entry-level positions

Something worth considering:

For all the emphasis we give (and should give) to developing our ministries to the point of stability and momentum, there are some positives to new, grassroots-style campus ministry.

In discussing The Edge, a new-ish collegiate church plant adjacent to Winona State University, the pastor’s wife (and Chi Alpha Campus Pastor) Steph Peterson brought up an interesting point. Some students, she said, have found it easier to join their ministry because it’s clear there are ways they can immediately plug in, serve in key ways, or even lead.

So this reveals one of those difficulties brought on by greater development. There may be less potential for new members to identify how they can take ownership in the ministry – and thus, by extension, we might lose some ability to recruit high-potential students.

In a developed ministry, everybody’s “roles” might already be set. And the pipeline for freshmen to work their way (naturally and over time) into leadership roles might be pretty well-defined, too. Whether this structure is explicit or assumed, it might not be easy for newcomers – especially ones who aren’t freshmen – to see clearly their avenues for plugging in well.

This kind of barrier doesn’t only happen structurally; it can happen relationally, too. In a ministry with well-developed community, college ministry’s tricky Community Paradox sets in: Newcomers might feel a “strong community” is less open to them, not more open.

So on the one hand, if your ministry is new, be encouraged on this point – you might just find some key, entrepreneurial, high-potential students you wouldn’t have found otherwise!

But for those with better developed ministries, this difficulty might be worth pondering. What do our “entry-level positions” look like for new students? Consider how open your ministry might seem to

  • upperclassmen
  • transfer students
  • zealous freshmen
  • students who are particularly mature
  • and any others who might not fit your normal pipeline.

We might need to think of ways to help these students feel at home – even if we need to exhort, encourage, train, and otherwise prepare them to find their best place.

Any thoughts?

written from Madison, WI


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Road Trip 13: Day 29 recap
recap: the long drive all the way to Madison, with a couple of great stops along the way
T-shirt: the Wildcat tribe of Villanova
monday: primarily more catch-up work, it’s lookin’ like (see all explorations so far)


  1. Bob

    I think it depends in some part on your college’s context. We found this completely true at UCLA, where the student population is used to being leaders. At other schools where the student population isn’t as ambitious it hasn’t been as much of an issue.

  2. Benson,

    Good questions, here.

    One of the points of contention on the way we have navigated through choosing and training our leaders (see my recent post at the HeartOfCampusMinistry.com blog) is that we are not allowing (at least not right now) freshmen or first-year students to train for leadership positions.

    My thinking for this is simple: new students need to be a part of a community before they can lead a community. We would never ask a guy who has been attending our local church for 2 weeks to come on board as an elder.

    I would love to hear more thoughts on how we can connect with first-year students (freshmen or upper-class) as we seemed to have had a massively high turnover rate this year.

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