One of the newest college ministry models is the collegiate church. I had certainly heard of “collegiate churches” before this trip, but part of the fun of this year is getting to see my preconceived notions discarded, corrected, or at the very least nuanced. I certainly know a lot more about “collegiate churches” and collegiate church planting than I understood before August 16th.
[Sorry, by the way, for the lack of blogging this week. I’m not participating in the Writer’s Strike, I promise. Usually, a lack here just means I’ve had good success staying busy with interviews and other parts of this exploration. That’s true this week, for sure – just pray for balance for me!]
To this point on the trip, I’ve personally encountered 6 or 7 collegiate churches. (It was 6 before today, but I’m actually working on another one here in Baton Rouge!) This included sitting down with the pastor of each of the first 6 and attending 5 of their services. I also got to connect with Stacey Wideman, the Coordinator of the Collegiate Church Planting Community in Boston, as well as Tom Mauriello, Executive Director of Great Commission Ministries. GCM has planted collegiate churches on lots of campuses. While I will certainly encounter further ways of “doing the collegiate church thing” on this trip, I’ve definitely seen a variety of methods already.
Today, I’ll fill you in on the Boston situation. Look for details from Amherst, Mass., New Britain, Connecticut, Baton Rouge, LA, and Great Commission Ministries soon. I think each example of this model-in-action offers the chance to be stretched in our imaginations when it comes to campus ministry. Hoorah collaboration.
If you want to get a more lively run-down of the Collegiate Church Planting Community, check out their “Know Us” site here. Otherwise, you can keep reading!
My friends at the CCPC
If you did get a chance to listen to the Passion podcast after the Boston Regional event, you might have heard props given to the CCPC, the Collegiate Church Planting Community. As I noted when I was headed thataway, the CCPC was one of my major interests in exploring that town, because I knew this was one model that’s finding more and more adherents around the country (and particularly in Canada, too). The members of the CCPC were certainly excellent hosts and friends for me, and they also collectively gave quite a bit of time to help me understand and experience their Community.
The CCP Community is a network of (right now) four churches in the Boston area. Each of the churches is small; I didn’t go to a service with more than about 15 involved. Some are house churches, while others have more of a “church location.” There has been some fluctuation in attendance (as can always be the case with collegiate ministries) over time, as well. But as noted by Nathan, one of the pastors, sometimes a downturn in numbers (after an initial “surge”) allows a ministry to solidify its focus – setting it up for further, better growth later. For at least some of these churches, their members are still defining, developing, and designing their ministries – while already providing a beloved church home for dozens of Boston residents.
As Stacey Wideman and the CCPC pastors often told me, the Collegiate Church Planting Community might be better considered a “collegiate-focused church planting community.” That is definitely true. The four churches presently involved, as they have developed, are “collegiate” in different ways and to varying degrees. While one or two have a large number of college students involved, others have drawn more of a 20-something crowd at this point. All are in good “collegiate” locations, though, accessible for students by walking or near a T-stop (that’s the subway, which in Boston is a very standard way of getting around). And the hope for the CCPC churches is that each will always have a heart to reach the campus(es) in their communities.
The birth of these collegiate churches is key to understanding what’s going on, too: For the most part, the existence of each church has replaced the Baptist Collegiate Ministry on the local campus (or group of campuses). While there continues to be BCM campus activity in Boston (such as with my buddies at MIT), the overall strategy of the Southern Baptist Convention in reaching Boston students has tilted toward this church-planting method. Sometimes the CCPC pastors have retained the title of “BCM Director” on their particular campus(es), though, which allows them to maintain campus connections.
As for staff and funding, remember that this is Boston. The pastors and other staff members are denomination-sponsored or sponsor-supported or outside-job-supported far more than they’re church-supported at this point. Pioneers? Absolutely. But not just in “normal ministry” but pioneers in this kind of collegiate ministry model. And through this model, these churches are working hard to gain some ground in an incredibly difficult city for collegiate impact.
The “community” aspect of the CCPC helps these missionaries during this pioneering adventure, however. While each church is autonomous, the CCPC allows for networking, collaborating, fellowship, and support in the context of like-minded, like-situated Jesus people.
After seeing the CCPC in action, here are a few quick notes from me:
- One thing I didn’t realize before is that collegiate churches are certainly not necessarily “college student only” churches. As I noted, some may have only a couple of students involved at any given time. Furthermore, as actual churches, their sights must be set more broadly than many college ministries’ would need to be.
- Because of this broader focus, then, the effectiveness of this model at specifically reaching students will be determined by individual churches’ efforts in that area of ministry. This, I think, is an important point for any model: Even a very collegiate-oriented method like this doesn’t guarantee true (or “best”) impact; it must be coupled with actual, intentional ministry to the campus. Fortunately, that’s happening in the CCPC – and I know firsthand they’re striving to get better and better!
- Though the model isn’t all that’s needed for impact, the CCPC churches, in being collegiate-focused, certainly have provided a very “friendly” platform from which to minister to students. With automatic tie-ins to campuses (through the BCM connections), excellent locations, and pastors and members with hearts to reach students, the “stage has been set” for great collegiate ministry to take place. Even for established churches that aren’t about to become a “collegiate church plant,” we can learn a lot from those guys and gals who determined to focus on the collegiate community around them – and prepared themselves for ministry.
That’s the overview of the CCPC. But if you want to find out more, you can get a further grasp on things at their great web sites:
- Collegiate Church Planting Community in Boston: Where you want to start to understand this model. This is the “umbrella” site for the community with excellent discussions of history, thinking, etc. Explore – it’s cool!
- The Church at the Gate: Boston University / Berklee School of Music / Northeastern University
- Shawmut Springs Church: Northeastern / Wentworth / Colleges of the Fenway / “Mass Art” (Massachusetts College of Art and Design)
- Trinity Church: Boston College / Newbury College / Pine Manor
- The Oasis Church: Tufts University (I don’t think they have a web page at this point)