As I noted in the last College Ministry Poles entry, there are certain areas within campus ministry in which a surprising chasm exists. These are philosophical or methodological “camps” that, from what I can tell, may only have a hazy understanding that the other side exists. Parallel universes!
Reflecting one of those areas, today I ask, Does your ministry assign adults to disciple students (in small groups, for example), use students to disciple their peers, or offer a combination?
It would be easy to assume this one cuts nicely along the campus-based / church-based line, but that’s not the case – and we don’t want to leave out the Christian-college branch, either. Here’s what I’ve seen:
1. Certainly, many campus-based groups do largely use students to disciple other students. But this isn’t always the case. Adult leaders may lead many of the discipleship aspects of a ministry; in the case of smaller ministries, students may only be led by these adults. Meanwhile, there are campus-based ministries that use adult volunteers; Young Life College, for example, has aimed for large adult involvement in their chapters. And I recently encountered a Chi Alpha ministry (at Texas A&M Corpus Christi) with former students who continued their involvement in a discipling capacity.
2. Christian colleges vary along these lines. Because of the intergenerational campus community, Christian college discipleship ministries may use faculty or staff to lead student groups. Of course, students may also be involved in the same way.
3. Among church-based ministries, there’s also a mix. While church-based college ministries might generally have the best access to adult volunteers, that doesn’t mean they all use them. Certainly, many do, whether exclusively or with a mix of adult disciplers and student disciplers.
4. There are deep philosophical differences at work (sometimes). Here’s the most interesting thing: I’ve heard a significant number of college ministers express a belief that students aren’t effective as peer-leaders. The arguments I’ve heard tend to center on the idea that students rarely have enough maturity / knowledge to have much to offer people who are roughly their same age.
Of course, there are lots of ministers who would claim they’ve seen much benefit from using students to disciple their peers. Yet many of these ministers might have never considered using adults in the same way.
5. My guess is that many of us could ponder this more than we have. Because our use (or non-use) of adult leaders most often happens “automatically,” there’s probably room for most of us to spend some time thinking and tinkering in this area. Could a campus-based group “import” some adult volunteers, if they felt like that might be helpful? Sure. Could a group that primarily uses adults consider or even measure the value of using peer-disciplers? Absolutely.
And if either “camp” has formed its opinion without collaborating with ministries that have found success using the opposite model, then we’ve been a little hasty, right?
So what can you offer: A strong argument for students leading their peers? A strong argument against students primarily discipling other students? A strong argument for adult leadership?
Remember, your arguments and examples can help others think through this stuff. You might be surprised by how many out there fall on the opposite side of this spectrum!
to see the other College Ministry Poles entries (and all the great comments from everybody!), click here
written from Motel 6, Tempe
Road Trip 13: Day 2 recap
drove Big Spring, TX, 12 hours to Tempe, AZ
miles so far: 1,068
T-shirt: the Majors of Millsaps College