paying attention to critics in college ministry

You’ve likely seen the new ad campaign from Domino’s Pizza, where they advertise their recent focus on listening to their critics. And these critics include, as the video below shows, both customers and actual, professional critic-types.

My question for today is, How much have we done to listen to our constituents – and even hear from our critics?

[Part 2 of this discussion can be found here.]

If you haven’t seen the video, I find it pretty stinkin’ cool. And as we view this idea through College Ministry lenses, it’s good food for thought:

There’s a growing number of videos (including a cool commercial where they visit some of those critic-customers with their new pizza, and even a video where apparently Colbert weighs in, at the Domino’s “Pizza Turnaround” site.

What I personally believe is that one of the best ways to get a gut-check on your college ministry’s health, strengths, and weaknesses is to listen to constituents, critics, or people who sit in both of those camps. These people include:

  • your students
  • your staff members
  • your former staff members
  • your graduated students
  • students who left the ministry for other reasons
  • students who have never set foot in your ministry
  • parents of your students
  • campus faculty, staff, and administrators
  • your overseers
  • the person who last had your position
  • other college ministries serving your campus tribe

For my money, that last one might just be the best way to get some rugged insight into how your ministry’s doing. Sure, it won’t always be completely objective – but it involves people who (A) know your campus tribe, (B) know the practice of college ministry, and (C) have seen your college ministry in action.

Anyway, food for thought. [I discuss methods for listening in Part 2!]


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  1. I have to admit that College ministry is Hard. It’s also competitive. I will also say that the other campus tribe groups are cause for a little jealousy in my own heart. I have worked for 4 years in the college ministry at my church and haven’t done anything right yet. I am at a loss. I’m not really discouraged because if anything, I see it working in other churches here locally and I’m just looking for the right mix to get it right at my church. One of the things I’ve been praying for is worship leaders to spring up and take charge, and we have fantastic talent, but because we didn’t have the venue up and ready, they have been asked by another church to lead music for that college group and all of our leaders, have gone to help the other church. They still attend our church for Bible study but they are serving the other church in worship for their college group. I don’t know how to express myself without sounding jealous, or angry or dissappointed, because I am really so happy that they are serving, I just wanted to be in our church. What do I do? I know the situation isn’t ideal at our church, and I know it needs to change, I just don’t know how to get it started. Any suggestions?

  2. Hi Lea Anne!

    Thanks so much for your comment. If I can help further, I encourage you to contact me with the Contact tap at the top of the blog.

    But here are some first thoughts on what you’ve said, without knowing your whole situation:

    1. You are not alone in this situation! College Ministry IS hard, and church-based college ministry is probably the hardest of all. So there are hundreds of people in churches across the U.S. who are going through much the same as you are! While that’s not a happy fact, it can be encouraging to know that others face these trials – and also that there are many people to learn from, too.

    2. Since you’re building the ministry with your church, I’d encourage you to focus mostly on building the best ministry your church can – rather than focusing on what’s happening NOW. That’s hard to do, and of course you should love and care and hurt for the present students. But too often we focus on what’s right in front of us… and three years from now, we’ll still be in much the same place. A strong college ministry (whatever that means) will usually take multiple years to get rolling – and that’s even with a fulltime staff member.

    3. Remember that not every church should have a full-fledged, classic “College Ministry.” But every church needs a College Student Plan – a plan for shepherding the college students who grew up in the church AND those who happen to show up during college. If you haven’t gotten to read it yet, I would encourage you and every person (leaders or students) who are hoping to build strong college ministry to check out my book – it’s free at – and you’ll be able to finish it in a day, easily. It might help you reframe the idea in a way that helps!

    4. Neither a worship band nor a good venue makes a good college ministry. In fact, it seems that relying on these things helps a lot of unhealthy or undeveloped college ministries look like they’re doing well.

    5. I would encourage you to LEARN as much as you can about college ministry. Oftentimes, church-based college ministers haven’t had much (or any) training in college ministry. Sometimes it’s hard to find resources, and the resources that are out there aren’t always extremely helpful. But there are some good blogs, good conferences, and other things. I’ve written about college ministry nearly daily for the last year and a half here (so there’s a lot to read!), and I regularly point to several other resources, too! Even if you just spend 30 minutes a day learning about college ministry, you’ll see great benefit. Don’t try to read or hear everything – read or hear the things that seem to be speaking where you are right now. If it seems too “advanced” for where your ministry is, you can always come back to it!

  3. Pingback: 10 more quick reads on campus ministry evaluation « Exploring College Ministry blog (daily notes about our field)

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