college ministry poles (new series intro)

A few days ago, I used an old post by Matt Jensen of Mars Hill Seattle to discuss how common it is to find college ministries that vary widely in the “nuts and bolts” of their ministries. While “classic” campus works are, on the one hand, uniform uniform in their overall structure (large group meeting, small groups, big events, service projects), they’re surprisingly dissimilar when you actually look “under the hood.”

What I’ve found is that it seems like many college ministers don’t realize how many choices they’ve made about their programs and methods. Little do they realize that how they do small groups, what they happen to teach, who leads within their ministry, and on and on… little do they realize that there are other options they could have chosen.

There are, in fact, other options that are chosen. By lots of college ministers, all over the country. But because of the lack of collaboration, many of us may not realize that some ministers have found success using the polar opposite of the method we have chosen…

…like these:

  • Small groups: co-ed vs. single-gender
  • Relationship with other ministries: cooperation vs. competition / isolation
  • Growth: aim for bigger vs. aim for better
  • Structure: organic vs. programmed
  • Church: no priority for students vs. singular priority for students (and this has lots of shades in between)

I’m starting a series this week on what I’m calling “College Ministry Poles.” [You can now find the whole series here.] I’ll be discussing the “two sides” of basic methods and issues in campus ministry, things that most of us deal with regularly – but may not realize are approached quite differently by a number of college ministers. And even when we do realize our options, we might not have heard a strong argument for both sides.

You’re probably already saying, “But it’s not always either/or!” I agree, and that’s part of the fun. I’ll be presenting the “poles” – as well as shades in between, combinations, and compromises – that seem to be fairly well-represented in the tableau of college ministries I’ve gotten to explore (or, on occasion, that I think should be better represented!). The point is really exposure to the possibilities before us… and a chance to consider that our present methods might not be the only way to serve our particular group.

Lastly, I want to point out that because the point is exposure, I really hope you’ll think about chiming in and adding to the “debate.” While I will hopefully give a fair rendition various views, I’m all for people presenting their own helpful arguments – even vigorously. Devil’s advocates are welcome, too! I really believe that by dissecting the possibilities for the ins-and-outs of our ministries, we all come away having thought a little more about what we’re doing. Win!

And don’t forget, it’s Day 29 of College Union’s 40 Days of Prayer for Campus Ministry!


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