what i know about international college ministry

  1. I know very little about international college ministry.
  2. I know that I know very little about international college ministry (which is a blessing).
  3. I know I’m a fan of international college ministry.
  4. I know I get to venture down to Brazil to explore some international college ministry in May.

This really isn’t a post about #4, although if you want details on that (and how you can join me), there’s a little bit of that below.

As I was laying out my basic understanding of “college ministry” in Reaching the Campus Tribes, I wrote on page 18:

Third, my focus here is American college ministry, since that is what I have known and what I have had the chance to explore. Hopefully what I share will in some way resound with leaders in other countries, but it is important to recognize the severe differences between American college ministry and some collegiate work elsewhere.

Since writing that book, I’ve been really encouraged by hearing from various college ministry workers who aren’t from the U.S.. Obviously, I’m excited for any service I can be to them.

But I’m cautious – maybe even overly so – to avoid generalization. It’s important for us to realize there are places where “college ministry” means something different because “college” means something different. I’ve heard of nations where the sociological context during the college years is more like the “young adult” world than ours is. In other places, it may actually be more like America’s “youth” experience. We would be incorrect – even insensitive – to assume that the United States Collegiate Experience is globally normative. It isn’t. So our ways of doing college ministry won’t be universally applicable, either.

However, there probably are places where the collegiate experience may be much like our own. For example, as I’ve encountered Canadian college ministers in the past, there seems to be a lot of easy collaboration there.

Here’s the good news, even when contexts are highly different: We can always learn from each other. As our field develops, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if whole books are written on transferable methodologies found outside North America.

And that’s actually the stated goal of this Brazil trip, which you may remember from my synopsis of the trip last week. The hope is for college ministers to learn transferable principles for reaching postmoderns – and to me, it’s an exciting notion that we can learn from our field not only across campuses, across circles, and across regions, but also across continents.

It turns out the organizers are actually bringing me with the trip as an “author in residence,” so I’ll be blogging what we experience along the way. And if you’d like to join us, you’ve got one week left to sign up.

Here’s hoping this won’t be my last international college ministry exploration, either. Can’t wait for this one.

And I’d love your thoughts: What have you learned about college ministry in other countries? Anything – from anywhere – would be awesome to hear about.


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  1. I would love to get you in contact with a college minister friend of mine from Salt & Light Christian Fellowship at Purdue University. He primarily ministers to international students.

  2. Curt

    International ministry has many facets. Now I am living in Poland after 14 years of Chi Alpha experience in Wyoming. I know many who excel in ministry to international students in the States. My experiences with international students helped me gain a heart for the whole world. However, now I have a different appreciation for the culture shock and completely different way of life international students have to deal with when they study in the States.

    For me, campus ministry is different here in Europe because there are few residential campuses. Rather students live all-around the city and they have classes spread out around the city. This makes centralized meetings a challenge and it makes back-to-back discipleship type meetings rare -unless the student comes to me at a coffee shop in a centralized location.

    Students have little time during the day -because they are commuting around the city and because the university’s schedule is quite different.

    Another significant difference for me is that most ministry here is church-based. This often means the meetings are at a location owned or rented by the local church. The pastor selects the leaders of the group and the distinction between youth group and student group can be fuzzy. When a youth group and a student group exist independently, the students are often the leaders in the youth group.

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