aiming for numbers, aiming for strength

Based on a conversation I had with a college minister this week (who said it was encouraging, so I figured I’d pass the thoughts along!):

Building our best campus mission, not growing a big college ministry, is the weight we should have on our shoulders!

I have yet to be sold on ministry size as a clear indicator of college ministry strength. Certainly, size means something; numbers, because they represent actual students, always mean something. And big numbers can be celebrated. But they’re not a key to ministry success. And they should rarely be a primary focus.

In fact, based on what I’ve seen, I believe an unwise focus on numerical growth – either by a college minister or his/her overseers – keeps many ministries from the success they could have had.

I believe…

  • If we primarily aim for health and strength, we will often grow larger, too. And either way, God calls us to be good steward-shepherds of the flock He’s already given.
  • If we focus on gaining numbers, we may not achieve numbers, health, OR strength. And if we do gain numbers, we may find ourselves drawing students to a weak and/or unhealthy ministry, while potentially making it harder to achieve health and strength in the future.

Yes, I love recruiting and talking about recruiting, because we get to participate with God in connecting students with our ministries. I want good ministries to grow! I want students (both Christian and non-Christian) to find our ministries and connect well!

But in a college ministry, the specific outcome labeled “Numerical Growth” should only be aimed for as often and as energetically as we’re called to aim for it.

For more, check out page 51 of Reaching the Campus Tribes (download the book for free here), check out How to Build a College Ministry to Crumble, and see other Assessment & Strength posts.

written from Williamstown, NJ


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Exploring College Ministry Road Trip 13: Day 46 recap
recap: exploring Rowan University (see all explorations so far)
mileage: 7,494 miles (so far)
T-shirt: the Sailfish tribe of Palm Beach Atlantic University
thursday: more Rowan U… then a late-night drive toward upstate NY!


  1. Thanks for the post Ben. I don’t know if you got my text message the other day, but this post helps point me in the right direction. I’ll read through the other posts you reference.
    As you know, this topic is extremely important to NC’s mission of creating living environments designed to foster intentional college community.
    I’ll be in touch.

  2. It’s in the numbers where individual relationships start, then evolve. If a focus of campus ministry is to facilitate a community, an eco-system of sorts, numbers will ultimately come, and are important. It’s the growth of individuals that make the growth of a group relevant. -J

  3. Pingback: How can you measure the strength of a college ministry? « NEWCHAPTER

  4. In Boston we have been thinking more and more about influence on the campus and in the community as part of our success metric. If we have 10 students on a campus, but they are shaping other organizations is there a way for us to include that in our overall evaluation.

  5. Pingback: Defining Success by Missional Mapping « Heart of Campus Ministry

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