What do you get when ministry to college students is organized within the “Halls of Academia”? What does that particular branch of collegiate ministry – the Spiritual Life offices of Christian colleges – offer to the rest of us?
A few weeks ago, I discussed the three big branches of Collegiate Ministry (here) and then started the discussion of how we can learn from each other. In that post, “Learnin’ Fun,” I noted one lil’ thing that the campus-based ministries seem particularly good at – and that’s building relationships through fun & fellowship.
This year, I’ve had the chance to explore several major Christian colleges throughout the country. This has included meeting with staff members and directors in the spiritual life depts. at many of these schools – whether those directors be called “Chaplains,” “Campus Pastors,” or otherwise.
Those have been some great meetings.
Probably the biggest thing that has jumped out to me from this branch of Collegiate Ministry is this: Many in these positions have thinking and learning as part of their ministry DNA.
These Campus Pastors are the ministers most likely to talk to me about some new journal article that has helped them do ministry better. These people point me to books – and not necessarily college ministry books, which are in short supply, but to books on Spiritual Development or Organizational Management or Higher Education or some other field where principles can inform what they do. They tell me about conferences they attend, questions they ask of others in their field, and papers they read (or write) that discuss even small details of their jobs.
Plenty, for instance, have mentioned the works of Fowler and Erickson from the world of psychology. Some have read Good to Great to streamline their operations or Generation Me to better understand their audience. They might be keenly interested in the best ways to package (and enforce) Chapel services, enough to discuss it across multiple years at CCCU conferences.
No, not every secular or Christian resource that informs Collegiate Ministry work gets everything right – but these Campus Pastors know that. They eat the fish, throw away the bones, and build impactful ministries in the process.
For us outside this branch of Collegiate Ministry, let me tell you: there really is a whole world of contribution and collaboration there for helping us impact students. If you’re within sight of a Christian college, you might just wanna sit down with those guys, because they may have really brilliant thoughts, resources, and ideas to offer.
I think being in an academic setting very naturally provides this focus. Of all the ministers I’ve encountered, these guys and gals treat this as normal, as expected, as simply part of what they do. I think that may be something the rest of us need to see.
Just like with churches, not every Christian school sees excellence in this area in the same way. But those who do take it very seriously offer all of us a chance to learn the value of learnin’, as we all seek to impact students.
[An addendum with some resources for doing this can be found here.]
Posted from a falafel restaurant near University of Washington