breadth from the four corners!

Last week, it was breadth to the four winds – and that garnered some pretty interesting comments, especially interesting for a boy from the South.

The same questions I asked then apply here, too:

  • What are the unique college ministry aspects of your region? (Do you know them?)
  • What college ministry aspects of other regions have surprised you?
  • What don’t you know about other regions’ and other circles’ college ministry norms? (It’s something we can never answer – and that fact humbles us!)

And please remember, these are riffs, not comprehensive reviews. The awesomeness of all this is how diverse everywhere is – campus to campus, town to town, state to state.  I haven’t seen enough, but I’ve been blessed to see some cool things!

Northeast

I am blown away by how much effort is put into vocational spirituality in the Northeast quadrant of our country, especially compared to the rest of us. Many in the Northeast (leaders and even students) are ahead of the game on this. (Those working on this include, for instance, Brian Musser in Philly or Manna Christian Fellowship and others at Princeton or the CCO all over…) The Northeast will (I so hope) lead the rest of us slowpokes in this urgent matter.

Southeast

Is this quadrant the cradle of American college ministry? Perhaps. It’s not simply that campus ministry giants Passion and Campus Crusade and Growing Leaders and Baptist Collegiate Ministry and RUF and Great Commission Ministries all headquarter here (who am I forgetting?). There are also many individual college ministries with a great history of success, scattered throughout this corner of our land. While size and history certainly don’t mean everything, it’s hard to imagine “knowing” college ministry without knowing these exciting, “classic” college campuses.

Southwest

This innovative, not-too-worried-about-tradition corner will be, I’m guessing, the site for much college ministry innovation. Already, it’s not shocking that Campus Crusade originated here, nor that the Four Circles Evangelism method did, too. Nor that the Jesus Movement spread largely from here. It’s not particularly easy to do college ministry from SoCal through New Mexico (although some places are friendlier than others), but that’s part of the fun – and I imagine we’ll see much more from all these who are happily open to following the Spirit wherever He blows.

Northwest

It’s perhaps easiest to count out the Northwest when it comes to college ministry, seeing as how the region isn’t known for Jesus-ness and isn’t as known for collegiate-ness as its secular cousin, the Northeast. But certain facts bust up our generalizations – like Don Miller’s exciting report from the front lines of college ministry up here in Blue Like Jazz, to the recognition that the most impactful church-based college ministry resides in the heart of Seattle, to the surprising prevalence (at least from what I’ve seen) of collegiate discipleship communities. Like everywhere else, it isn’t always easy… but it is interesting up there, to say the least.

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4 Comments

  1. Good stuff Benson!

    I wanted to comment on your statements regarding vocation in the NE. I think this is a conversation (or pathway of ministry) that a lot of Christian universities are engaged in (all across the spectrum of “faithfulness” to what it means to be Christian).

    The Lilly Foundation has funded hundreds of grants specifically designed to see this conversation of vocation take root through large donations to fund the “start” of vocation-oriented programs, retreats, etc. that institutions will hopefully buy in to and continue to fund after the grant has run its course. I know these initiatives are taking place on campuses all over the US, but I wonder if they might stand out in the NE, in part, because other forms of ministry are considered “less acceptable” or “appreciated” by the students who go to school there (not by all – but by most)? Just a thought.

  2. Hey Guy! Thanks for that – that’s really helpful.

    You’re right – some Christian colleges certainly do have an emphasis on training Christian students to think about vocational spirituality. This is one of the distinctives of Christian colleges (obviously) and a great reason to weigh attending one. Good call.

    But have you seen vocational spirituality become a major focus within the college ministries at those schools? What the school does as a whole is a different field – Christian Higher Ed, instead of college ministry (though obviously the two fields overlap some on the Christian college campus).

    But I’d love to hear if you’ve seen vocational spirituality widely within college ministry in those contexts. And has Lilly funded any of those initiatives within college ministries themselves?

    I’d personally guess that in most Christian colleges’ spiritual life offices (their institutional college ministries), vocational spirituality doesn’t receive a hefty focus (since students are already being discipled like that in the classroom). But I certainly could be wrong there – I just don’t recall seeing it. And truthfully, if students are getting this through their professors and other avenues, it may not be vital that the campus ministry also target that area of disciplemaking.

    In my explorations of the field of College Ministry, the emphasis on vocational spirituality usually doesn’t come up. But when I’m talking to college ministers in the Northeast, it seems like it regularly comes up. And up there, it’s often done as part of pretty “classic” college ministries – they still have the other components, like large group meetings and small groups and other stuff. But college ministers (and students) have simply placed a surprising (and happy) priority on vocational spirituality.

    But maybe I didn’t completely understand what you were getting at – feel free to push back here. And your main point is definitely something we shouldn’t miss – when thinking about introducing vocational spirituality to College Ministry, Christian Higher Education is a field that we need to learn from. Thanks for that.

  3. Benson,

    I think the reason that Lilly started funding grants for vocational focus was because most students on most campuses were not making the connection between the gifts and passions God had uniquely designed them with and how He might want to use them in the world [how’s that for broad sweeping generalizations :)]. Most of the institutions that received these grants actually used a portion of the grant to fund a full-time position to lead out on different vocationally-focussed initiatives on campus. They would work closely with numerous campus constituents as faculty and staff across campus were consulted in the creation of the grant. With this conversation taking center stage all across campus it undoubtedly influenced what was happening in campus ministry offices… not to mention that we/they were expected to help lead out in these initiatives and conversations as individuals who had likely spent so significant time thinking, studying and working through a variety of things related to vocation.

    Now, my current ministry situation doesn’t have one of these grants, so I’ve been away from a campus where this is being played out for almost 5 years now. But what I had seen for the 3-4 years prior to that was quite remarkable.

    You may be right, the folks up in the NE might be leading the way in many ways in terms of making this conversation a central one in their ministry.

  4. That’s really great. I’ll have to get a list before my next exploration, because it would be good to see how this plays out on individual campuses.

    Thanks a ton for filling us in. I’m definitely not as familiar with Lilly’s work as I should be.

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