Several times recently I’ve been asked about my calling. Usually I say something along the lines of, “I’m called to help develop the field of college ministry.” This has been my call since right before I took my yearlong road trip to see our work in action, and it remains my call today.
After describing that interesting vocation, however, I often feel the need to make sure I haven’t been misunderstood. Because I can imagine someone hearing that the field of college ministry is underdeveloped and assume that the work of college ministry is something less than fruitful or needs to be “overhauled.” But the only reason I want to develop our field as a field – increasing collaboration, for instance – is because I think SO much great stuff is happening that we’d be even stronger if our “profession” become more cohesive and collaborative.
There is much fruitful college ministry taking place all over the nation (and, as far as I know, the world). My particular portion in life has involved getting to watch a small part of that impact in real time, at locations throughout the States. But there are decades’ worth of testimonies of God’s great work in college ministry – on campuses, in churches, through men, through women, through students themselves.
Nor is college ministry’s outstanding fruitfulness a new fact; it’s been fruitful for decades. And despite some real (and often acknowledged) difficulties helping well-impacted collegians transition to being well-assimilated church members, there are still countless adult individuals presently walking with God who can trace their spiritual heritage to a campus ministry experience.
Yes, there are lots of ways we can grow stronger. But these seem to be largely areas of pruning and grafting, not razing or uprooting. And though we certainly need to evaluate and adjust, several of the paths of improvement I identified in Reaching have more to do with helping outsiders better understand the work – instead of simply dispensing with the present foliage.
Not only is college ministry bearing fruit with those it serves directly, but college ministry is very profitable “Research & Development” for the Church at large. Its success and growth over the past decades have built an armory of wisdom that’s available to anyone who will make use of it.
Whether the Church wants to know more about “missional” or evangelism or small groups or leadership development…
…or encountering skeptics or ministry funding or missions mobilization or disciplemaking…
…or regular teaching or reaching the next generation (each time there is one) or unity or diversity…
…or contextualization (in the good way) but also abundant counter-culturality…
…or coming secular trends or coming Christian trends or developing community or zeal or fun, your average, semi-experienced college minister would already have much to share. This is the basic stuff of much college ministry work, of this realm inhabited by radical missionaries serving at the cutting edge of culture, education, and each new generation’s release into the wild. (Seriously, read back through that list – it’s not hyperbole. Each of those 19 items is found regularly within college ministries.)
So anyway, thanks for letting me vent in praise of what you do. If I get to be nothing else but a voice in appreciation of the good God does through college ministry work, so be it. That would be a blessed portion indeed.