alternate states (another funky collegiate ministry setting)

One of the most fun aspects of seeing Collegiate Ministry in action around the country is stumbling upon particularly quirky settings for what we do. Not only are these collegiate contexts interesting, but they let us put on our thinking caps and practice contextualizing our ministries.

For instance, I wrote a while back about ministering to college students under the Quarter System (rather than semesters); at the time, this was pretty new to me. Now that I’ve worked my way from San Diego to Seattle (and beyond), I’m far more acquainted with Quarter System schools – since they might even be the majority out here. (Although LA Tech’s schedule is a little different, and a little harder to manage.) Anyway, you can read about that right here if you’re interested. Be sure to read my new buddy Glen’s comment below the post, too.

This week, I get to hang out in another particularly unique setting: the College Town Duo.

Less than 10 miles from each other sit the campuses of Washington State University and University of Idaho. The smallish cities of Pullman, WA, and Moscow, ID, are both clearly “College Towns” in the classic sense. But they also serve as sister cities, I’m learning – while being part of a 10,000-square-mile area called The Palouse.

Really. I didn’t make that name up. You can even read about “The Paradise Called the Palouse” on WSU’s site.

When we’re kids, we learn about these sovereign entities called states. We learn their capitals. We hear about “Four Corners” and time zones and even learn state history. So to come here to Pullman / Moscow and see inter-state-ness as a way of life…? It’s disconcerting, disorienting…

Seriously, though, the close placement of these towns means that inhabitants (including me) make the interstate “trek” often. And this isn’t just for shopping, dining, or to go to the movies. Residents travel to “alternate states” for church sometimes, too. So much college ministry, especially of the church-based kind, needs to serve students of both campuses.

I recognize that plenty of you guys and gals minister to multiple campuses – especially in metropolitan settings, or in college towns with big state colleges and smaller, “feeder” institutions.

But here, we’ve got two big state schools in their own college towns, a 10-minute drive away from each other – and not much else. Speaking for my home state, it would be something like Texas Tech University being placed in Bryan, TX – the town adjacent to College Station, home of Texas A&M.


I’m sure locals are more skilled at this than I, but in my case, I’ve even forgotten where I was several times. (“Are these Idaho students in this ministry, or Wazzu students?” And it can be both…) I have to recalibrate, to decide whether we’ll be chatting about Cougars or Vandals today.

So I’ll be watching how this College Town Duo college ministry works, and asking those I interview. (I may get to see some similar interactions once I’m in the Research Triangle of North Carolina.) But as an exercise, what do you think the difficulties would be? What about positives? And if God called you here to impact students, how would you navigate this funky setting?

And yes, I did use the word “funky.”

Written from Bucer’s coffee shop (on the Idaho side)


  1. Hey Ben,

    Thanks for the email the other day. I appreciate all of your posts and research and traveling and I’m looking forward to your final synopsis of the entire trip.

    I don’t remember if I answered you but yes, we are now meeting in the sushi restaurant in which you and I ate when we first met. I’ve also been doing a lot to our website so please check it out and offer some feedback if you get a chance (and any links you can generate :).

    Anyway, keep typing away and share the knowledge as you go!

  2. Yay for the shout out to the Triangle of NC! I was just thinking while reading your post that it sounds pretty similar to UNC/Duke (although I suppose no matter how much the teams dislike each other we ARE in the same state) But it’s interesting to consider!

    Keep up the good work (kind of a pun?)
    Suzanne :-)

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