk, which is just super crazy.

T: We’re so thankful! Tell us about where you moved from.

M: The place that’s almost identical to Madison, Wisconsin called San Francisco.

T: Right? It’s like you would never even know the difference. Madison, San Francisco, same.

M: I was at a church called Menlo Church, and the most recent position that I came from was a college-age young adult ministry. Menlo’s a lot like Blackhawk church. It’s an intergenerational multi-site church that seeks to build a community to reach a community. The context was very similar. Before that, I went to Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, which was awesome. I’m originally from the Seattle area, which Madison honestly reminds me a lot of Seattle.

T: Especially lately. #rainy

M: Yeah, especially lately.

T:  Just getting to know you a little bit more. For many of us, this the first time we’ve ever seen you, so let’s do a little fun word association. I’m going to throw some words at you, and you tell me what you think of.

M: Let’s do it.

T: Okay. Madison.

M: Madison. Rain and Seattle.

T: Badgers.

M: Awesome. Weird little animals that I saw stuffed in Dottie’s. I’m not used to these taxidermy animals.

T: Good, okay. How about coffee?

M: About five cups a day.

T: Nice.

M: That’s an extreme end. This is number three, and it’s early.

T: How about the best way to spend an afternoon?

M: Oh, man. I like city-walking, finding a coffee shop, reading, and or going on a hike, and or cycling.

T: Book you’re currently reading.

M: I’m a Millennial and the college-age generation is what we call “Gen Z”, which is “Gen Z-ers”, so I’m reading a couple books about how to reach a Gen Z-er and what that looks like.

T: And finally, last one: guilty pleasure.

M: Dark chocolate.

T: Michael, tell us about your love for college students. Why college ministry?

M: Yeah, that’s a really great question. I think that the college age is such an important time in the development of a college student, and development of a person, and I think most of us probably watching this right now could think back to their time as a college student. I mean, you’re experiencing freedom that you’ve never experienced before, figuring out what being an adult is like, and wrestling with a lot of different questions. And college students often go through this kind of disordered part of their faith, and there’s a lot of deep questions.

Perhaps a college student was raised in a Christian context and a Christian household, and maybe never even had these deep questions and conversations about, “Well, do I really believe that?” And when college students get into college, these questions start to surface; that’s why, statistically, we see college students leaving the faith when their in college. And I love the college-age ministry because I think that is the time where a church and people can press into the life of a college student and say, “Hey, those deep questions that you have about Jesus. That’s okay. Those different areas where you’re just struggling with the Bible. It’s okay to ask those questions.” And I love just being in that.

And being in the context of an intergenerational church I think is so great because, in addition, college students are coming from this different family context where they have, perhaps, a grandfather, grandmother, parents, siblings. And then they go to college and they leave that behind. Then, while they’re excited to make new friends and to build a life, there is a very, very real sense of loss. And I think the beauty of being at an intergenerational church is that grandparents, empty-nesters, people who have family, kids ranging from babies to seniors, that is so important in the development of a college student because you can just be a ministry of presence and say, “I don’t know how to reach you, but you’re invited into my family.” And from being a college student, that can just change the direction of a college student’s life.

T:  This is great, Michael. We love college students here. Study Day is a big event we have here– You haven’t experienced it yet, but it is incredible. We love to rally around students, feeding hundreds, maybe thousands, of college students.

M: I can’t wait.

T: We get Study Day, but it is a little more daunting to think about inviting a college student into our life. Maybe we feel busy or we feel like we lost the cool factor a long time ago. Or maybe we’re afraid they are going to come with these big theological questions that we don’t feel equipped to answer. So what do we do about that? Do college students really wanna hang out with us?

M: That’s a great question.

T: That’s my question.

M: That’s a great question, and I think it’s a great question because I think that’s what most people are thinking. First, you said a word- “cool.” What if we’re not cool? I was talking to someone a while ago who is a college student, and I was trying to relate, kinda trying to be cool, so I name-dropped this rapper to try to relate, and all of a sudden he’s like, “Michael, let’s set the record straight. You’re not cool. You’re old. Just let the record show.” But he’s like, “But I don’t hang out with you, and I don’t ask you questions about Jesus, because you’re cool. It’s because God has shown you different things in your age and stage that I haven’t been shown, and that I need to see.”

T: That’s right.

M: And I think the same thing is true for everyone at Blackhawk, no matter if you think you’re cool. And if you’re questioning if you’re cool or not, chances are you’re not. Join the club.

But the thing is, no matter where you’re at, that’s the beauty of an intergenerational church. College students are hungry and thirsty for wisdom…. and for a meal. If you have an extra chair, maybe if you’re an empty-nester. The idea of adopting a college student is a very real one and many college students are just waiting to be asked.

My team and I are so excited about what the future of Blackhawk, this intergenerational church, is to reach college students. We have so many ideas which we’ll communicate later as they unfold, but I would say if you have this tug on your heart, or this idea, “What if I could be used to help a college student,” chances are that’s from God. Pray about that; talk to me; keep your ear tuned as things start unfolding.

The ministry of presence is, I think, the most important ministry for a college student. Just saying, “I don’t know the answers, but I’m here for you.” And if you don’t know the answer, that’s okay because at Blackhawk we have pastors who either do or who know how to find the answer. Even if the answer’s, “We don’t know.” That’s okay.

T: Michael, Thank you for taking some time to sit with us so we can get to know you. We’re excited to continue to get to know you over these next weeks, months, and years. We’re glad that you’re here.

M: I’m so glad. Thanks, Tiffany.


Tiffany Malloy
About the Author: Tiffany Malloy
Tiffany Malloy is the Pastor of Blackhawk Downtown Team Development. Tiffany and her family landed in Madison in 2013 for her husband to attend graduate school. When she’s not managing her crazy (awesome) kids, Tiffany loves reading, running, and blogging about all things faith and books.