missional college ministry: questions for advancing

During the Verge Conference last week, I participated in several detailed discussions of how various college ministries are working to be missional. This was of course fascinating – especially in Austin, where some college ministries have established missional micro-communities among various campus segments.

I have been a fan of micro-communities and other strategically missional college ministry methods for a long time – ever since I heard of various fellow Texas A&M students starting such endeavors organically when I was in college. I’ve heard about and seen this happening plenty of other places in American college ministry, too – sometimes it’s formal and designated, and other times it’s more informal and organic.

(If you missed it, I celebrated the generally missional nature of college ministry on Friday!)

After comparing and contrasting hundreds of college ministries in the last few years, I end up asking a lot of questions when I encounter any ministry or model. Often I keep these questions to myself, though there are plenty of times when people want some poking and prodding via impactful questions. (I appreciate those kinds of college ministry learners, and I’m happy to oblige!)

I jotted down plenty of questions at Verge, so I figured I’d post them – as we all wrestle with what it means to be most missional and most effective. Many of these questions could be vital, and yet many of them will require…

  • deep research
  • wide, multi-context study
  • spirited debate
  • or all of the above!

Of course, we need much more of this in college ministry, in general – so let’s get crackin’! Who’s up for it?

Meanwhile, answers are (usually) preceded by questions. So here you go – some questions connected to missional college ministry efforts:

  1. When reaching campus particular segments / niches, how do we decide where to draw lines between segments?
  2. How do we truly evaluate the success of any college ministry model (vs. another method we might have tried)? Is that possible?
  3. Is it better for new missional endeavors to spring up organically, or should we strategize them?
  4. As college students lead throughout our ministries, how much authority / autonomy should they be given?
  5. How are our efforts at building missional communities affected by the short time we have with students? Or by their transitory nature even within their college experience? Should those things matter?
  6. When pushing for missional activity, how do you create a “front door” for those Christians – AND non-Christians – who aren’t yet interested in living ultra-missionally? Should we worry about this?
  7. Does collegians’ devotion to missional micro-communities and other high-commitment methods always indicate that God is at work? Since students regularly exhibit zeal-without-wisdom, how do we differentiate students’ godly passion from Gnosticism (or its active cousin, Legalism)?
  8. When starting a new missional work in a single campus segment or “niche,” do we need to do the same groundwork, cultural exegesis, and patient progression as when we start an entire new campus ministry?
  9. How does a missional focus affect our impact on the campus as a whole? (This includes our impact on faculty, administration, the “shalom of the campus,” and other campus ministries.) How much energy should we put toward this campus integration?
  10. Since college ministries almost always seek to deal with students “on their terms” – and most do so “on their turf” – is the question about being missional or being more missional? How does this affect our approach?
  11. For those who practice more classic college ministry models: Are you open to radically changing your methodology, if that’s what it takes to be more effective?
  12. For those who have adapted a “missional community” model: Could there be some contexts where classic college ministry efforts could be more missionally effective?
  13. Whatever answers we give to these questions, how sure are we that we’re right? Does our certainty match our study?

While these questions may take years for us to answer well, feel free to share any first opinions or experiences you’ve got!


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  1. Ben

    Is it better for new missional endeavors to spring up organically, or should we strategize them?
    This is a good question. I think that both are relevant. Some people have vision and desire to focus on specific topics or ways of doing things like a small group Bible study. If those people have the passion to do it and can lead it effectively, then they should be encouraged (with oversight) to come together as a group organically and not under a certain strategy from the overall group.
    However, some people really like the structured approaches, like the small groups that IV puts together that focus more on certain passages of scripture and help take the entire group on a journey with the leader not having to be part of forming that journey. Reality is, not all leaders are necessarily leaders, some are just good group coordinators or good at gathering people and would rather have an already laid out process guide the group.

  2. Great post. As a product of campus ministry, I now wonder how things were decided upon within. I am working on a project that I would love for some campus ministries to pick up, but how is the best way to approach them? Will they accept something from the larger church? The project would impact people of the same age in Africa by providing holistic radio.

  3. Pingback: 5 Reflections on Verge Conference, & Links « the SENTinel

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