more college ministry vocabulary

Yesterday I discussed why I lean toward using the term “college ministry” to describe our field as a whole. (There were several great comments, too, at that post and on Twitter and on Facebook.) Since we’re on the subject, I figured I would share something else I’ve learned along the way.

Parachurch vs. Campus-based

You might have noticed that I tend to use the term “campus-based” to describe college ministries that function outside of a specific local church (and that tend to focus their efforts on or near campus). Most people who aren’t involved in college ministry or are involved in a different branch of college ministry often use “parachurch” to describe any and all of these groups – but I use “campus-based.”

Why? Because many campus-based groups that arise from denominations or other fellowships of churches don’t consider themselves truly “parachurch.” While others may disagree with that assessment, I imagine it comes down to how you define “parachurch” and whether or not multi-church organizations fit that definition. (Denominational college ministries tend to be overseen and/or supported by actual, local churches – a presbytery, an association, individual churches, etc..)

Even some members of those groups will call themselves “parachurch,” so clearly it’s not too big a deal. But I do know that some people feel pretty strongly about the difference – and clearly, there is a fundamental difference in how these groups are overseen, supported, and connected to congregations.

I figure there’s no reason to be snotty by calling ministries unappreciated terms. So I’ve found “campus-based” to be a helpful and respectful name to describe that particular branch of college ministry.

And one more note

Since it came up in the big paragraph above, I figured I might mention another term I’ve learned to avoid in certain situations. It’s important for outsiders to remember that Independent Christian Churches and Churches of Christ don’t usually consider themselves part of “denominations.” The churches are completely autonomous and have no truly “official” connections, though the relational and theological connections often run pretty strong. Instead, “fellowships” seems to describe them well.

So there’s some “Ecumenically Correct” vocab I’ve learned in my explorations the last couple of years. It’s been far easier learning that stuff than it has been (re)learning how to say my own first name.

Any other “ecumenically correct” or otherwise helpful tips you’ve found in the world of college ministry (or beyond)?


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