nuggets: college students as college ministers

This “leadership nuggets” series shares methods and ideas I learned in my first year of college ministry.

One thing I learned for certain during my first year of college ministry was that college students can truly function as college ministers.

Why do I know that? Because my own first year (and a half) of college ministry took place while I was still a student!

What I’ve described in this series – small group tips, spiritual lessons, community-building, teaching skills, and more – were things I learned while I was still attending Texas A&M, not as some paid, full-time adult college minister. My particular assignment was a year-long position in a freshman Bible study called Upstream: four required meetings a week, about 40 students connected to our group, weekly teaching, event-planning, and leaders I reported to. And now, after a decade of college ministry, I know that year was no less “the work of college ministry” than what has come since.

A person’s career as a college minister begins when he or she takes on the task of purposeful service to collegians. Student leaders may not be paid, but neither are plenty of other college ministers. They may not have a ministry of hundreds, but neither do most of us.

And student leaders might not have the title of Campus Minister – but certainly by definition, by calling, and by commitment, they can perform the same functions and love the same people. (And, as I’m sharing in this series, they can learn the same lessons as any other college minister, too.)

If student leaders see themselves as college ministers, they’re more likely to sense the weight of their important task. (So those who lead them should let them know!) They participate in everything more “official” college ministers do: Impacting people at a “hinge” moment in their lives, “holding back those staggering toward slaughter,” leading people to Jesus when most of their life is still ahead of them, spurring Christian students to “excel still more,” and duking it out on one of the craziest mission fields available.

This is what we do. We are college ministers.

This doesn’t mean college-age college ministers don’t need to be overseen by others. (Yet another thing I learned in my first year of college ministry!) I’m thankful for both the older students and the paid college staff at my church who commissioned me and led me that first year of ministry. As a student I certainly was not ready to serve as a college minister without major oversight.

But I did serve as a college minister. Little did I know – and little do many student leaders know today – that it was simply Year One of much more college ministry to come. And even if it’s not something a student leader pursues for a lifetime, it’s worth realizing that here, at this moment, they can be college ministers indeed.

Remember, it’s Day 16 of College Union’s 40 Days of Prayer for Campus Ministry!


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  1. Mark Warrington

    Spot on, Ben! In fact, I was asked to be a small group leader for our Freshmen Bible Study as a Sophomore. It was through this experience that I discovered my passion and calling for a lifetime of college ministry.

    And I had critical oversight too! I was mentored as a leader for several years after that.

    This is SO true. By giving students opportunities to lead and serve in college ministry, you may just be awakening a passion that helps lead to more “lifers” in our field. We need those! And just imagine the potential these new “lifers” could bring- all because we gave them some opportunities to serve and encouraged them along the way.

  2. Pingback: best-of-the-blog: training small group leaders « Exploring College Ministry blog (daily notes about our field)

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