“come over here and help us”

My visits to CU and OU notwithstanding, this short road trip has afforded more great opportunities to visit some cool campuses that aren’t of that “household name” variety.

One of the things I’ve been pondering recently* is college ministry’s attention toward the millions of collegians** who aren’t attending Duke, Texas A&M, or UCLA.

This is one area in which I (and you) can’t judge any individual calling for a particular ministry or a particular person to reach a “name-brand campus.” Certainly, God does and will call some of us to the better-known mission fields – even fields with a dozen or more present campus ministries.

But as I (and we) observe the sum total of campus missions efforts, I don’t think it’s presumptuous simply to question whether every national ministry is predestined to establish a beachhead at Wake Forest… whether every local church is called to reach the University of Texas rather than Austin Community College… or whether every brand-new college minister is meant to serve a school with a real possibility of producing either a future U.S. President or a Super Bowl-winning quarterback.***

Perhaps we in the field of College Ministry can pray for Macdeonian calls, that some blessed adventurers might be called to reach Front Range Community College, Oklahoma City University, University of Northern Iowa, or the countless other schools that are highly unlikely to beat Kansas in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. If I had dream-invasion skills****, I might just have to use them.

There are millions of students at campuses you’ve never heard of (and that’s just in our country). What are the chances that at least some of us are called to labor for Christ on the less-reached fields, to build works in places where few or no works exist (of any kind)? (Such an ambition would be oh so Pauline, sayeth Romans 15:20!)

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*All this traveling (and my brain) tune me to pondering new ideas all the time. Feel free to ask.

**Collegian = noun. Collegiate = adjective. Always.

***There are four that have produced both.

****Not an implied tie-in to the new Nightmare on Elm Street remake. Rather, an implied tie-in to Acts 16.

Road Trip 14 recap, Day 14 (see all explorations here)
new campuses:
Southwestern College (#18), Oklahoma Christian University (#19), University of Central Oklahoma (#20), University of Oklahoma (#21)
new states: Oklahoma (#5)
yesterday: finished up in KS, then made my way to the OKC area
today: continued exploring in the Oklahoma City and Norman areas

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6 Comments

  1. Drew

    So, so true.

    I will say though, at least for the para-churches, it’s going to take time to develop models that work. The democratization of the US college campus is changing the demographics. I’m with IV, and most of our ministry models assume a committed core of student leaders. That looks different on a campus where many of the students commute and have a job and don’t yet see themselves as “leaders”. You can’t just show up at Front Range Community College and do ministry like you learned it as a student at Wake Forest.

  2. Thanks for that inside view, Drew. I imagine that’s one of many difficulties that will be run across – and not just for the parachurch guys. But you’re right – any group that has a more uniform approach or methodology may always find contextualization (at least to that extent) pretty tricky!

    The great thing is that as we find adjustments that work (and successes), those same groups may have an easier time spreading the ideas and supporting the new efforts. (Hopefully!)

  3. fiumdcwesley

    Good post and topic. I’m launching a new student ministry right now at a couple of those schools you allude to. Between the two of them, Florida International University and Miami-Dade College have 12 main campuses that serve over 190,000 students – the vast majority of whom are non-Anglo commuters. And while IV and Cru have a presence at FIU as well, MDC is the largest educational institution in the world – over 150,000 students – and most campuses have only one or two local ministries present…

    In Florida Methodist circles, we are talking about this and thinking through how to try and reach additional campuses. We recently put together a strategic planning team to look at Florida and explore what opportunities there might be and some different models to consider. Lots of challenges of course, but we are beginning to try and think along the lines you suggest here. Thanks for bringing it up, Benson!

  4. Way to challenge the status quo Benson!

    I think the community colleges and/or state schools with a larger commuter base might be some of the most fertile grounds out there right now. Students who attend these kinds of institutions typically have jobs and other “adult”-type responsibilities that many at some of the other schools do not. Therefore a different kind of campus ethos is created… one that embraces responsibilities, in general, which ultimately include one’s spiritual life. While “student leaders” may be harder to find… I think it’s still possible. I think you’ll also find a campus culture where getting involved in just 1 or 2 things (as opposed to 5 or 10 – like many of our other schools) will lend itself to a committed, connected college ministry.

    Sure, it a ministry on a campus like this may not carry some of the “prestige” that a ministry on a big name campus might… but who gets into college ministry for the prestige of it?! :)

  5. Drew

    It’s also interesting that this is a very regional issue. In our North West region, I think there are less than 15 campuses that IV doesn’t have a presence on (including community colleges). Whereas, in the North East, there are tons of smaller private colleges, and so, many more places that are unreached.

    A recent internal count in our region (TX, OK, AK) shows there are nearly 140 campuses that we don’t have a presence on. Now, of course, at quite a few of those, God has some communities already there, so that’s awesome :) But, my prayer is he’d help us contextualize. And that he’d raise up both missionary staff workers (willing to live far from the urban centers) and pioneering student leaders (who God has given a heart for their campus and some initiative to get things started).

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